May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.
The reading for tonight’s message comes from Jeremiah chapter 23. The name for Jesus found there is “The LORD our Righteousness”. But before we read that part of the Bible, let’s take a moment to understand the time and place in which it was written.
It was a hard time to live as a prophet of Jehovah. The northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed over a hundred years previous. They had forsaken God and turned to worship idols. Though He appealed to them, they refused to return to Him. Eventually, the Assyrian Empire swept through the land like wolves, and Israel was gone.
Now, only the Kingdom of Judah remained. Set in the south, with Jerusalem as it’s crown. But Judah’s people were not faithful to Jehovah either. They worship in God’s Temple, but also at the high places dedicated to pagan gods.
The rulers of Judah were no better than its people. From time to time a godly king would ascend the throne. But out of the last 19 kings, only 8 had been faithful to God.
Jeremiah the prophet had lived during the reign of Judah’s last faithful king, Josiah. But from that time on, he had watched a parade of wicked kings take David’s throne. King Jehoahaz. King Jehoiakim. King Jehoiachin. All of these kings rejected the messages that God’s prophets brought to them. The Bible summarizes the reigns of these three kings with he same phrase,
“…and he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father(s) had done” (2 Kings 23:32, 23:37, 24:9).
These kings did not simply speak out against God’s truth.
Uriah the prophet was hunted down and murdered in the name of king Jehoiakim. His assassins had to travel all the way to Egypt to find Uriah. They brought him back to king Jehoiakim, who had him killed with a sword in his own presence (Jeremiah 26:20-23).
Jehoiakim had no love for Jeremiah either. On one occasion, the king was brought a book containing Jeremiah’s words. Words that God had instructed Jeremiah to write down. The king tore the book up and burned it. Then he sent men to throw Jeremiah in prison (Jeremiah 36:21-26).
The problem with Israel had been that they had abandoned Jehovah God. And the problem with Judah was the same. Their wicked actions were merely symptoms of a godless heart.
Listen to Jeremiah 22, verse 6.
“6For this is what the LORD says about the palace of the king of Judah:
“Though you are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
I will surely make you like a desert,
like towns not inhabited.
7 I will send destroyers against you,
each man with his weapons,
and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
and throw them into the fire.
8“People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this great city?’ 9And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and have worshiped and served other gods’”” (Jeremiah 22:6-9 NIV).
And yet there were still some followers of Jehovah in the land of Judah. And life must have been just as hard for the people of God as it was for His prophets.
Day after day, they had to see their neighbors going off to worship at pagan altars. On some of these altars children were offered by fire to Baal or Molech.
Day after day, the faithful heard the true prophets of Jehovah proclaiming that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed.
Day after day, they saw the wickedness of their own kings displayed in policy and action.
It was a terrible time for God’s people to live in. But God had not forgotten His people. And He sent them a note of comfort and encouragement to remind them of His promises. That note of encouragement is our reading for tonight.
Listen to Jeremiah 23, verse 5-6.
“5"Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD,
"When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.
6"In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
The LORD our righteousness'” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NASB).
Long ago, God had promised king David that a special King would one day come from his family. This king would build the Temple of God and would reign over an eternal Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:11-16).
With this note from Jeremiah, God was saying to the faithful who were left in Judah, Remember the promise! These kings who sit on the throne now are relatives of David, but they are not the Branch of his family tree that I spoke of. That righteous Branch is yet to come!
And He WILL come. And when He does His reign will not be marred with murder and faithlessness. He will not hunt down the true prophets, He’ll call out the false ones and hold them accountable for their lies. He will serve the people with wisdom and justice.
In His days, the people of God will live securely. Knowing that they are safe under the wings of this Mighty King.
And then God gave them a name to hold onto. A name for this King:
“The LORD our righteousness.”
Talk about a name above every name. I think this is my new favorite name for Jesus. Let me explain it.
The first part is “The LORD”. This “LORD” doesn’t mean master. It’s in all capital letters to indicate that at this point in the Hebrew, the proper name for God is found. “Yahweh”, or “Jehovah”. Those are two different ways of pronouncing the Hebrew name. This isn’t like the word “god” either. It was ONLY used of the TRUE God, never of a false one. It was God’s proper name.
The second part of this name for Jesus is “our righteousness”. And this hints at the fact that this King isn’t going to be about maintaining civic order and peace in Palestine. There were other clues about this in earlier prophesies. The fact that His Kingdom would be an eternal Kingdom was one of them. Here’s another, His name is “the LORD our righteousness.”
He’s not going to be all about maintaining civic peace and extending the borders of geographical Judah. He’s going to be all about giving people peace with God.
Without this King sinners can have NO peace with God because as Isaiah said in Isaiah 64, verse 6…
“6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and made us waste away because of our sins” (Isaiah 64:6-7 NIV).
But the King Jeremiah speaks of is “The LORD our righteousness”. How righteous is the True God? How sinless and perfect is He? One hundred percent! There is no darkness in Him at all. He is pure goodness and love and peace and justice.
And He took His flawless rightness and switched it with our un-rightness. He made that switch on the cross of Calvary. There Jesus ripped our sins out of our hands and put them on His own back. There Jesus spread out the righteousness of the eternal God over sinners like a warm, silken blanket.
That’s what’s so special about this name, “The LORD our Righteousness”. That name was the greatest note of comfort that the faithful followers of Jehovah could have received. Don’t worry, it said. The times are wicked. Our own hearts are evil. But the LORD is our righteousness.
And that same message lifts up our hearts tonight. Our times are wicked. Our own hearts evil. But the LORD is our righteousness.
When your conscience stings you because of your sin. Don’t deny it. Just speak this name, The LORD our righteousness. For this name summarizes the Gospel of forgiveness.
And when you want to share the peace that you have with a friend, don’t stress about it, just remember this name. For this name encapsulates the Good News we wish to share. The LORD our righteousness!
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for taking all our shame away. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our righteousness. Prepare each of our hearts to receive Jesus again this Christmas. And bring this name to mind in our dark and troubled days, like a banner held high before us. The LORD our righteousness.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.