14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
God promises that a new King will rule rightly and justly over a secure city which will be called ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ This promise came even as the city of God’s people sat besieged and surrounded by enemies. From our Gospel text, Jesus says, “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life” (Lk. 21:34). In the days of Jeremiah, the cares of life weren’t just a heavy burden – they were a bone-crushing hammer. The bottle would have been a tempting escape from reality as the capitol city, Jerusalem, sat in shambles and the country was teetering on the edge of complete destruction.
In Jeremiah’s days, the Babylonians had already sacked the capitol city once. They had stormed the Temple and stolen the important vessels of worship. But the Babylonians didn’t stop there. They took all the government officials, military officers, craftsmen, and King Jehoiachin captive into Babylon. In his place, King Nebuchadnezzar had set up Zedekiah, a relative of Jehoichin, as ruler (2 Kgs. 24:17).
In those days, many false prophets were guaranteeing that Babylon’s power would be broken within two years (Jer. 28:2-4) and that the Temple vessels would be returned. But Jeremiah said otherwise. Speaking on God’s behalf, Jeremiah told the priests and rulers to serve Nebuchadnezzar if they wanted to live (Jer. 27:16-22). Jeremiah told them that the few items left in the Temple would be taken away because Babylon was going to come again. But Zedekiah and his advisors didn’t listen to Jeremiah. Instead, they all listened to the false prophets who were speaking deceitful words and fake prophecies of peace. Zedekiah made an alliance with the surrounding countries who were plotting against the Babylonian empire and joined in a multi-nation rebellion against Babylon. Not a good idea.
Babylon came back. Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem a second time. The food started running short, and Jeremiah told Zedekiah that Babylon would take him captive. But Zedekiah still didn’t listen and put Jeremiah in prison for speaking the word of God.
Can you imagine the darkness of those days for those inhabitants of Jerusalem? Can you imagine watching and waiting for the Babylonians to invade your capitol city a second time? Can you imagine going to the already decimated Temple knowing that Jeremiah had prophesied that the few things that were left in that Temple would be taken? Again, it would have been easy for your heart to become weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the cares of life.
Finally, the food did run out. The Babylonians broke through the walls. Zedekiah fled the city, but he didn’t get very far. He was caught by Nebuchadnezzar near Jericho. As punishment for his rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes. And that was the last thing Zedekiah saw. After the execution of his sons, Zedekiah’s eyes were plucked out (2 Kgs. 25:5-7), and he was taken to Babylon where he spent the rest of his dark days in a dungeon (Jer. 52:11).
But before Jerusalem fell, in the midst of this second siege of Jerusalem, the words of this text come from Jeremiah who was doubly captive – imprisoned by his own king, Zedekiah, and besieged by a foreign king, Nebuchadnezzar. Yet Jeremiah promises that a new King would come. This Righteous Branch would rule over an enduring capitol city where justice and righteousness would reign. These words came even as there was no justice for Jerusalem. Jeremiah was held captive for speaking God’s Word. There was no righteousness in the city where King Zedekiah ruled (even though Zedekiah means ‘Yahweh is my righteousness’); he did evil in the sight of God and rebelled against God and God’s messenger. But through Jeremiah God gave this beautiful promise.
Days were coming when God would cause a Righteous Branch to spring up for David. In those days, a King would come who would execute justice and righteousness in the land. In the midst of the destruction of the capitol and the uncertainty, Jeremiah spoke of days when Judah would be saved and Jerusalem would dwell securely. Jeremiah and his neighbors were soon to be captives in a pagan land and homeless. But Jeremiah speaks of the day when he and his countrymen would be citizens of the city of God which would be called, “Yahweh is our righteousness.”
Jeremiah was, of course, speaking of the coming, the Advent, of Jesus the true Righteous Branch. Five-hundred-eighty-four years after these words from Jeremiah, Jesus, the Son of David, was born to rule God’s people. He came in justice and righteousness, but we sinners treated Him unjustly and wickedly. King Jesus was crowned – but with thorns. King Jesus was proclaimed as king – but only with mocking and ridicule. King Jesus was enthroned – but only as He hung naked on a cross. Jesus came as your King – not the kind of king you would expect, but as the King you needed.
Jesus came as the eternal King for the people of Jeremiah’s day and for you. Through Jesus, the Righteous Branch, God has provided a place, even in the midst of this fallen world. He calls you right here, right now, to your home in His presence. Your city is safe and secure not because of your efforts or the efforts of some government or military. It is secure because of Christ’s work and God’s enduring promise.
In these days of Advent, you can celebrate as you wait because even now you have an enduring city you can call home. Even though foes surround you on every side, you dwell securely. In this eternal city, God is with you and loves you with an everlasting love. You are part of the Church, the Body of Christ. In this secure city, your King rules to forgive, renew, and empower you as you await the second advent of your King. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.