Dear friends in Christ. In the season of Advent we get a bit of a sense of what it must have been like for the Old Testament believers as they waited for the Messiah, Jesus, to come the first time; because now we are waiting for Jesus’ return, this time in glory as Judge, when He will take all His dear Christians—both soul and body—with Him into heaven.
Throughout the years that the OT faithful waited for Jesus to come the first time, God continued to give them promises of the coming Savior and prophecies of Who and what He would be so that they would know Him when He came. Here we are in an even better situation than the OT believers. They had the word and promise of Jesus’ coming, but we live in the days when all the prophecies of Jesus and His work to save us have been fulfilled. We have the blessed, added benefit of having Jesus continuing to come to us in His Word and Sacrament to give us the very blessings and benefits He won for us with His holy life and innocent suffering and death. These blessings and benefits are ours only because Jesus did come that first time, as was promised and prophesied.
Our text today is a prophecy, not only of the Messiah’s, the Savior’s, coming but it is a prophecy that describes the blessed result of His coming, which we ourselves enjoy today in His Church.
1. Our text begins: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.” Jesus’ coming the first time shows that the Lord is faithful to His promises. Yes, it was 4000 years from the time the Lord first promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior to destroy the devil and his works, but the Lord was faithful to His promise—even giving additional details about Jesus’ coming so that the people wouldn’t forget about the Savior and to give them new hope that He hadn’t forgotten them.
Behold, the days are coming. These words show us that during all those years, the Lord wasn’t idle. They show us that the Lord was not a powerless by-stander as world history unfolded. Instead, the Lord was shaping history to prepare the world for the Savior’s coming. Scripture clearly tells us: When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. 4.4). The Lord hadn’t forgotten; He was working and preparing everything.
Many people use the season of Advent to prepare their homes for Christmas by decorating, baking, sending cards, etc. The beautiful Christmas trees and decorations, the delicious cookies don’t just suddenly come about by themselves just in time for Christmas. How much more so God’s work in sending the Messiah, the Savior of the world, to be born that first Christmas!
Let us also remember the time and conditions when God gave the promise in our text. Jeremiah was prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem. The Babylonians were advancing and Judah and Jerusalem were in their sights. There was no hope for them. The Lord had clearly said that the Babylonians would come and conquer and destroy Judah and Jerusalem as a direct result of the Israelites’ sin of rebellion against the Lord, their sin and idolatry. They were being punished; God would use the Babylonians as His instruments to pour out His wrath on the city of Jerusalem.
In the midst of His anger and His punishment soon to be unleashed, God did not forget His promise to send a Savior, not only for the Jews but for all people. By all outward appearances, all hope seemed to be lost. If Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the people schlepped out of the land the Lord had promised to give them, the land in which the Messiah was suppose to be born, what hope was there of the promise? Every hope! Because God is faithful to His word. In the midst of this impending doom and destruction, God reminds them of His promise; He promises them good days when at that time, outwardly, all seemed hopeless. The days are coming that I will perform that good thing I have promised.
From His side, the Lord never forgets or reneges on His promises. He would bring about the good He promised—even when it looks like the opposite. The lesson for us today is clear: we can always be sure of God’s promises. His is a true hope, not a false word and a false hope. How comforting for us when it seems that the Lord is angry with us and withholding His blessings and promises from us: the Lord is true to His Word; nothing can separate us from His love for us in Jesus; He is working all things for our spiritual good to bring us safely through this earthly life to Himself in heaven. Just as the Lord’s promise kept its power even in the face of destruction and deepest humiliation of the OT people, so too can we be sure His word and promise stand today to us. On Him and His Word we can completely rely.
B. In our text, the Lord again held out before the people the promise of Jesus the Savior and His work. In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up for David a Branch of righteousness; He will execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. As we look at this prophecy of Jesus’ coming, we see who exactly He really is: He is on the one hand, an actual physical Descendant of David. When the Lord first spoke this prophecy, the kingly line of David was corrupt and soon to be deposed by the Babylonians. Like a Christmas tree, the tree of David was about to be cut down—it was worthless; but the Messiah, Jesus, would come from that line of David after it had been cut down. What does this mean? Jesus, the Messiah would be true man, a Descendant from David. But, on the other hand, He would be different. He wouldn’t be a sinner like the rest of them, like you and me; He would be the Branch of righteousness. Jesus, in His Person, His human nature, would be free from all taint of sin—both the sin that we are all born with and the sin that we commit daily in thought, word and deed.
