14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
I was touched this morning by this reading from my quiet time with the Lord. I’ve been using this month to meditate on different passages of Scripture, both Old & New Testament, that feed my thinking & understanding of that which we are celebrating during the Christmas season: a member of the divine Trinity became human & came to live among us.
Jeremiah points us toward Jesus in describing a righteous Branch that will spring up as a descendant of King David. Here is a human being with a fixed beginning point (at least in regards to His human nature) who is a physical descendant of the greatest King of Israel. This man will be a ruler who executes justice and righteousness in the land. As the angel Gabriel told Mary:
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
What struck me the most, however, is the description of the people & the name by which they’re called. In verse 16, Judah will be saved & Jerusalem will dwell securely. Jeremiah then calls (what I take to be) the city by a new name: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ This is striking to me because it would seem to make more sense to say something like “The Lord is righteous” or “The Lord shows us how to be righteous.” Instead, Jeremiah gives us a prophetic marker pointing us to work of the gospel: somehow, the righteous God has become our righteousness.
Human beings are fallen, sinful, lost, & in need of divine rescue. God must save us because, since our behavior is the problem, we are in no position to save ourselves. We are incapable of generating a righteousness that is pleasing to God, but the righteous Branch will bring us that which we most desperately need: a righteousness external to ourselves that comes from God. Through the saving work of Jesus, The Lord will become our righteousness. This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he described the effect of the gospel in his life: “…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:9).”
Because I have trusted in Christ, I no longer must depend on my own attempts at law keeping to generate my own righteousness. All of that has been accomplished by the righteous Branch who lived a perfect life & died in my place so that all believers can say with confidence: The Lord is our righteousness.