The One Who is Just and Right
The One Who is Just and Right
Welcome to Advent! The season of preparation, where we get ready to once again receive the one who is just and right! We hope that the music, readings and sermons this Advent season deepen your walk of faith.
Scripture: Jeremiah 33: 14-16
It is the first Sunday of church year, the first Sunday of Advent.
As Christians we are looking at Christmas and the birth of Jesus. For us this is amazing, wonderful, incredible good news. For us, looking back through the lens of scripture, we know why this is good news. But why would the ancient Israelites be looking forward to the coming Messiah? Why does Jeremiah write these words?
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it[a] will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’
What is motivating Jeremiah to write this? What are the underlying motivations?
Jeremiah’s world is collapsing around him. He is in prison for preaching that God will deliver the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Why does Jeremiah preach this? Because the people have failed to keep the covenant with God. So Jeremiah predicts that the day is coming when God will do a new thing and cause an heir to rise up from David’s line. We trace this pronouncement forward to Jesus.
Jeremiah’s words for us are brief. A righteous branch will rise up. This leader will do what is just and right. The leader will maintain the law, redefine it as God intended and do what is right for the people. The emphasis on doing what is just and right are found frequently in scripture. Specifically, from the prophets in the Old Testament. Today we might translate this into issues of social justice. Reading Jeremiah, we might ask what are the conditions required for a more equitable and just society? For these reasons God sent Christ to dwell among us.
For Jeremiah and the ancient Israelites, justice was not an abstract notion. It was clearly spelled out for them in scripture. It was a practice of faith lived out. What Jeremiah was preaching should not have been shocking to the people, but his incarceration tells us otherwise. What is remarkable about this passage is what is not stated.
Jeremiah provides us with a promise. A righteous branch will sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. Judah and Jerusalem will live in safety, he will be called The Lord Our Righteous Saviour. The promise we receive is remarkably short. Jeremiah doesn’t go on and on about it, he simply states what God will do for the people.
The remarkable thing is what is not stated and to figure that out we need to do a little bit of homework. Jeremiah is in prison for preaching about the demise of the Jerusalem. Why is this about to happen? Because the people have turned their back on God and under the Deuteronomic understanding of blessings and curses, the final curse is death. This is signified by the coming invasion led by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the exile the Israelites will face.
What is the remarkable thing which isn’t stated? What is the promise before the people? That despite turning their backs on God, God will not turn away from the people. That despite everything God will send a righteous branch from David’s line. Even though the people have abandoned God, God does not abandon them. Margaret Odell writes, “Because God is faithful, the dead end of Judah’s rebellion against God becomes the starting point for God’s new work. Where they have torn down, God is already preparing to build up. What they have plucked up, God will certainly cause to grow again.” (Margaret Odell)
God does not turn God’s back on God’s people. That is the promise of the gospel, seen and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God’s promise to us is what we now prepare for with the advent of Christmas.
Nine years ago, Superstorm Sandy hit America’s East Coast. “That year … President Obama mentioned a man he had met in a devastated area of New York. Houses everywhere around this man’s house had been smashed by water, trees, or both. This man’s own house had been riven by a falling 30-foot pine tree. But as clean-up crews broke down that tree to remove it, the man saved the top 7 feet of the tree and planted it upright in his front yard as a kind of pre-Christimas Christmas Tree—as a symbol of hope. He dug out a few surviving ornaments from his house. Soon neighbors added symbols of the storm itself—surgical masks, battered coffee cups, and the like. It was a sign of resilience, a sign of hope and of a desire to re-build in the midst of devastation.” (Scott Hoezee)
This is the hope that Jeremiah has. That through this new branch, this new tree something good might come of it. We know that in the person of Christ Jesus, something good does come. Not as the world expected it, but as the world needed it. This Advent we have the same hope as Jeremiah. That though the situation around us is dire, we know that God is with us, that God has not abandoned us.
God’s intervention in the world through Jesus stands as the ultimate sign of hope in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us. This Advent cling to the promise of the one who is just and right. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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