The Lord our Righteousness




Jeremiah 23:5-6

5 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.

6 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.


Roy Scherer became Rock Hudson after his agent searched the globe for an acceptable name for a star and came up with an amalgamation of the Hudson River and the Rock of Gibraltar. Susan Weaver became Sigourney Weaver. Originally Doris Von Kappellof, Doris followed the advice of band leader Barney Rapp and changed her name. She sang the song 'Day after Day' for him; therefore she became Doris Day. Frank Cooper had an agent from Gary, Indiana; so he became Gary Cooper. Issur Danielovitch Densky did not like the image he thought his name projected, so he became Kirk Douglas. Frances Gum transfigured herself into Judy Garland. Archibald Leach became Cary Grant. Aaron Schwalt became Red Buttons. Would you have paid money to see Marion Morrison in the movies? Maybe, but Marion did not take that chance; he became John Wayne.

Actors have always recognized the value of a name change. It is an old idea. In the Bible many people got new names to go with a new life. Jacob became Israel. Saul became Paul. Simon became Peter.

The Messiah has many names. You may already know than that “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” and that both Christ and Messiah mean “the anointed one.” Christ has many other titles in scripture. He is “king of kings,” “the alpha and the omega,” “the suffering servant,” “the advocate,” “the atoning sacrifice.” He is “the bright and morning star,” “the captain of our salvation,” “the good shepherd.” He is “the cornerstone that was rejected,” “the consolation of Israel,” “the son of David,” “the lily of the valley,” “the prince of peace.” He is called “the true light,” “the true vine,” and “the true God.” Those are just a few of the titles given to him in Scripture.

Jeremiah adds yet another one. Now let me say up front that Jeremiah has never been one of my favorite books of the Bible. If you read the Bible much, you develop preferences. I like the Gospel of Luke, the letter to the Galatians, the book of Acts. In the OT, I like the narratives, I and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and I like Isaiah, but I have never particularly like Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is called the Weeping or Broken-Hearted Prophet. You might think of him as the Depressed and Lonely Prophet. He was seen as a miserable failure, rejected by his own people.

Think about it. Daniel lived in the king's palace, wore fine robes, ate good food. I know that Daniel wound in the lion's den that time, but other than that, Daniel had a good time of it.

On the other hand, Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers, beaten up, put into the stocks by a priest, imprisoned by the king, threatened with death, thrown into a cistern, and opposed by a false prophet. So to be fair to Jeremiah, he had a hard time of it. The thing we generally do not like about Jeremiah is that he does not mind telling us how hard a time he has had.

For example, “Woe unto us! for we are spoiled,” (4:13). For example,“Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers,” (4:31) And again,“Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out,” (6:31) Someone has said, “Isaiah writes eloquent, inspiring prose; Jeremiah weeps and bleeds all over the page.”

But not always. The weeping prophet does not always weep. Chapter 23 is an example.

Actually the chapter begins as another “woe.” Verse 1: “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” Maybe we need a little background here. Jeremiah lived during the last years of the existence of Judah as an independent state. By 600 BC, the Babylonian Empire was becoming more and more of a threat to Judah. This culminated in the seige of Jerusalem in 598-597 BC. King Jehoiachin was deposed and the Babylonians installed his uncle Zedekiah as king. Moreover, they exiled at least part of the ruling class to Babylon. A few years later, Zedekiah thought he had a alliance with Egypt and so he rebelled against the Babylonians, but the Egyptians never showed up. In 586 BC, the Babylonians stormed Jerusalem, destroyed the city and the temple, sent more people into exile. Jeremiah lived through all of this, and he was angry at the movers and shakers of Judah, who had led the nation to destruction. V2, “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.”

But having denounced the nation's leaders, Jeremiah does not leave us without hope. He goes to prophecy better days. Verse 3: “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.” there will be new leaders who actually care about the people, Verse 4: “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.”

Jeremiah is talking about one specific leader. Verse 5 says, “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.” Here is another name for the messiah king. He is called “a righteous branch.” That is, he will be a descendant of David, a king like David, but unlike the other leaders the poor people of Judah have had, he will be truthful, just, and honest. Then we come to verse 6. “In his days [that is in the days of this messiah king] Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” The terms for “righteous” and “righteousness” in Hebrew are “tsedeq” and “tsedeqah,” which was the name of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah. This name in Jeremiah is a play on words. Zedekiah, the righteous one, was not righteous, was a disaster, but the messiah will actually be righteous. In fact the messiah will be the righteousness of God.

Paul, writing to the Romans some 650 years later, echoed Jeremiah and declared that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah king, the righteous branch, the lord our righteousness. Thus those who believe in Christ are treated as righteous by God.

The Bible teaches that our own efforts at being righteous, our own efforts to live in sinless perfection, are not effective. The psalmist said, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:2-3). In Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast he taught that no one will be allowed into heaven wearing his own good deeds for righteousness. God the King orders the dismissal of the one who refused the pure garment of righteousness (which is Christ), which God had provided for all the guests to wear. Thus Christ is the Lord our righteousness.

