St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A Ruler/King We Can Count On

Sermon on Jeremiah 23:5-6

Text: “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”

In a little less than a year, we will have finished another election season. No doubt, your mailbox will be full of advertisements, full of promises of what this person will do for you, if elected. Often, you would also find flyers telling you all of the bad positions that the opponent had taken over the past number of years, as well. When you get those flashy advertisements, what often is your thought? I will have to admit that, the more grandiose the promises, the more I doubted whether or not they would actually fulfill them. That’s because we have seen times when politicians promise many things and not deliver on them. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could read those promises and know that you can count on every one of them being fulfilled. This morning, as we study God’s Word we see A RULER/KING WE CAN COUNT ON. 1. One Who Does What Is Right and 2. One Who Gives Righteousness.

Jeremiah was speaking to the people of Judah previous to and during the Babylonian invasion. He warned the people that this was going to happen because of their continued rebellion against God. There were many symptoms of this rebellion. Just previous to our text, we read, “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: ‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2) The LORD was speaking about the kings of Judah, who should have made it their first priority to take care of their people. They should have made sure that the people were worshiping the true God. However, many of them were selfish, looking after their own interest and getting rich at the expense of the people. Many of them were godless, following after false gods, and for these reasons, the people were being scattered. Scattered, first of all, as the people ran all over the place, following various false gods. They were scattered, also, in that they would soon be taken away into captivity.

So, God says, ‘Since you, descendants of David, cannot raise up a righteous king, I will do so.’ This is in accordance with the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7:12&13, “When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” God was speaking of a kingdom that would last forever. God repeats that promise in verse 5, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land’”

First of all, we note the words, “The days are coming.” This phrase refers to the New Testament era. This is something that will happen in the future. God promises to raise up for David a “righteous Branch.” The Hebrew here is interesting. The word for branch does not refer to a branch, as we normally think of it. We normally think of a branch that comes from a tree, dependent on it for life. The word here denotes a growth or a sprout that grows directly out of the ground or directly from a root, forming a new or second plant or tree. This Branch, which the Lord promises, will not just be a branch in the family line of David. This Branch will be established as a fresh growth, springing up from the seemingly dead root of the house of David. Think of the line of David, when Jesus was born. Joseph was not a king, but a simple carpenter. Mary was not a princess, but a girl from the town of Nazareth. From this seemingly dead root of David, a King, the King arises.

Over the last number of years, it seems, we have seen one political scandal after another. As the candidates campaign, dirt is dredged up and something they did or said earlier comes back to haunt them. There are also times when they do evil things while in office, that destroy their credibility and their character. Contrast that with what God says this King would do. He will “do what is just and right in the land.” The word “just” means that he will be without fault. He will be guiltless. Because of this fact, he will “do what is . . . right in the land.” He will act according to what is the right thing to do, not just to win the favor of people. He will act in a way that is in accordance with the will of God. He will be measured by God’s standard. When this is done, he will be judged to be righteous.

Obviously, this cannot refer to any human being. The Bible is so clear at this point. For example, we read in Psalm 143:2, “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” This, of course would include you and me. We are not righteous on our own, by any stretch of the imagination. We each has our own list of sins that we could come up with. For example, how often don’t we find ourselves speaking the worst about those who are in political office. We turn our disagreements with the policies that they stand for into attacks on the person holding the office. We need to remember that they are God’s representatives and, when we make fun of them, we are not showing respect to God. We sin against God when we speak the worst about other people, rather than standing up for them or defending them. Again, it is obvious that this righteous Branch cannot refer to any human being. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”

Then, to whom is this referring? This becomes very clear when we look at the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus, when speaking to a crowd of his opposition, posed this question to them, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”. (John 8:46) They could not, because he had not sinned. Even Pontius Pilate, when he looked at the evidence that was presented to him at Jesus’ trial, said, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” (Luke 23:4) Jesus was perfect in every way. For example, we see this in the way that he spoke about the government. When they tried to trip Jesus up into saying it was wrong to pay taxes to the government, Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17) Even as Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus acknowledged that Pilate’s authority to rule came from above. He was “just,” as the prophecy said he would be. He did what was right in the land.

We make this point because this is exactly the type of Savior we needed. We needed a Savior who followed the whole will of God, because we cannot do so ourselves. In order to enter heaven, God says that we must be perfect. As we noted earlier, we are not perfect. We are anything but perfect. However, Jesus was. Every time he did what his Father wanted him to do, he was acting for us. He was perfect for us. This King did what he said he would do. He would do what is right.

There are times when political leaders promise to do things, but are unable to deliver. It might be that they promised more than was possible to give. It might be that they had the best of intentions to do something, but someone or something got in the way of their fulfilling their promise to do. Look at what God says this Branch, the King, will do, “In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.” (Verse 6) He promises that there will be safety and righteousness.

First of all, we note that both Judah and Israel, the northern and southern kingdoms, are mentioned. What makes this interesting is that Israel had been taken away by the mighty Assyrian army. They were scattered to the four winds, never to return to their homeland again. So, this is not just talking about physical Judah and Israel. This is a metaphor for believers. We live in safety and security.

The safety and security that are ours is told us by the name that this King would be called, “The LORD Our Righteous Savior.” Note that in this instance, as opposed to the previous verse which talked about the righteousness of the Branch, here he is called “our righteous Savior.” When we compare our lives to the light of God’s law, we know that we are not righteous, that we are not in a correct relationship with God. However, Jesus is our righteousness. Earlier, we noted that he lived a perfect life for us. He did what was right. Yet, the stain of sin would still mark us, if not for God’s great exchange. God took Jesus’ perfect life and credited it to our account. What about the sin that we are guilty of? God took it from us and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Jesus. While Jesus was on the cross, he paid for every single one of our sins. Our debt before God has been cleared. When Jesus rose victoriously from the grave on Easter morning, he announced to the world that the Father had accepted the payment for our sins. We are forgiven. We share in the victory of what Jesus has done. That is why he is rightly called, “The LORD Our Righteous Savior.” He is not just a righteous God. He is the reason why we can rightly be called righteous. Doctor Martin Luther said it well in a prayer, “Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am Your sin. You took on You what was mine; yet set on me what was Yours. You became what You were not, that I might become what I was not.”

Jesus not only promised to do something. He did it. He came to the earth to save us and that is exactly what he did. For this reason, we do not have to fear the almighty King of kings and Lord of lords. Yes, he is those things, but he is also a loving Savior, who will always do what is best for us and will come at the last to take us home to his heavenly kingdom. He is a Ruler that you can count on, for he has shown us how much he loves us. Let us, then, worship the King with our entire lives. Because of his majesty and his amazing love, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11) Amen.