Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Redeemer’s Resume: The Righteous Branch (A sermon based on Jeremiah 33:14-16)

What's your resume look like? More important, what does the Redeemer's resume look like? During the season of Advent, we'll take a look at the Redeemer's resume. We'll see the qualifications needed to do the job of saving mankind from their sin. We'll check his references in the Old Testament prophecies. And we'll see that he's the only one who is qualified for the job.

This week: The Redeemer is a Righteous Branch, who is both righteous himself, doing everything that is just and right. And he is the LORD Our Righteousness who makes us righteous and holy in his grace. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Jeremiah 33:14-16 and rejoice in our Redeemer's resume...

The Redeemer's Resume
Part One: The Righteous Branch
A sermon based on Jeremiah 33:14-16 

Do you like nepotism? You know, when someone gets hired or promoted, based not on their job performance, but on their family tree? Do you like when the boss promotes his inept son over you simply because he's his son? Do you like it when your buddy promotes you over someone who's perhaps more qualified because you're his buddy? It may not be fair, but it's true that sometimes it's not what you know but who you know that gets you ahead in life. I've heard that that's how it can be on the slope, which is, of course good if you're on the inside. I imagine it's very frustrating if you're not.

Is nepotism a good way to hire? Maybe. Maybe not. But you may be surprised to hear that that's God's way. You see, the Messiah had to be from the right family tree. If you weren't in the line of King David, one of his direct descendants, you couldn't have the job. But, of course, Jesus was't qualified to be our Savior just because he came from good stock. In fact, his stock wasn't always all that great. But he would be qualified for other reasons as well. He would be qualified because he would do everything that was just and right. And he would, of course, get the job.

Over the next four weeks, we'll examine the Redeemer's resume and see what qualifications were required by God for the one who would take that job of redeeming or rescuing mankind form their sin. We'll take a look at his references, given by God through his Old Testament prophets, to see that Jesus is indeed qualified for the job. In fact, he's the only one qualified for the job.

And this morning we see that he would have to come from the right family tree. And he would have to do everything well, doing only what was just and good. Our first reference on the resume of the Redeemer comes from the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 33:14-16… 

14 " 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 " '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. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness. 

I.      He is a Shoot of Righteousness 

"The days are coming" Jeremiah says with no uncertainty, "when God will fulfill the promise he's made to his people." But What promise is he talking about? It's the promise to deliver them. God had promised that after 70 years in captivity he would restore his people to their own land, that they would rebuild the city, that they would be prosperous and free once more. But the deliverance promised was more than just that. Deliverance from captivity in Babylon was only the start. It was a type or foreshadow of their greater deliverance from sin.

So the promise made to the house of Israel and Judah is the promise of deliverance through a person, a Savior, a Redeemer. And that Redeemer had to have certain qualities. He had meet certain qualifications, if you will, if he was to take the job of Redeemer. For starters, he had to come from the right family tree.

To Adam and Eve God promised to send one of their descendants to crush the devil's head. To Abraham he promised to bless all nations through his offspring. To his grandson, Jacob (also known as Israel), God promised the same. To his son, Judah, God promised that one from his tribe (the Jews) would rule all nations. And to Judah's descendant, David, God promised "David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel." (v.17) Now he reminds them again, "'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."

Through David's line, God promised to send the Redeemer who met every requirement for a Redeemer in his resume. Not only would he be from the right family, but also had to do everything right. He would always do what was just. He would rule perfectly! Sounds like a pretty big qualification, right? I mean a "really good" government is hard enough to imagine, but "perfect"? Righteous? A leader who always does what is right? But God left no room for doubt. "'The days are coming,' declares the LORD…" There's no maybe. They are coming.

And of course, for us who live after Christ, the fulfillment is clear. Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, David's descendant, met the requirements. He was from the right family tree. And he always did what was just and right. The author to the Hebrews reminds us that he was tempted in every way that we are, but was without sin. (cf. Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus is the righteous Branch, who always did and does what is right. Where you have failed to be just, cheating to get your way, Jesus was always fair, always, law abiding, always just. Where you have rebelled against God and sinned against others, Jesus was always right, doing whatever was morally right, even when it wasn't fun or easy.

Jesus always did what was right and remained perfect. He didn't sin even once. And thank God that on his resume he could list "Righteous" as one of his qualities. You see, if Jesus were a sinner, in even one sin, he wouldn't be qualified to be our Redeemer. He would have to pay for his own sin. And he couldn't pay for ours. But Jesus was and is sinless. He is the righteous Branch. And God promised that that Righteous Branch came for you.

Jesus is the righteous Branch, who always did and does what is right and since he always does what is right, he can't lie. "The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made…" God kept the promise he made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, by sending a righteous Branch from David's line that would do what was just and right. And God can't break a single promise he's made to you either. He tells us in Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (Numbers 23:19) with the obvious answer to the rhetorical questions a resounding, "No way!"

Jesus has "righteous" on his resume. And that includes "honest" and "trustworthy" as well. He can't go back on his Word. So you, dear friends, can be absolutely certain of his promises to deliver you!

