Our Righteousness

| Jeremiah 33:1-16 | April 8, 2018

Week of April 15, 2018

The Point:  Because God is righteous, He will ultimately make all things right.

The Lord’s Promises:  Jeremiah 33:1-16.

[1] The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: [2] “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it–the LORD is his name: [3] Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. [4] For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: [5] They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. [6] Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. [7] I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. [8] I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. [9] And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it. [10] “Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again [11] the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD: “‘Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, for the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the LORD. [12] “Thus says the LORD of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. [13] In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the LORD. [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. [15] In 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. [16] In 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.’ [ESV]

“Pardon for Sin and a Peace that Endureth [33:1-9].  They were the last, desperate days before Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Babylonians. After many months of siege the city was shaken to its very foundations. In a last-ditch effort to save their city, the citizens tore down their houses and palaces and threw them up against the city walls. Jeremiah’s Jerusalem was coming to an end. The prophet himself was still in jail. Yet right at this moment the Lord came to give him a little inside information [1-2]. The information Jeremiah was about to get came from a reliable source. God guaranteed His credibility by reminding the prophet of His work of creation. The words He used for made and formed were first used in the creation account [Gen. 1-2]. God thus spoke to Jeremiah as the God who made, formed, and established the earth. In other words, He knew what He was talking about. God had a secret for Jeremiah, and everyone loves a secret. What God whispered to Jeremiah in that prison cell is one of the great promises of the Bible: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known [3]. The word hidden implies that the knowledge of divine things is inaccessible, incomprehensible, impregnable. The things of God are out of reach. The things God has planned to do in the future, especially, are hidden from our sight. The Apostle Paul asked, For who has known the mind of the Lord [Rom. 11:34]. The answer, or course, is that no one has ever known the mind of God. Yet God invited Jeremiah to search the divine mind. He promised to make known the unknowable things. He pledged to reveal the secrets of redemption. All Jeremiah had to do was call upon the Lord. God promised to reveal Himself through prayer, for He loves to share the secret plan of redemption. The biggest secret of all was the victory of God over sin through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 33 reveals at least three great and unsearchable things Jeremiah did not know. The first was a great and unsearchable thing he probably didn’t want to know – that God would destroy all His enemies. The prophecy was gruesome [4-5]. These verses convey the chaos and confusion that led up to the fall of Jerusalem. Even the strongest city cannot withstand the judgment of God. And in this case, the punishment fit the crime. Jeremiah had already condemned Jerusalem for burning incense to Baal on its rooftops [32:29]. How appropriate, then, for those very same houses to be torn down! The wrath of God against sin is great and unsearchable. The creature cannot understand the way the Creator works out His justice. Why are the wicked exalted and the righteous abased? Why does God allow one man to taste the pleasures of sin while another meets a bitter end? Why does one dictator remain in power while another is brought to justice? Such questions cannot be answered because God’s justice is beyond comprehension. The Apostle Paul put it best in his doxology: How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! [Rom. 11:33]. God’s judgments may be unsearchable, but there is something great about them too. One of the great things about God is that He will not tolerate evil. As He told Jeremiah, I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil [5]. God will do the same thing at the end of history. Then He will turn His back on the ungodly forever [Matt. 25:41]. At the last day, every unholy thought, every wicked word, and every evil deed will be brought to judgment. That day of judgment will be a great day. It will be great because it will show how great God is. God will not besmirch His honor by allowing any sin to go unpunished. Every sin will and must be judged, including your own. There are two things you can do with your sins. One is to hold on to them until the day of judgment, when you will suffer the punishment for them yourself. That is what Jeremiah’s neighbors did. But thanks be to God, there is something else you can do with your sins! You can take them to the cross of Christ. When Jesus died on the cross, He was accepting the punishment you deserved for your sins. If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you do not have to die for your sins; Jesus has already died for them. Know this: God