“Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land…And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5)
As we have been reading through the book of Jeremiah, I can’t help but say…it’s a bit of a bummer. There is page after page of sin and judgement on God’s people. It extends all the way to the leaders or the “shepherds” as Jeremiah describes them. Instead of protecting and keeping the sheep they have scattered them and driven them away (23:2) But, God steps in and makes a promise of hope. He promises to set over His people new shepherds who will care for the sheep and, “they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing” (23:4). God is going to make things right.
But, there is a question that the rest of what we have been reading in Jeremiah keeps on bringing up. What about the people? The shepherds of the people rightly deserve blame and condemnation but the people beneath them are not innocent. They have followed other gods and oppressed one another also. So, how will God make everything right if the problem is with the shepherds and the sheep?
The answer is that the shepherd God will put over his people isn’t just any shepherd. God declares that he will raise the “Branch” of David and he will bring about justice in his land. Moreover, he himself will be the righteousness that God’s wicked people desperately need. It is in his very name, “The Lord is our righteousness.” (23:6) Unlike Jeremiah, we know who this “Branch” is. We know that this king is Jesus.
You see, Jesus isn’t just a good example or teacher for us. He doesn’t just lead us on the way we should go. He actually goes where we, because of our sin and rebellion, could not go. He does what we were meant to do but never could. He then becomes our righteousness son our behalf.
How often have I prayed to God hoping he would hear me because of what I’ve done? Or, more often, how often have I prayed fearing he wouldn’t listen because of what I’ve done? But, that is not who our King is. “The Lord is our righteousness.” Praise God that I do not stand upon my own record. Like Israel of old, I know that wickedness is not outside me but inside my own heart. I need a righteous King who lives the life I never could. I don’t just need a king to lead me. I need a king to stand in my place.