Not everyone is willing to receive the messiah king. Some want to depend on their own righteousness. They are legalists. The legalist creed is: "I get my righteousness the old-fashioned way -- I earn it!" In Jesus' time, the outstanding legalists were the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were devoted to keeping the Mosaic law and to the additions that they made to the law. They were what society would call good religious people. They were so "good" that they refused to wear a piece of cloth that had threads of two or more kinds of material woven into it. They refused to do any type of work or pleasure on the Sabbath. They refused to associate with sinners. Most people in Judea were very impressed by this kind of behavior, but Jesus never commended them for their righteousness. Rather, He rebuked them and warned them that they were lost.

Self-righteousness is like a bottomless cup: you pour and pour, but you are never be able to fill it—because pouring yourself into yourself adds nothing to you. Nothing plus nothing equals nothing. Our righteousness never works. What we need is not our righteousness but God's righteousness. That is the only way we can be accepted by God, by having the righteousness of God that is only found in our messiah king, Jesus.

Crowns have always been the sign of authority and kingship. The Imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire was octagonal in shape. Each of the eight sides was a plaque of gold, and each plaque was studded with emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. Richard the Lionheart had a crown so heavy that two Earls had to stand, one on either side, to hold his head. The crown that Queen Elizabeth II wears is worth $20 million-plus. Another English monarch, Edward II, owned nine crowns, which is probably something of a record. But all the crowns of the world are trinkets compared to Christ’s crown.

Revelation 19 says he had many diadems.. He wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and a crown of power. Among those crowns, one outshines the rest. It was not formed by the skilled fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a craftsman. It was put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers. It was not placed upon Jesus' head with pomp and ceremony, but with mockery of ridicule and blasphemy. It is a crown of thorns.

The amazing thing is that it belonged to me. I deserved to wear that crown. I deserved to feel the prick of the thorns. I deserved to feel the hot trickle of blood upon my brow. I deserved the pain. However, he took my crown of thorns, and he offers me instead his crown of righteousness.

I read an old story about a school that had one class that no teacher had been able to handle. One day their teacher quit. She had had enough. A young man, just out of college, applied, and since he was the only applicant, he got the job. Everyone warned him that the class would beat him to a pulp and throw him out the window. But he gathered his courage and went to his class that first morning. He said to the class something like this, "I came here today to teach, but I cannot do it without your help. If I am going to teach and you are going to learn, we must have some rules, and I want you to decide on what those rules are and what the punishment for breaking those rules should be.”

As you might imagine, this astonished the class. No one had ever told them that they could make up their own rules before. They really got into this, listing rules and punishments. For example, one rule was “No Stealing,” and the punishment was ten strokes with a rod across their back, with their coat off. You can tell this is an old story. Such a thing would not be allowed today. But that was the student's own rule.

In any case, everything went along pretty well in the class for several weeks, but then one day Big Tom got up during lunch period very upset. He declared that someone had stolen his lunch. After a little investigation, a witness admitted that she had seen little Timmy with Big Tom’s lunch!

The teacher called little Timmy up to the front of the room. Little Timmy admitted he had taken the food. So the teacher said, “You know the punishement, ten strokes.” Little Timmy had come to school that day wearing a huge coat, so the teacher said, “Take off your coat.” Timmy said, “I am guilty and I am willing to take my punishment, but please don’t make me take off my coat.”

But the teacher said, “Rules are rules, take off your coat.”

As Timmy unbuttoned that old coat, everyone saw that he did not have a shirt on under the coat, and Timmy was a very frail child, mostly skin and bones. The teacher asked Timmy why he had come to school without a shirt. Timmy replied, "My daddy is dead and my mother is very poor. I don’t have but one shirt, and my mother is washing it today. I wore my big brother’s coat to keep warm."

As Timmy bent over a desk to take his licks, the young teacher could see his spine protruding against the skin, and his ribs sticking out. He wondered how he could lay a rod on that little naked back. Still he thought these are the rules that the class decided on and I must keep order in my class.

Just then Big Tom stood up and asked, "Is there anything in the rules that says that I can’t take Timmy’s whipping for him?" The teacher thought about it and agreed. Big Tom ripped his coat off and stooped over little Timmy at the desk. Hesitatingly the teacher began to lay the rod on that big back, but for some strange reason after only five licks that old rod just broke in half.

The young teacher buried his face in his hands and began to sob. He heard a commotion and looked up to find not even one dry eye in the room. Timmy had turned and grabbed Big Tom around the neck begging his forgiveness. He told Big Tom that he would love him till the day he died for taking his whipping for him.

That is the gospel. The gospel says that Jesus took our whipping for us. He died so that so that you and I can have righteousness of God.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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Last Modified: 05/02/13