Second Sunday in Advent December 5, 2021
62, 68, 66, 309
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (NKJV)
In the name of the promised Lord and King Jesus Christ, dear fellow redeemed;
Last month marked the end of an election process. It was without any question a bruising campaign on the part of both parties. All the candidates are in different respects humanly flawed. But, with the election now completed, as Christians we want to carry out God’s injunction to pray for those who were elected. We are to do this to the end “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:2)
The Old Testament rulers in Israel leading up to and during the ministry of the Prophet Jeremiah were in many cases even more flawed than those in our political system. They were unbelievers who worshiped idols. They were very unethical, oppressive, and unjust in their governance. And their personal lives were grossly evil and worldly. Together with them most of the citizenry in Israel weren’t any better.
Jeremiah had a very difficult ministry among the Jews. God had called him to preach a message of repentance, warning the ungodly Jews of an impending judgment of defeat and captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. Despite the prophet’s best efforts, not only did his messages from God fall on deaf ears, but the people persecuted him by scoffing at and imprisoning him.
For those who were willing to listen to God’s Word Jeremiah delivered prophecies of deliverance from captivity, a return to their homeland, and most important of all the coming of the messianic King Jesus Christ. This King was to come from the royal lineage of King David. He would be a holy King who is our righteousness. His reign would be successful, establishing justice and righteousness. And because of His reign, sinful imperfect people like you and me are saved and dwell in safety.
Ordinarily in a governmental system of monarchy, kings come to power through royal birth. While the promised messianic King was to be born of the royal lineage of King David, the succession of kings ended when Israel came under foreign rule. So, when Scripture speaks of Jesus being a branch in the family tree of David, the Word of God makes note of the fact that Jesus came forth as a tender sprout, shooting forth from a stump. Jesus’ earthly parentage, although descendants from David, were not themselves royals. They were but lowly and common folk.
This promised King would be unlike any other. Instead of being a flawed, imperfect human being like all the rulers of this earth, He would be holy, completely free of any sin or imperfection. Jeremiah declared Him to be a Branch of righteousness.
When considering political rulers, whether it be in our country or in foreign lands, how often haven’t we seen evidence of their sin and imperfection both in their personal lives and their governance. They are guilty of breaking God’s commandments just as we are. They are not always fair, just, and equitable in their governmental dealings with all the citizens. Despite such flaws, we thank God that He uses them as His representatives to rule in such a way that serves for our temporal welfare.
In the case of Jesus Christ, He was righteous and holy in every respect. Jesus was always faithful in observing God’s commandments in thought, word, and deed. Never once did the Lord Jesus transgress God’s holy precepts. In His kingly reign, He loves all people equally whether they be rich or poor; high and mighty or lowly folks; respectable or of poor reputation; law abiding citizens or criminals. Jesus is always fair, just, and equitable to all people regardless of gender, race, or nationality. While there are various instances where political rulers have been self-serving, doing things for the sake of their own personal advantage whether it be lust for power, material enrichment, or fame, this was not the case with Jesus. His whole earthly life and work was purely for the benefit of others. The sacrifices He made and the perfect life He lived was for all sinful mortals.
And what is truly comforting to us is that His righteousness and true holiness serves for our spiritual and eternal good. The Prophet Jeremiah refers to Jesus as the “LORD our righteousness.” The apostle Paul writes of himself and us in this regard in Philippians, saying that being found in Christ, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9) Through faith in Jesus His righteousness is transferred to us so that God accepts us, approves of us, and regards us as His holy children in whom He is well pleased. Because of Christ, God no longer sees our sins and imperfections, but He sees only Christ’s righteousness that covers us like a garment.
When government leaders in our country come to the end of their term of office, they very often like to speak of their legacy. They point to the accomplishments they achieved and will be remembered for in years to come. Sometimes their declared successes are only perceived in their own minds and are not real. Whereas in other cases they have made great contributions to our country that have long lasting effects. Very often the truly valuable achievements are recognized and appreciated long after they leave office.
