Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Just Leader

We are in the midst of studying “Justice Promise”. The lessons have been a study of part of Old Testament texts which prophesy and speak to God’s judgments and hope for His people. In the first lesson of the unit we reviewed Psalm 146, a psalm of praise which lists many attributes of God and reason for hope despite our problems. Last week we studied the major prophet Isaiah as is recorded in Isa 9:2-7. It was stated that he was known as one of the Major Prophets simply because his book is longer than, for example, the minor prophet’s Obadiah. The prophetic period began with Samuel. However the writing prophets appeared when the kingdom divided. The purpose of all the prophets was to make the people aware of their sin and bring them back to God Almighty. Today we shall study another major prophet, Jeremiah, as recorded in Jer 23:1-6; 33:14-18.

‘Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.’ Jer 23:1-2 God bid Jeremiah a curse to give to the kings and leaders who had scattered his flock, his covenant people. The northern tribes had been taken into exile by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Jerusalem was now about to be destroyed and its inhabitants carried into exile in Babylon. The crime of the pastors and the other leaders is they cared only for themselves. They did not care for the people. The people did not belong to the rulers to do as they wished, but they belonged unto God. Therefore, God had judged evil upon their irresponsible doings.

‘And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.’ Jer 23:3-4 While there is no hope for the kings and leaders, God has provided strong language of His personal intention to re-gather His flock. He will gather the remnant, those who remain, to bless them and restore them unto Himself. They will no longer be in fear because they will know the one true God had not abandoned them. Not one of God’s sheep will be missing or lost. They will be prosperous in the increase of people and the fruitfulness of their land and economy. God will place shepherds over them who will care for them as they are led.

‘Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Jer 23:5-6 This is the Messianic prophecy. The day shall come when a righteous branch, or sprout, shall reign as King on the Davidic throne again. Judah shall be saved and Israel shall live safely as each will be restored in God. There is a play on words because Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. His name meant “Righteousness is our Lord”. It is unfortunate he did not live up to his name. He was a wicked king. Jesus Christ is the King prophesied by Jeremiah. He is of the lineage of David, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. He is the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS who executes judgment and justice in the earth.

‘Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.’ Jer 33:14-16 It is important to know where Jeremiah was when he penned these verses. In the previous chapter he was instructed by God to purchase land from his uncle. It did not matter that the land was occupied by the Babylonians because God had spoken that it would be released. Since he had been preaching the captivity would end, God wanted the people to see how much he believed it. When the king heard of the purchase, Jeremiah was placed in prison. From prison he penned chapter 33 which contains seven prophetic oracles. They are located at vs. 2, 4, 10, 12, 17, 20, and 25. Each begins with a variation of “This is what the Lord says…” At verses 14-16 you find an almost exact parallel to Jer 23:5-6 above, repeating the promise that the Branch would come from the root of David. Further, “in those days is a clear reference to the days of the Messiah”. There is one major difference, though. In Jeremiah 23:6, the name THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS was given to the righteous Sprout: here it is given to Jerusalem, i. e., to the Church, because it is her business to work on earth that righteousness which Christ works absolutely.

‘For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.’ Jer 33:17-18 This prophecy refers to the royal Davidic kingship and the Levitical priesthood offices. God will not only restore Judah and Israel, but He will restore the royal and priestly offices. These offices were symbols that meant much to the national and spiritual life of the Jew. This writer does not believe they were restored permanently as they knew. It is my sincere belief these offices were replaced by the Church whose overseer is Christ Jesus, the Prophet, Priest, and King.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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