“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. 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. 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 Righteous Saviour.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
There’s an old saying that we live between a yesterday which is history, and a tomorrow which is mystery. What on earth is going to happen next? It recalls the wonderful line from Corrie ten Boom: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” It’s His promise that holds us.
Sometimes, in the midst of trouble, it’s hard to see beyond it. The way forward can even dissolve into panic over the immediate now. This is when ends and means get confused.
What do you do? In Jeremiah’s time the forces arrayed against stability and security were huge: the Assyrian power was at its height, threatening the people of Israel. Jeremiah repeatedly warned against listening to the wrong voices. He told King Josiah not to side with Egypt. He castigated false prophets during Jehoiakin’s reign, preaching that failure to obey the Lord would bring the nation to ruin. He urged King Zedekiah not to fight the Babylonians. In the end, no one listened. When he was about 35, Assyria was finally defeated by a coalition of peoples including the Babylonians. This did not usher in a peaceful time for Judah; everyone was exiled to Egypt, including Jeremiah.
The word of the prophet Jeremiah, however, still works to reach beyond the moment. Indeed, Walter Brueggemann wrote that the promises of Jeremiah 33 “join together the resolve of heaven and the future of the earth.” The strength of Jeremiah’s proclamation regarding the coming of the righteous branch lies in the fact that these words speak from the perspective of ultimate power about a this-world saviour.
It is the promise that holds us, because it is the only antidote to the very easy and very dangerous possibility of slipping into facile blaming when things look bleak. It is exactly when the problems of our people are most murky and complex, when the future seems most bleak, that we must turn to the word of the Lord for vision.
He will fulfil every promise.
And the guarantee of that fulfilment is Jesus, the righteous branch “sprouting from David’s line.”
“The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.”