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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on December 20, 2015 under 2015 |

Message preached Christmas Sunday, December 20, 2015 from Jeremiah 23:5-6

Theme: Christmas is the first step in a promise fulfilled—that a King from God will rule this world in righteousness.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, there are a few passages of Scripture that are very familiar to us; and our minds automatically go to them. But the great theme of Christmas—that God became flesh and was born into the human family—is a theme that’s found all through the Bible; and some of its most encouraging expressions are found in passages of Scripture that are perhaps not quite so familiar to us.

This morning, I’d like to draw your attention to one of those less-familiar passages. It’s found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. It’s a promise that God made to His chosen people long ago—around 600 years before Jesus’ birth. Verses 5-6 say;

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:

That’s a promise that began to be fulfilled on Christmas Day—when our Savior Jesus was born into this world as God in human flesh. And it’s promise that will be fully accomplished on the day when Jesus returns to this earth—in great power and glory—to take up His rule as as King of kings and Lord of lords. It’s a promise that’s been at least two-thousand years in the process of being kept.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; to help you appreciate why this promise should be so important to us today, let me give you a little of its background. It came to God’s people in difficult times—in times, in fact, that you and I can relate to.

God had called His prophet Jeremiah to deliver this hope-filled message to His people in one of the darkest times of their history. The people of Judah had suffered under the rule of a series of kings who were miserable rulers. They had a good and godly king a few years before. His name was Josiah; and he was a righteous king who restored his people to the worship of God. But the royal sons and grandsons that came after him—first Jehoahaz, then Jehoiakim, then Jehoiachin—were all evil kings. They led the people away from God, and further and further into wickedness and idolatry.

In the Book of Jeremiah, we’re told the sad story of how these kings became corrupt, and oppressed their people in order to build beautiful palaces for themselves. It tells us of how they ignored the need for justice in their land, and refused to stand for those who were robbed or oppressed or murdered. It tells of how they turned away from God and lived sinfully, and then sought to protect themselves by making alliances with the pagan nations around them. They didn’t seem to learn the lessons from their own history. God would punish a king by allowing him to be taken away into captivity by the enemies of Israel—only to see his successor-son or successor-brother commit the same sins after him. Finally the time came for the whole nation to be taken into captivity by the Babylonians. What a sad story of moral and governmental failure the Book of Jeremiah tells us!

And throughout it all, the godly people among Israel longed for rulers—”shepherds”, as God called them—that would lead in justice and righteousness. God promises that He will do something about it all. In Jeremiah 23:1-4, He tells them;

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord (vv. 1-4).

Though they went into captivity, God promised to bring them back to their land. And that’s when God makes this wonderful promise that we find in verses 5-6—a Christmas promise—that a truly righteous King will be given to one day rule over them. It’s a promise that’s so sure and certain that it is even repeated—almost word for word—in Jeremiah 33. God will bring about true justice and righteousness through the King He provides. The very name of this King, in fact, will be “THE LORD OUR RIGHTOUSNESS”.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; I wonder. Does that promise resonate with you today? Doesn’t that speak to a longing in your heart? Don’t you often find yourself yearning for leadership that is God-reverencing and good?—leadership that truly leads in justice and righteousness?

I don’t ever want to sound as if I’m become political. But here we are—coming up once again to an election year. We have many candidates set before us, with a variety of skills and qualifications. The choice we make of who will be our next president is a very important and very consequential one. We need to pray for wisdom in making that choice. But I’m giving you a ‘spoiler alert’: None of those who are running are able to solve our real problems; and whoever we elect as president will end up disappointing us—in one way or another—before their term of office is over. (Now admit it: I’m not really telling you something you don’t already know, am I?)

And yet, we don’t respond to all this by giving up and not caring anymore, do we? A good, godly, righteous, just leader is something that we still keep on longing for. It’s a desire that’s built into us; and something in us needs for that longing to be fulfilled. Perhaps it’s a little like the analogy that C.S. Lewis once used to describe the reality that inspires our higher longings. He said that the fact that we have a hunger in our bellies is a pretty reliable indication that something called “food” actually exists and is out there somewhere. Could it be that the deep longing in our hearts for ultimately just and righteous leadership—and the deep frustration we feel when earthly leaders keep letting us down—is an indication that what we long for is something that truly exists in the plan of God for us?—something that will one day be realized in this world through a Ruler given by God and not by men?

I certainly believe so. And when I consider of this, I can’t help thinking of what it says about it in some of those ‘better-known’ Christmas passages. It tells us in Matthew 2:1-6, for example;

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel’” (Matthew 2:1-6).

Think of that! They were asking the then-reigning king of Israel,”Where is He who is born the real King?” I also think of what the angels said to the shepherds in another well-known passage:

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

This King is not just for Israel. His birth is good news for all people! And I think of what it says in another well-known passage from the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So; this is a promise for all people who long for righteousness before God and for justice for all people. It’s the promise that God began to keep when His Son King Jesus was born into this world; and it’s one that will be fully realized when He returns to earth in power and glory.

It’s hard to think of a more wonderful and relevant promise from God than this great Christmas promise found in our passage this morning.

* * * * * * * * * *

Let’s look at this promise a little closer. We have good reason to do so; because God wants us to. He starts it off with the word, “Behold”. I believe that that’s what God would say to us living today.