will preserve His great justice one way or the other. Your sin must be punished, either in your own person or in the person of Jesus Christ. The best thing to do is to take your sin to the cross and let Jesus deal with it there. The second great and unsearchable thing God revealed to Jeremiah was pardon for sin: I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me [8]. To understand how great and how unsearchable that promise is, it helps to know how great and how offensive sin is. Jeremiah used three different Hebrew words to define sin [8]. They are the same words God used on Mount Sinai when He promised to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin [Ex. 34:7]. These words describe sin in all its variety. The phrase all the guilt of their sin is sometimes translated as “iniquity.” The second phrase all the guilt of their sin is a different Hebrew word for sin meaning “missing the mark.” Then there is the word rebellion. Sin is all those things. It is a twisting and bending of the person whom God created upright. It is a missing of the mark of God’s perfect Law. And it is active rebellion against the kingdom of God. How great, how unsearchable is the promise that all these sins will be forgiven! How great God must be to devise a plan for the forgiveness of such sins! At the center of God’s unsearchable plan for the cleansing of sin is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ bore all our sin and carried all our sins on the cross. A third great and unsearchable thing about God is beautifully expressed in a line from a great hymn – “pardon for sin and a peace that endureth.” The line comes from “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” God revealed the same secret to Jeremiah [6-7]. God promised to restore, renew, and rebuild Jerusalem. He promised to give His people peace as well as pardon. One of the remarkable things about this promise of peace is that Jeremiah had spent most of His ministry prophesying just the opposite. One place to see how God brought peace to His people is in the book of Nehemiah. More than a century after Jeremiah’s death, Nehemiah surveyed Jerusalem and found the city pretty much the way the Babylonians left it. But Nehemiah did not leave the city in ruins. The book of Nehemiah describes how the city was rebuilt, gate by gate and stone by stone. God brought Judah and Israel back from captivity and rebuilt them just as He promised [Jer. 33:7]. God gives even greater peace to the Christian. Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation has the peace of God. The Christian is at peace in the world because God is on His side. The Christian is at peace with Himself because he is no longer troubled by a guilty conscience. And the Christian is at peace with God because Jesus Christ has accepted the punishment for sin and for sins. The great and unsearchable plan of redemption deserves highest praise. It deserves the kind of praise God promises His people will give [33:9]. Here Jeremiah testifies to the evangelistic value of a worshiping church. When the church worships God in all His unsearchable greatness, the world sits up to take notice.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks [33:10-16].  Jeremiah’s promise about the Messiah’s birth could hardly have come at a better time. Things did not look promising for the people of God. Jeremiah himself was still in jail. Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar and his armies were marching against the city to destroy it. All the judgments Jeremiah had been warning about for many years were about to come crashing down on God’s people. The land would be laid waste [10]. The towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem would be deserted, inhabited by neither man nor beast. Jerusalem would become a ghost town, and God’s people would be skeptical about the future of God’s city. But the Lord knew the plans He has for His people, plans to prosper them and not to harm them. Jeremiah 33 began with God promising to tell Jeremiah great and hidden things he did not know [3]. Verses 10 through 16 explain what some of those great and unsearchable things are. This section of Jeremiah’s prophecy can be summarized like this: For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord [11]. With these words, God promised a reversal of fortune. Sorrow would be turned into joy. Whatever had been undone in justice would be redone in mercy. God would put everything back in its place. Peace and safety would return to His people. The proof would come in three leading indicators of peace: weddings, thanksgiving and farming would return to the people of God. First, there would be weddings [10-11]. The blessing of marriage would return to God’s people; the deserted towns and cities of Israel would be repopulated. Time and again Jeremiah had prophesied the death of marriage. A wedding is an investment in the future. But the people had no future, so how could they marry? God was about to judge them for their sins [7:34]. God warned of a time when all social occasions would come to an end. But one day peace would return. Happy days would come again for the people of God. Grace would triumph over judgment. God would redeem His people from captivity. Then marriage not only would be permitted, it positively would be encouraged. Another leading indicator of peace is thanksgiving. A society in which people interrupt their regular routine to give thanks to God is a good society. Sadly, when the Israelites were carried off to Babylon, they could no longer give thanks to God in Jerusalem. But God promised that thanksgiving