The Lord Our Righteousness - Jeremiah 23:1-6

Setting

Jeremiah had a tough life. He was a bit of an outcast, certainly from a minority group, but persistently preached and prophesied against the government of the day, gaining in unpopularity as he did so around 600BC. By this stage large swathes of Israel had been ethnically cleansed by the previous world power, Assyria. Despite his regular warnings, over a couple of painful decades, the same fate fell on all that remained, Judah, as it disappeared into the clutches of the new world power, Babylon.
 
In the first 4 verses Jeremiah describes the way the leaders of Israel and Judah had abused their power and abandoned their people. But God promises, through Jeremiah, to restore the scattered sheep.
Then he paints this wonderful picture of a day to come when the Kingdom will be restored with a wise ruler from the line of King David. It is a description of the Kingdom of God where there is justice, safety and righteousness.
 
This is a Kingdom passage. It is a description of what is and what should and will be when the Kingdom of God comes. Through these real, historical events, we hear God speaking to us about our lives thousands of years later.
 
The Message translates, The Lord God Our Righteousness as, GOD-Who-Puts-Everything-Right. Other translations sometimes add the word salvation. These are good expansions of the meaning.
 
This prophecy falls into the same pattern as the passage we looked at last week this is our situation destroyed, scattered, lonely and afraid - God promises to rescue and to bring us Home to His Kingdom of safety, fruitfulness, caring, and salvation.
 
The prophesy points toward a King who will reign wisely and toward a Kingdom where what is just and right will be done in the land. King, Kingdom, Kingdom of God these are terms we use a lot in the Vineyard. It is a foundational part of our theology, of what we believe.
 
The Kingdom is where the King rules and reigns. It is dynamic, it isnt just geographical. It is present, not just future. Jeremiahs prophesy about the Kingdom was spectacularly, but most unusually, fulfilled at Christmas when Jesus was born. They werent expecting that!
 

There are three parts to the phrase (1) The Lord, (2) Righteousness and (3) Our.
 

The Lord

This is about Jesus. Jesus, the man who was born in Nazareth 2000 years ago, whose feet were covered in the dust of Palestinians roads, who healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the hungry, confronted hypocrisy and injustice, who preached a better way. This man, on whom no serious observer has ever placed any spot or blemish.
 
God looks on his wayward creation, led astray by the sin of one man, Adam, and He sends His only Son, one man by whose life and death we are saved. His death paying the price for our sin and His life revealing Gods righteousness.
 
This baby, lying in a feeding trough, is worshipped by the angelic hosts in heaven;
This man, trudging the fields and hills of Palestine, created the galaxies and planets;
This tortured body, hanging by nails, commands power over legions and leaders;
This risen Lord breaks open the portals of heaven and defeats the power of death.
 
Welcome, all wonders in one night!
Eternity shut in a span,
Summer in winter, day in night,
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great Little One! Whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.
Richard Crashaw (1613?-1649), British poet.
 
Jesus is the Lord

Righteousness

Weve been thinking about righteousness quite a lot over the last year as we have studied Romans. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed. (Romans 1:17). The bedrock of the gospel is that we are unrighteous and therefore unable to get right with God on our own, but that through Jesus we can be made righteous made righteous, with Gods righteousness. What a liberating, rescuing, restoring message!
 
If you read through these verses and pick out the words that describe what God wants the Kingdom to look like and what is actually happening, if you look at the adjectives & adverbs which describe what a righteous King is like - in contrast to an unrighteous leader, you get a really good sense of right & wrong:
 
Unrighteous, Righteous
  • Unrighteous: destroy, driven away, afraid, danger, vulnerable, missing, scattered.
  • Righteous: tend, care, feed, pasture, safety, protection, fruitfulness,  saved.
Unrighteous leader, Righteous King
  • Leaders who are foolish, unjust, wrong.
  • A shepherd, pastor, king who is in charge, who is wise and who does what is right and just.
We were stuck in an unrighteous kingdom and now we are promised a righteous Kingdom. Our rescue from there to here is an ongoing one, a journey. We are in the in-between stage, the now and not yet. The King has come but He has yet to completely establish His Kingdom on earth.
 
