8 January 2019Jeremiah 33:14-16
'The days are surely coming,' says the Lord, 'when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.' (v 14)
Psalm: Psalm 99
Jeremiah prophesied in terrible times. Around 590 BC, Jerusalem was under siege from the powerful Babylonian empire. As the Babylonians watched and waited round the hill-top city, Jeremiah foretold its downfall as a direct consequence of the people’s refusal to listen to God. The majority of this book focuses on the coming catastrophe. The city was destroyed in 587 BC and its leaders taken away into exile in Babylon – “by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept” (Psalm 137).
But Jeremiah’s writing is not all doom and gloom. Chapters 30-33 are sometimes known as ‘the Book of Consolation’. It is here that the promise of the new covenant is found (31:31-34), which is often read as part of our own Covenant Service. Today’s reading comes from this section of hope and promise. Jeremiah uses the image of a branch sprouting from the tree-stump, which Isaiah of Jerusalem had used over a century earlier (Isaiah 11:1) to describe the Messiah, born from the lineage of David and his father, Jesse. The promise of renewal is vividly pictured in the image of a tree-stump that keeps sprouting even though the tree has been cut down.
In the verses just before this passage, Jeremiah describes what life will be like in God’s time of recovery and healing (33:6). In the countryside, the shepherds will pasture their sheep in peace. In the city, people will be able to laugh, to rejoice at a wedding, to celebrate God’s goodness in the temple. All this will follow from the gift of the new leader.
Jeremiah keeps returning to the word ‘righteous’ to characterise this leader. Righteousness, linked with justice and truth, is an essential quality of God. Human beings, for Jeremiah, are not righteous. He lives among people who have turned away from God. The gift of righteousness creates the opportunity to restore God’s direction for the world, which leads to peace (see Psalm 85:10 “righteousness and peace will kiss each other”). The passage ends with the prophecy that Jerusalem, the city whose name means peace, will also be known as the city of righteousness in the Lord.
- What would need to change in your city, town or village for it to be known as a place of peace and righteousness?
- Who has helped you develop an understanding of what it means to be righteous? How have they done so?