With King Jesus, all that He did and achieved were perfect in every way. It was very real and not imagined. And it was done for the benefit of every human citizen in this world.
God had an eternal plan for His Son Jesus to carry out which would make it possible for a kingdom of believers who know and experience God’s grace, mercy, and truth. This kingdom extends into eternity where believers in Christ are a part of a spectacular world of glory and bliss.
With the Son of God being in the bosom of the Father from eternity, He knew fully this plan of God. And when Jesus entered this world, He successfully fulfilled and carried out this plan of God.
With every kingdom whether it be of human origin or of God, there are always enemies that want to rob people of what the kingdom has to offer. We see this to be the case in our country as we see various enemies both from within and without that would take away from us the freedoms and liberty we live under and enjoy.
In the case of the kingdom of God, we know well those enemies as being our own sinful flesh, the unbelieving world, and the devil. All these enemies have been present and at work in concert to thwart and prevent Jesus from successfully creating a kingdom of grace and glory. But thanks be to God that Jesus has won all the battles and finally the war. Though our enemies are still attacking us and trying to overcome us, we know by faith that Jesus is ruling in the heavens and contending against them for our sake. Because our Savior prevails against our enemies, they cannot harm us. As the Bible declares, “we are more than conquerors through Him (Jesus Christ) who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)
One of the great benefits of a godly and upright government is the establishment of and carrying out of justice. Whenever there is justice in a nation, there will be a society where people can live in peace.
Our Savior King Jesus Christ established and carried out the highest for form of justice—God’s justice. God is a holy God, so when He created mankind, He instituted a holy way of thinking, speaking, and doing for His created human beings to live by. Our first parents were able to observe this holy will of God before they fell into sin. However, since they transgressed God’s commands, both they and all their descendants have been incapable of perfectly keeping God’s commandments. As a just and holy God, the penalty for breaking those divine commandments is death, even eternal death, and condemnation.
What is truly amazing and comforting is that this same holy and just God is also a loving and merciful God! According to His eternal plan He sent His only-begotten Son into this world to satisfy His justice in our behalf. This gracious plan required Jesus to pay the full debt of our transgressions by suffering the penalty of death and eternal condemnation for us. And as we spoke of earlier, Jesus was successful in accomplishing this. Therefore, on account of Jesus God declares us not guilty, innocent, and forgiven of all our sins and iniquities. Praise God for this, because this not only means that God gives us a full pardon, but also gives us an eternal future with Him in heaven.
It is on account of Jesus’ redemptive work that Jeremiah declares in our text, “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely.” (v.6) When the prophet speaks of Judah being saved, he is not limiting this salvation to the Jews in Judah. For as we find in the New Testament, all believers in Christ are the true Israel, the true believers in Christ’s kingdom. Yes, Jesus paid the sin-debt for all the sinners in the world. But it is only those who are led by the Spirit of God to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who finally receive and enjoy the blessing of salvation, even the eternal salvation of our souls.
Through faith in Christ we dwell in safety. Earlier we quoted the apostle Paul in Romans where he speaks of us being conquerors over the enemies of our souls through Jesus Christ. Having Jesus as our Champion who conquered our enemies and gives us a share in His victory, no one and nothing can harm us to our eternal destruction. We are completely safe under the umbrella and shield of God in Christ Jesus. And so, Paul goes on to declare for himself and all believers in Christ in that same section in Romans, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:38-39) Through faith in Christ we are completely safe and secure spiritually and eternally.
As we look forward to the celebration of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea, we want to keep in mind and heart that the baby born of Mary was and continues to be royalty. According to God’s promise, Jesus was born of royal lineage, being a descendant of King David. And then in addition to this, we know and believe that Jesus was and is much more than any other king. He is our Savior King who through His life, death, and resurrection established a kingdom of believers living under God’s saving grace. And this kingdom of God is an eternal one, for when we depart this world, we enter a kingdom of glory in heaven, all because of our Savior King’s redemptive work. Praise and thanks be to Jesus for all that He has so powerfully, lovingly, and graciously done for us so that we can have a share in this wonderful eternal kingdom. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.