“The days are coming when I will raise up for David a Righteous Branch” (Jer. 23:5)

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This is my 15th message on the book of Jeremiah. The theme of my previous message was taken from Jeremiah 21:12, “Administer justice every morning.” That chapter talked about the kind of leadership God desires to see. God wants leaders to stop being self-centered and instead pursue the welfare of their people. Especially, to look after the needs of the poor. And to show kindness to foreigners in their land. If they do that, God will bless these leaders and their people.

This idea is repeated in the next chapter. Jeremiah 22: 3,4 says, “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people.” God wants leaders to administer justice and get rid of injustice. To help the needy. That is the kind of leadership God is looking for. Leaders who make righteous decisions will be greatly blessed. As believers, let us pray for our own leaders not to stray from God’s promises and his grace.

Today we enter chapter 23 of Jeremiah. It begins with a severe pronouncement on the kings of Judah who have strayed from God. Verses 1 and 2 say, “‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: ‘Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,’ declares the Lord.” The shepherds spoken of here are Israel’s leaders. God accuses these political leaders of having no regard for the people, and of “scattering the flock”. It is an evil that God says he will punish.

As we learned last time, when King Josiah died, his descendants became the next kings of Judah and took the nation in a different direction because they were swayed by Egypt and Babylon. Sadly, none of them were like Josiah, who turned to God sincerely and asked for God’s help. Rather, in order to pay tribute to Egypt and Babylon, these kings oppressed the people of Judah rather than care for them. It is with this background that we enter chapter 23, where the shepherds of Judah have destroyed and scattered their own flock. God says that these shepherds did not care for their own sheep and caused them to be driven away.

In the previous chapter, God reminded them of their predecessor King Josiah. He says in Jeremiah 22:15, “Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.” The next line, verse 16: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” This refers to King Josiah’s policies. Josiah was blessed because he chose to live righteously and chose what was good for the people’s welfare.

In contrast, verse 17 says this about his descendants: “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” When they ruled, they strayed from God’s laws and oppressed people for their own gain. That is why Jeremiah described them as shepherds that destroyed their own flock. But God’s judgment is certain. Chapter 23 verse 2 says this. “I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done.”

Looking at today’s world, I wonder what our political leaders are aiming for. Is it the people’s benefit, or are they using people for their own benefit? Every leader has to make this kind of decision. God will call into account leaders who fail to love their people. As believers, let us be confident that God will one day carry out his judgments righteously on such leaders.

Indeed, God’s judgment is sure. At the end of chapter 22, verse 30, God says about the wicked kings of Judah, “none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” David’s descendants would be taken as captives to Babylon, thus ending the line of kings from David’s blood. It would be a tragedy indeed.

However, God also declares new hope. In chapter 23, verses 3 to 8, he says that he will raise new leaders and bring a new age. He will gather the scattered flock as one again. His new shepherds will lead people on the path of restoration again. Captives in Babylon will return to Jerusalem and live with new hope. And just as Jeremiah prophesies, the captives did return from Babylon 70 years later. (See Jeremiah 25: 11, 12)

Now, let’s look at verse 5, which talks about a Righteous Branch coming from David. As we know now, this Righteous Branch is our savior Jesus, who was counted as a descendant of David. Just before that, verse 4 says, “I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing.” These new shepherds are leaders who truly believe in the Lord. God would raise these leaders. Though Israel’s people were captive in Babylon for 70 years, during that time they returned to faith in God and eventually returned to Jerusalem. God used a leader named Nehemiah to lead them back to Jerusalem. It led to a new age, and Nehemiah was one of the new shepherds that God promised. But greater than even Nehemiah is who God promised in verses 5 and 6.

Let’s read verses 5 and 6 from Chapter 23: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, ‘”when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” As we said before, this promised Righteous Branch is Jesus Christ. With a viewpoint centered on Jesus, we can see how God has raised new shepherds today who do the will of the Lord Jesus in a new age. This is another way the passage can be read.

Today God is raising leaders who were changed by their encounters with Jesus, who want to live with God and for his glory, and who are learning to love people as Christ loved them. I continue to pray for such leaders to be raised up.

Especially in today’s confused and uncertain world, I pray many people will come to put their trust in Jesus, the Righteous Branch they can truly rely on. He will return to be our King, usher in yet another new age in which his people will flourish, because he will bring righteousness and justice upon the whole earth. Isaiah 4:2 uses the same imagery when it says, “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” The Righteous Branch Jesus will shine as a light in the dark. Jesus will shine in the darkness of our world, so let us be full of hope as we wait upon him.

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