Are you suffering some pain, whether physical or emotional? Are you going through a trial that seems too difficult to bear? Trust in God's certain promise of deliverance. The days are coming. No question about it! You can be certain that the Last Day is coming soon when our Righteous branch will deliver you from all the rest of your problems and pain. He will judge justly and do what is right, namely forgiving you, because he's already paid for your sin by his death. It wouldn't be just to punish the same crime twice. You see, the coming Redeemer isn't just a shoot of Righteousness, he is our righteousness… 

II.    He is Our Righteousness 

Now, that Jesus is Righteous isn't that comforting by itself. How terrifying that would be if that were the only qualification he listed on his resume: "I never make mistakes."

By chapter 33 of his book Jeremiah had used the phrase "The days are coming" sixteen times already. And each time it was followed by threat of God's law. The days are coming when Babylon will crush Jerusalem. The days are coming when her people will be carried off into exile. The days are coming when God will pour out his wrath on Israel. And they certainly deserved the wrath of a righteous God who never makes mistakes. In chapter 32 Jeremiah spells out their sins. "They built high places for Baal…" that is, the god of sex and illicit pleasure, "…to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech…" No wonder God said, "The day is coming…"

But here, in chapter 33 (and for the last 9 times he uses the phrase "The days are coming…" in his book) Jeremiah uses that phrase in a different sense. Now he consoles God's troubled people with a gracious promise. Surprisingly, the righteous Branch wouldn't bring judgment and condemnation. Instead listen to what he would bring…

'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. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.

The Israelites would be saved. They would live in safety—and, not just from the Babylonians, but from their sins, from death, from hell. Look at the last four words of verse 16: "The LORD Our Righteousness." What comfort is found in that phrase! You see our Redeemer isn't just righteous, honest, trustworthy. He's also merciful, gracious, and forgiving. Those are all on his resume too. He is "The LORD Our Righteousness."

But that's not really what the text says. Take a look. These verses are almost a verbatim quote of Jeremiah 23:4-5. But there's one key difference: There it reads: "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 Righteousness." Did you notice the big difference? No. It's not the use of Israel instead of Jerusalem. Those are often used interchangeably as a way of speaking of God's people. Here's the difference: In chapter 23 he says, "This is the name by which he will be called…" In chapter 33 it says, "This is the name by which it will be called…"

What's the "it"? It's Jerusalem and its inhabitants. They would be called "the Lord our righteousness." What does that mean? Think of it this way… In the early 4th century Emperor Constantine conquered the city of Byzantium. He rebuilt the city, giving it greater honor and wealth and prestige. On May 11, 330 he renamed the city Constantinople and it became his capitol city. And that act redefined Byzantium and its inhabitants. It gave them a new identity even. They lived where the emperor lived. They enjoyed the blessings that he did.

The same was true of Jerusalem. It would be identified so closely with the righteous Branch that would come that they would share the same attributes. It identified the city of Jerusalem and its believing inhabitants. When asked, "Who are you?" they could respond, "I'm the Lord is my righteousness." Not righteous on their own, but by virtue of the Branch that made them righteous.

Sound like a pretty big promise? Perfectly righteous even after they sacrificed their own children? It is a big promise! No smaller than the promise that we are righteous, because our sins are no less than those of Israel. We may not worship Baal, but the gods of sex and illicit pleasure sure find their way into our homes too, don't they? We may not slaughter our children on an altar, but we do all too often sacrifice them for work or personal time and put their spiritual growth at the very bottom of our "to do" lists. We are just as rebellious as Israel, just as self-serving, just as deserving of God's wrath.

But in his grace, he makes us righteous instead. He makes huge promises to us as well. We have been saved—not from Babylon, but from our sins and from hell. We live in safety at peace with God. How? By the righteous Branch, our Redeemer. By his righteousness given to us in his perfect sacrifice on the cross—taking away every sin of worshiping our false gods and every sin of doubting his gracious promises. Now we are God's perfect people—as righteous and perfect as the Branch that lives in our hearts. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to" not just take away, but, "be sin for us, so that in him we might" not just receive, but, "become the righteousness of God."

Why do we spend so much time talking about Jesus death that took place almost 2,000 years ago? How is that relevant today? It is very relevant because what Christ has done on the cross almost 2,000 years ago, identifies who we are today. When asked "Who are you?" you can respond, "I am a Christian. I am perfect. I am righteous. Not by my own effort, for that could never be—I deserve hell. But I'm perfect and innocent of all sin because of the Lord Our Righteousness. He has made me perfect. He has taken away my sin. He's also promised to be with me always. So I am his. I am not alone. He's promised that he will work all things for my good. I am safe. I am secure. He's promised to take me to heaven, to his paradise to be with him. I am certain and I am full of joy. And now, I am his servant, not in forced slavery, but in voluntary submission, as I live my life for him. I am the LORD Our Righteousness. I am the righteousness of God. That is who I am."

Thank God, dear friends, for your Righteous Branch and for the resume of your Redeemer. He is righteous. And as such he is trustworthy. You can believe his every promise. He is gracious and has made you righteous too. Believe it! Own it! Live it! In his name, dear friends, amen!

In Him,
Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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