Jeremiah 33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
These days it seems one of the most common questions is, When? Most people don’t have a lot of patience, and waiting is difficult for just about anyone. Funny thing, because our text tonight, turns on a when – the when in question, is "in those days." And on the face of it, we might be inclined to say – so what? It was a different time a different place, a different people. But is it? The text is rather specific in that it does identify the time – that time being when God fulfills his promise. And with simple promises, it is not hard to know what the time frame is – either it has happened, or it has yet to happen. The problem is that most of the promises of God are bigger than we can see, greater than we can grasp, and deeper than we can understand. In this way, many of the promises of God are like a parable, something that demands to be pondered for some time.
Trees make for good symbols, they stand for a long time, and many live so long, that we imagine that they will always be there. But a time comes when something happens and the tree, is not its former majestic and statuesque self. For whatever reason it is cut off – and all that remains is the stump – and one is inclined to say, looking at a tree stump – not, that is not what it once was – but, that its as good as dead.
In fact this is what was said of Abraham, when he was old, and childless – he was as good as dead, there was no life in him – and yet, God fulfilled the promise to Abraham, and gave him a son in his old age. That’s the way the promises of God often work.
Or in Jeremiah’s day, the northern kingdom had fallen, and Judah is about to fall, and be carried off into captivity. The people will look, and they will see, not a sign of hope, but a tree stump, a reminder of the former glory – but the promise of God is that there is yet hope, out of the stump a branch will come forth, and not just a branch, but one who will rule. In the fullness of time, God set the people free from the captivity. But is that the end?
No, it is only the beginning! The history of Israel, is a series of ups and downs – and in the days just before Jesus was born things had taken another turn for the worse. There’s a new king, one appointed by Rome, one who is not a descendant of David, not even a descendant of the promise, but a descendant of Esau, and he rules in Jerusalem. Has the everlasting throne of David been clean cut off, is the stump dead and decayed? No, for in the days of Herod, a child was born, a son was given, one who would sit on an everlasting throne forever. Some people thought he would restore the Davidic kingdom as it had been in the time of Solomon. But that was not what God had promised.
And since then, there have been periods in the church’s history, when things happen, and people remember the way it used to be, and look at the stump of what was, and lament the loss of the former glory, and prepare to die – but its not over. We still wait for the righteous branch.
We wait, not because we are patient, not because we enjoy waiting – but we wait in hope, because of the promise of that branch – and this is the Promise, this is the hope – it is, the LORD is our righteousness.
Throughout history people have looked for righteousness in many places, they have tried to make their own righteousness – and time after time we have found that all our righteousness amounts to nothing – the axe comes, the tree is cut, the former glory is gone – where can we turn for hope? To the only righteousness that stand the test of time, the only righteousnes that can resist the axes of sin, death and the devil – the righteousness that comes by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the righteous branch in which we hope – and so we see the promise which was, and is, and is to come – the promise for all times and all peoples. This is the hope of Advent, the righteous branch is coming.