In the days of the great prophet Jeremiah many people were facing the future with great fear and trepidation. And well they should! Jeremiah had been prophesying for years that soon they would disappear into exile. The great sin and apostasy of Israel was at an end. God would no longer let their sin stand. Justice was at hand. Their nation was forfeit, their land about to be claimed by another, their temple destroyed. But it wasn’t all bad news. For God also promised that they would one day be restored. So it is that Jeremiah, after laying their sin bare, now holds before their fearful, tear-filled eyes the great restoration to come.
The end of our Church year warned of the coming of our Lord for judgment. The great sin and apostasy of this world is quickly coming to an end. God will no longer let our sin stand. Divine justice is at hand. It is little wonder that deep down inside there are many people who have a fear of the future. Even the most irreligious knows that it is bad out there and getting worse all the time. But it is still not all bad news, even now. For here at the beginning of this new church year, we have again the promises the coming of our Lord for Justice. An immediate and physical restoration came to Judah after 70 years, but the complete and eternal restoration of all God’s people will take place when Jesus Christ comes again to take to Himself the kingdom He has established. And He IS coming!
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. “The Days are coming” is the standing formula for introducing statements in the Old Testament pertaining to Messianic conditions and promises. And one thing you need to understand from the get-go is that God does not take His promises or His oaths lightly. He keeps His promises! This is good news in itself, and even better when the promise is so good!
For God unilaterally assures Judah – rightly about to go into exile – that He will find a way to carry out His promised deliverance without compromising either His holiness or His hatred of sin. “The days are coming” always expresses certainty, whether the certainty of judgment or of deliverance or of the restoration of David’s line for the salvation of God’s people, there can be no doubt. There is no sense of “may or may not get around to it” the time is set. What God promises is as good as already done. It is right around the corner. The Lord has begun to act even now.
15In 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. As the people of Jeremiah’s day would find out, Justice requires trials, sentencing, punishment and retribution. But as God was so kind to show, true justice also seeks the welfare and safety – indeed the happiness – of people restored and protected. True justice punishes the crime and restores the victim. But what do you do when they are one and the same … and they are us? What hope is there for ancient Israel, or this feral world, or we who know better and promise so much, but can never seem to do it? The hope is always and only in Our God who always keeps His promises in Christ.
The shocking irony here is that the long-promised Messiah, the very branch of the house of David, who came to our world to execute judgment was Himself executed by judgment! The executor of judgment is judged to be executed. And it isn’t just some perverse and tragic turn of events. It was the very plan of salvation God had promised from the beginning. Because this is precisely how we are saved. He must be judged and executed in our place, for our sins before we can bear His name “The Lord our righteousness.”
That is why the King who came in the name of the Lord rode down that Palm Sunday road so long ago – to face the cross and the tomb, and usher in the last days of sin’s reign. In the coming of our Saviour alone there can be peace in heaven and glory in the highest. It is why even as this new church year starts, we stand ready to welcome Jesus into our midst once again, placing our coats before Him, singing our praises to Him, welcoming the One who came to be this world’s righteousness. The one who gives His righteousness, through the Word and Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.
16In 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.’” In those days – the days of the exiles return, or the days of the Lord’s first coming, or especially for us now, the days of His glorious return – in those days we will be saved. At that second coming we will finally rest secure. Why? Because whatsoever belongs to the Head, belongs also to the members. His name becomes our name, His righteousness now our righteousness. God declares sinners righteous because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to us.
The Lord is our righteousness, because our justice was executed upon Him. It is this truth that holds us secure as we await His return. It is this declaration alone that serves as our entrance into eternal life. It is this name – The Lord our righteousness – that we gladly bear before this world in all the days, weeks and years we have left until that great and glorious day comes.