Jesus is true man, a Descendant from David, but He is also at the same time the true eternal Son of God. Jesus is the God-Man and because He is both 100% God and 100% man in one Person, He can then be our Savior from sin. That’s precisely the promise the Lord repeated to the people in Jeremiah’s day and that’s precisely the Savior in whom we place our trust and confidence for forgiveness of sin and eternal life—Jesus, the God-Man.
Notice what the Branch of Righteousness will do and did do: He will execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. By doing judgment and righteousness, that means that Jesus, the Branch of Righteousness, fulfilled the holy Law of God for us as God intended it to be kept—holy and perfect; He gave God the perfect obedience He demanded of people.
Jesus could do this because He is the God-Man. As Man, as a Descendant of David, He could act for us in our place, as our Substitute; as God, He is holy and righteous, free from sin and could offer up that one perfect sacrifice of Himself for the sins of all people. Jesus executed judgment and righteousness in the earth by actually doing it for us—He kept God’s Law for us and suffered the desserts of our sin.
God was faithful to His promise—even when it seemed all hope was lost. He sent His Son to become also true man, a Descendant of David, one of us, to do what we can’t do—obey God’s Law—and to suffer for us God’s wrath and anger over sin and by this reconcile us sinners to the holy God.
2. This advent of Jesus brought blessed results to us: In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. The first and most glorious thing for us is that this is all God’s work. The Israelites deserved none of it—they rebelled against the Lord and His grace—and yet the Lord was faithful to His promise to send a Savior. He, the Lord, said I will perform that good thing, I will cause to grow up for David.
What a glorious promise to us as well! We don’t deserve any of the least of our Lord’s grace, mercy and faithfulness. But the Lord is always faithful to His Word. Precisely because we are sinners and unable to do anything to save ourselves, the Lord is gracious to us and faithful to His promises He made to us in grace. Christ’s coming was all God’s work for us to save us from our sins.
And now that Jesus has come and brought about for us every heavenly and spiritual gift, we still don’t do anything to earn or gain them. We simply receive these things as a gift. Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell safely. The blessings Jesus brought about for us with His coming, His life, suffering and death and confirmed to us by His resurrection, the gifts and blessings we now experience and simply receive in faith are the gifts of salvation and peace. This prophecy deals with the events after Jesus’ First Coming; that means here that Judah and Jerusalem refer to the people of God, the Church. We, His Church, receive the salvation and peace that Jesus brought about and gives.
Why is it that we can have these blessings of salvation and peace? Because of Jesus and His work, God declares us righteous. According to our text, the Church is called THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. We have no righteousness of our own that we can stand before God with, but the Lord, Christ Jesus is our righteousness. That’s why He came the first time those many years ago—to be our righteousness by obeying God’s holy Law that we break day in and day out and by suffering God’s wrath over our sins. Jesus’ perfect righteousness is credited to us! We bear the holy name. And this is the name by which she [the Church, our Lord’s Christians] will be called: THE LORD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Before the Judgment seat of God, we can claim no merit or worthiness of our own; but we, unrighteous sinners, claim the merits of Christ; we trust in His life, suffering and death. God declares us righteous in Christ.
That’s why we can have salvation and peace: Our sins are forgiven us. They cannot rise up and accuse us before God and drag us down to hell. The sin that God would have to punish us for has already been punished; God’s anger has been stilled. The perfect holiness God demands has been kept: Jesus is our righteousness. He came the first time to become for us our righteousness; He perfectly did the job—He rose from the dead; His sacrifice accepted and completed; He ascended into heaven to open it to all believers. From there He will come to bring us body and soul into heaven. Eternal life in heaven is ours!
Until He comes on the Last Day in a glorious way, Jesus still comes to us today giving us this peace, that glorious fruit of His work. He comes to us in His Word and Sacraments giving us His perfect righteousness. We are in Christ and He is in us. His righteousness is ours, as we read: God made Him Who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would have the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5.21) Since we are in Christ and He is in us, since His righteousness is now also ours, what peace we have—our sins are forgiven and things are right between God and us. In Christ, He is our dear loving Father and we are His dear children. As Jesus continues to come to us today in His Word and Sacrament, He continues to give us that peace and now we dwell securely in Him knowing that He is working throughout our earthly lives to bring us body and soul to Him in heaven. Christ came and became our righteousness so now in Him we have the certainty of salvation and peace. INJ Amen.