In the midst of all our troubles and trials and activities of life—in the midst of all the frustrations we may feel at the imperfections and injustices of this world, and the perplexity we feel over how to make things right—I believe God would say to us, “Behold! Pay attention! Listen to Me! I have a promise that you need to hear—one that will lift you out of your despair and give you hope! I have good news for you—good news for the whole world! You already know about it! You’ve already heard it! Behold, the days are coming when I will set up My King! He has already been born into the world; and He will one day soon begin to rule on earth.”

What does God tell us about this promised King? First, we see . . .


“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness . . .” This is a King, then, that comes from the lineage of the greatest earthly king of Israel’s Old Testament history—King David.

Way back in 2 Samuel 7, God made the promise to David that when his days were ended, God would set up a son that would come from his own body to be King. God said that this coming King’s kingdom would be one that would be established “forever”. And this is Jesus. He was born of the lineage of King David—having inherited the royal rights to the throne through His adopted father Joseph; and having inherited the physical lineage of royalty through being conceived in the womb of His mother Mary.

And God referred to Him as “a Branch” to David. This is an Old Testament way of describing the Messiah—the Branch. But don’t think of it as a branch that extends from a tree that is already growing out of the ground. The way the Bible is meaning it here is as a Branch that grows up from out of the roots; but as His own independent tree. He’s not simply the product of one of those other, fallen and imperfect kings. He is grown from the root of David the son of Jesse; but as something new—someone not tainted with the sin of His predecessors—a Ruler who will rule in true righteousness because He is truly righteous. It talks about this in Isaiah 11:1-5; where we’re told;

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist (Isaiah 11:1-5)

How can this be? How can a king—even a king from David—be so reliably righteous and just? It’s because He not only comes from David; but is also given to us by God. God said, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness . . .”

How we long for such a King! And He has been born! That’s what we celebrate on Christmas!

* * * * * * * * * *

Notice next . . .


We’re told, “A King shall reign and prosper . . .” He will reign; but not as the others who came before Him. They “prospered” in their reign imperfectly; very often in foolish extravagance; and all too often by oppressing those whom they ruled over. But when it comes to King Jesus, the actual wording of the original language is that He will reign and “do wisely” or “act wisely”. Finally, we will have a King who operates with true wisdom from God. God Himself promises in Isaiah 52:13; “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.”

And what’s more, we’re told, that He will “execute judgment and righteousness in the earth”. The idea of “judgment” here is that He will do what is just. He will exercise “just” justice with “just” judgment. But in no way will He ever bring about justice for one at the expense of justice for another—as so many imperfect rulers do today. All that He does will be done in righteousness! In fact, true righteousness is a key theme of the reign of King Jesus. Did you know that “righteousness” is mentioned three times in these two verses? He is “a Branch of righteous”, who will bring about “righteousness in the earth”, and whose very name is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”.

What glories will characterize His reign! He will be characterized by the things that we long for in a ruler! What is asked for in Psalm 72:1-4 will be brought about in Jesus:

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.
The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor (Psalm 72:1-4).

* * * * * * * * * *

And notice further . . .


We’re told, “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely . . .” And there’s something very wonderful in that. At the time when those words were spoken, the nation was divided. Judah was the kingdom of the south; and Israel had been the kingdom of the north. Israel had long before been taken captive and dispersed, and was no more. Judah was about to be taken captive by the Babylonians and would be exiled from its land for 70 years. But God promises that—under the rule of King Jesus—they will be brought back together and made into one again.

And furthermore, we’re told that Judah will be “saved” and Israel will “dwell safely” or “live in safety”. I don’t know if you have been paying attention to the news lately; but that part of the world does not dwell in safety. The modern Sate of Israel is utterly surrounded by enemies that wish to destroy her. But under the rule of King Jesus, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely.

And you might wonder why that’s good news to you. You may think to yourself, “Well; that’s nice. But I don’t live in Israel. Why should it matter to me?” Well; the reason is because, in God’s way of working in this world, the safety and security and blessings of the nations of this world depend on the condition of Israel in this world. God had made a great promise to Abraham long ago—the father of the Jewish people. In Genesis 12:2-3, God told him;

I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).

You can take it as a divine principle of socio-global reality—one that will never change—that the blessings of the nations of the world depend upon the blessedness of God’s chosen people Israel. God set it down long ago that those who bless her will be blessed and that those who curse her will be cursed. She is God’s appointed ‘thermostat control’ for all the nations of the world.

And when King Jesus rules from her and brings about peace and safety for her, it will finally result in peace and safety for the whole planet!

* * * * * * * * * *

And notice one more thing; and that is . . .


When the Bible speaks of someone’s “name”, it speaks of the summation of the whole character and being of that person. And this is what God closes it all of by saying about this coming King:

“Now this is His name by which He will be called:

In the Hebrew, “the LORD” is the translation of the most sacred name of God—the covenant name “Yahweh”. And this is the name by which our King is known! He is God in human flesh! And He is also called “our righteousness”.

He will not only bring about a righteous rule upon this earth; but for those who would be truly righteous before God, He Himself is their righteousness! And that’s because when He was born into this world, He was born to first die on a cross for us; and then rise from the dead and ascend to the Father; and then to come and rule! And now—as we await His return—all who place their trust in His sacrifice on the cross are declared righteous in God’s sight. As Paul put it;

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . (Romans 3:21-24).

Truly, this is the King we need! And praise God!—He was born to us on Christmas Day!

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14).

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