Monday, December 3, 2012

The Lord is our Righteousness.

Jeremiah 23:5-8 (ESV)
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. [6] In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The Lord is our righteousness.'
[7] "Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, 'As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,' [8] but 'As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.' Then they shall dwell in their own land."

Behold the days are coming, This really is what advent is about. The coming days. Days of expectation. Days of waiting for His arrival, the arrival of our Lord, the arrival of our righteousness. The word Advent actually means arrival, the appearance, the manifestation. Israel used to remember the Passover and the forty years of wandering in the desert with the feast of booths. There is somewhat a parallel to this in Advent. We take ourselves back to the time when our Lord had not yet come, our righteousness had not arrived, and been restored to us in the crucifixion of our Lord. Nor our life given in his resurrection. When all God’s people on earth had, was this promise that all things would be made right, that a day was coming when a righteous branch from David, a shoot from Jesse would come and execute justice and righteousness in the land, upon the earth. Something the world has not known since our righteousness was lost with a feast of forbidden fruit. And this righteous branch, his name shall be the Lord is our Righteousness.
This is what Israel waited for, they knew a messiah was coming to execute righteousness, and justice, but they had no idea what this would look like until it came. In many ways the two advents of our Lord were scrunched together in the Old Testament so that the prophecies caused confusion, and yet they still do in the church for those who do not understand what was accomplished with Jesus’ first advent, and what true righteousness is. I say two advents, two comings. For today in Advent we too often concentrate on his first advent, to the detriment of the second coming, judgment day. But it was this second advent that Israel most often looked too, and they associated it with and earthly righteousness, and earthly legal execution of justice. One we too often look for today.
We do not know justice. Even in the houses of justice we do not know it, we do not see it. There is very little difference concerning our society today and the society to which Jeremiah prophesied. Very little. Jeremiah goes on after these verses to describe what God saw among his people. Prophets and priests leading people astray. A court system that seemed to favor the wicked and evil men of society, that oppressed the poor, and bound the hands of those who tried to do right. I may as well have just read yesterday’s newspaper. On earth, the law, and justice fail us. And yet we put out trust in it. I’m always amazed. Yes there is a need for law and order and thus a need for laws. But I am often surprised how much power people think the law has to reform society. The fact that we need justice and righteousness shows that we do not have it. And if we saw it we would not recognize it.
This too is often the case even with earthly decisions concerning justice. We are often not satisfied with what are in reality good decisions. Sometimes we come to realize this later in life, that the judgment was in fact just. Too often we think we know more than the courts or the juries. This too shows how unrighteous we are, how unjust we are, that we rightly stand condemned before God. We have lost out righteousness.
Righteousness is the cornerstone; it is the foundation for what the Bible calls the image of God. Above all else, he, and he alone is righteous. Oh he created us in his image. But we lost that. So far have we lost the image of God, we confuse it for what we look like in the mirror. No that image has been marred by the loss of the image of God. That is our sin, our lack of righteousness, manifests itself in bad health too. But this is not the image. God has no physical image intrinsic to himself. He can show himself, but he is of essence invisible to the eye, seen only in what he creates, as wind is seen only in that it moves. No when scripture speaks of the image we were created with, it talks of righteousness; it talks of rationality, holiness, and wisdom. These are the invisible things of God made manifest in the icon who is Christ. Christ is the icon of the invisible God. (Col. 1:15) Icon means image, but yet more. An Icon even today is a painting meant to convey a greater meaning. I think too often today we have lost that. Christ appeared like us, but he conveyed to us the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Lord is our righteousness.
Yes, even today people expect Jesus to come and execute righteousness according to earthly standards, the responsibility God has given to the earthly governments Christ rejected when tempted by Satan, because he did not come here to be arbitrators between brothers squabbling over worthless inheritances, but to give us an inheritance greater than anything we could ever imagine, a heavenly righteousness in the forgiveness of sins, to bring us into a restored earth, a heavenly home where justice will not be missed because there will be no unrighteousness. Because the Lord is our righteousness, the very image of the invisible God whose image is righteousness, and who has made Christ to be our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and redemption. (1Cor. 1:30) Yes the days are coming, even as they have come and are now but not as of yet. He has executed righteousness, dying for our sins, and on the cross he became our righteousness, in his resurrection our life, and so he still yet comes, on which day we as the people of God, Israel and Judah, the offspring of Abraham by faith, who share in his promise, we will be led out of the north country, that lies to the east of Eden, and out of all the countries to which we have been driven, to dwell in our own land, to dwell securely with him who is our righteousness.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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