How can we possibly move from being unrighteous to being righteous? We know we are not righteous. Mandela did some great things but he said, I am not a saint. Some of us think we are doing OK but really?
Most of us know that we are in desperate straits, our minds have been to dark and disgusting places, our hearts have betrayed and lied, our hands have been turned to nefarious ends. Whatever our self-assessment, it will never be good enough.
Without Him we can never hope to be described as righteous.
 
But the promise is that the Lord is our Righteousness not us. Through Jesus sacrifice it is His righteousness that becomes ours. When we place our lives in His hands, declare our faith in Jesus and repent, His righteousness is imputed to us. The goodness, justice, right-ness of God becomes yours. He sees you as He sees Jesus.
 
Whereas with Adam in the garden of Eden, we sustained great loss loss of right standing with God, loss of ability to lead a sinless life with Jesus our standing with God is restored, and His righteousness becomes ours.
 
Surely none think that it is within their power to stand justified before God, but the miracle is that He allows exactly that to happen because He sees us as though we were Jesus, in His eyes we are justified and made righteous.
 
The promise is that Jesus is Lord, and, by faith, His righteousness is given to us.

Our

Jesus is Lord, His Righteousness can be Ours.
For those who have yet to own His Kingship, I urge you to consider your position and the time that remains. Your own conscience knows that your back is turned to the loving Father.
 
David, If only you knew what I have done, what I have said, what I have thought. You would not offer me the keys to eternal life. No, I dont know, but He does and he still stands at the door and knocks and asks to come in and eat with you. It is not presumptuous of you to open the door, it is not dishonouring, it is not unacceptable. He offers, He bids you, He commands you let me in, let me be the King in your life and bring the bright light of righteousness into the darkness.
 
A really good way of understanding this is to think of this as an exchange of clothing from dirty, torn rags to fine garments.
 
Isaiah 61:10
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
 
Your torn and dirty suit is taken off your back and replaced with a clean and gorgeous one. The tears are transformed to wholeness. The dirt is cleansed. The colour is restored. The shape is a perfect fit.
 
You can do no act of kindness to improve on His righteousness and no fault of yours can tarnish His righteousness either.
 
Spurgeon
This is a robe which thy best deeds cannot mend and thy worst deeds cannot mar.
 
Last Friday, at Ellen Thomas funeral, we heard stories of a woman who wore the righteous cloak of the King. Person after person testified to a life lived in the Kingdom of God.
 
Many of us have also reached out and opened that door on which he knocks, allowing the King to become King in our lives, throwing off our old and filthy suit and taking on His fine garments. And we have celebrated the righteousness of God in our lives.
 

The Lord is Our Righteousness

We can say more than, the Lord is my Righteousness, we can demonstrate its privileges & results in our lives:
  • We are reconciled to our creator God possible when we wear the robes of righteousness He has given us;
  • We can approach Him boldly in worship only now that He has given us a change from our old filthy rags;
  • We are adopted into a family by His Holy Spirit welcome into His family because we are now one of the Righteous; 
  • Our prayers and cries have been heard because He listens out for the voices of the redeemed who sound like His Son, and in our cries He hears the merits of His Son.
 Those of you who wear this new suit, who know the Lord is your Righteousness, do not let it remain a matter of the head only. This is a matter of the heart and of life, it is something you can walk by and sleep by. You can lay your head down in the knowledge of His grace and wake up to a new day walking in His righteousness.
 
Let us be thankful, with hearts full of gratitude for what the promise means for us. Rescue from slavery, fear and loneliness. New life wearing a suit of Righteousness. Let our lives shout out loud the miracle of His salvation.

Conclusion

The promise is that the Lord is Our Righteousness.
Whatever your background, however bad you feel about yourself, whatever you have done, however much you have ignored Jesus, you can come Home;
  • by believing in His promise you are given a new wardrobe of Righteousness;
  • by believing in His promise you will know Him and know His love for you;
  • by believing in His promise every minute and every metre of your life is filled with the presence of His Holy Spirit;
  • believing in His promise we will see His Kingdom come.

David Flowers, 19/01/2014
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