Tuesday 01 March 2016

Bible Book:

Jeremiah 23:5-8 Tuesday 1 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 46


Despite Jeremiah's many warnings about the consequences of thepeople's disobedience to God's law there seemed little change inthe moral and social character of Judah. So Jeremiah keptproclaiming the impending demise of the kingdom, its capitalJerusalem and the temple around which the religious life of Judahwas centred.

The main Exile eventually occurred in 587 BC towards the end ofJeremiah's ministry, when the temple was destroyed and a large partof the population were carried off to Babylon (modern day Iraq). Itwas one of the most cataclysmic events in ancient Jewish history.Yet in the midst of his message of doom came a spark of hope.

The image of the "righteous Branch" (v. 5) isn't unique toJeremiah. It is also found in Isaiah (Isaiah11:1) who comes before Jeremiah by about 100 years, andZechariah (Zechariah 3:8) who was writing after the Exile.In all three cases the term refers to a hope that God will bringforth new life from out of the current state of death. Thereference to David harks back to Judah's greatest king and connectsthe new life to the old.

The title given to this new branch, "the Lord ourrighteousness", may be making a point about the current governanceof Judah. One of the kings during the time of Jeremiah was Zedekiahwhich may be translated as 'the Lord is righteous' or 'the Lord myrighteousness', despite his life failing to demonstrate such aquality. This new Branch won't just have the name, but willdemonstrate it in action (verse 5).

Throughout Christian history the righteous Branch has been seenas an image of Jesus. The Gospel writers were keen to stress thatJesus was a descendant of David (eg Matthew 1:17). Equally he was seen as one whosekingdom was characterised by justice and righteousness. In thisseason of Lent we are forced to confront the reality of death, butalso see the hope of Christ's new life.

Jeremiah's words of hope finish with an image of peoplereturning to the restored kingdom. This again points to the actionof God. When the people were slaves in Egypt God delivered them (Exodus12:51), and now the people could hope that God would deliverthem from the Exile that was to come.

To Ponder

  • What does it mean today to be people of justice andrighteousness?
  • What signs do we see around us of God's new life? 
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