celebrations would be reestablished at His temple [11]. Jeremiah prophesied that someday they would go back to the temple in Jerusalem and sing praise to God. And so they did. The people of God returned to the same city to sing the same song to the same God in the same temple. Their fortunes were restored as they were before. Once again they gathered for services of public thanksgiving. A third leading peace indicator is farming. Agriculture only works in a stable society, when a farmer knows that he will be living in the same place when the harvest comes. Warfare and captivity make farming impossible. When ancient armies invaded a land, the first thing they did was destroy the crops and livestock. It is impossible to defend your land and farm it at the same time. So when the Babylonians attacked, Israel became desolate, bereft of beasts as well as men. But God had good news for farmers. He promised to restore the fortunes of the land [12-13]. When sheep may safely graze, it is a sure sign of peace. The soldiers would become shepherds once again. They would watch their flocks by night. These are wonderful promises [14]. Peace in Israel was only the beginning. The most wonderful promise God made is that He would send His people a good King [15-16]. The King would be a branch off the old tree. He would come from the house and line of David to bring salvation to the people of God. But when would this King come? The promise provided a clue: In those days and at that time [15]. In what days? At what time? In the days and at the time Jeremiah had just described. The King would come when peace had been restored to Israel. He would come when the sounds of the bride and bridegroom could be heard in the streets of Jerusalem. He would come when songs of thanksgiving were sung in the temple. The Messiah would not come at a moment of desperate crisis. He would come when peace had returned to Israel. God promised to send the King when shepherds were abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Why the shepherds? To show God’s people that the time for the Messiah had come [12-13].The announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ to shepherds was as necessary as His birth in the town of Bethlehem, or His belonging to the house and line of David, or His being born of a virgin. It was necessary because the Holy Spirit promised that the Messiah would come in a day of weddings, thanksgiving, and farming. The King would come when shepherds had peace enough to count the noses of their sheep. What difference does Jeremiah’s teaching about the shepherds make? First, it proves that Jesus is the Christ. The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were a total fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament. Down to the least detail, Jesus is the King whom God promised to send. Second, the shepherd promise in Jeremiah 33 assures us that Jesus is exactly the kind of king God promised to send. He came just as advertised. If this one promise about shepherds is true, then all the rest of Jeremiah’s promises about His kingship must be true as well. Jeremiah said the coming king would be a rightful king. God promised to cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David [15]. That promise came true. Jesus Christ fulfilled the covenant God made with David, that one of His sons would rule forever on the throne of Israel. Jeremiah said the coming King would be a just king: he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land [15]. Jeremiah said the coming king would be a victorious king: In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely [16]. Jesus Christ has conquered all the enemies of God he reigns supreme over sin, death, and the devil. His kingship is a saving kingship, for He has come to save His people from their sins. He brings peace and safety to the people of God, protecting them from eternal judgment and the wrath of God. Finally, Jeremiah said the coming king would be a righteous king. His name would be The Lord is our righteousness [16]. But that name would also be given to the entire city: and this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’ [16]. “It” refers to Jerusalem, the city of God. God’s city would be as righteous as its King. The righteous name of the righteous King belongs to everyone who lives in the righteous city: our righteousness. This promise, too, has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the answer to the greatest problem of the human race – sin. Sinners do not have a righteousness of their own to protect them from the wrath and curse of God. But Jesus Christ is the King who gives His righteousness to His people. The righteousness of Christ belongs to the Christian. His righteousness becomes our righteousness.”  [Ryken, pp. 497-513].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Examine God’s message to Jeremiah in 33:1-9. What is the Lord telling Jeremiah? What attributes of the Lord do you find in these verses? List all the “I” statements. What promises does the Lord give to Jeremiah? Why should Jeremiah believe in God’s promises? How do these promises apply to you?
  2. Next examine what the Lord says in 33:10-16. What promises does the Lord give? How are these promises only fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ? What does the name the Lord is our righteousness mean? How does this name apply to Jesus Christ? What does it mean to you that Jesus is your righteousness?

References:

Jeremiah, vol. 2, John Mackay, Mentor.

Jeremiah & Lamentations, Philip Ryken, Crossway.

The Book of Jeremiah, J. A. Thompson, Eerdmans.