By Rick Elsey
Pastor, West End Baptist Church, Columbia
Focal Passage: Jeremiah 33:3-8, 14-16
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Has anyone ever said something like that to you? Maybe you were compared to another coworker rather than a sibling. Whatever the comparison, someone is attempting to motivate you to a higher standard. Living according to a different or even higher standard can be a challenge.
As believers, we are called to live according to God’s righteous standard. In our lesson today, Jeremiah reminds us that not only is God righteous, but He is our righteousness and enables us to live up to a standard of right living that we cannot do on our own. A high standard comes with high accountability. Jeremiah shares with Judah the cost and effect of that accountability.
A righteous God requires judgment (Jeremiah 33:3-5). Jeremiah had a tough job. He was called to proclaim God’s judgment on the people of Judah. They were guilty of all types of sin which included spiritual idolatry as well as violating the covenant God made with them. This message of judgment did not go over well with the people. In Jeremiah 24, Zedekiah, the king of Judah had the prophet arrested hoping to silence his message. Man cannot silence the message of God.
The people of Judah were not living up to the standard set forth by God. They were given opportunities to repent but they rejected them. Only through a time of judgment and exile could the people be ready to be right with God. The judgment described by Jeremiah sounds very harsh but it was necessary for a holy and righteous God to reestablish His people.
A righteous God provides restoration (vv. 6-8). As children, I do not believe we ever enjoyed discipline. Whatever punishment we received was bad enough, but then we would hear our parents say something like, “I am doing this for your own benefit” or “You will thank me for this one day.” To my knowledge no child ever believed that at the time. Looking back over the years, we can now see some of the benefits of that discipline. This principle is especially true when it comes to the Lord’s discipline.
In the previous passage, Jeremiah proclaimed the inevitability of Judah’s judgment, but that is not the end of the story. God’s message of judgment is followed by a promise of restoration. As Judah returns from exile, God will bring healing to His people. The key issue is the forgiveness of sin. In verse 8, Jeremiah uses three different words for sin. The first referred to a twisted or distorted mind. The second described missing the mark (the standard) God had set for them. The third describes an attitude of deliberate rebellion in regard to sin. Despite the degree of sin, the focus is on God’s complete forgiveness. In His righteousness, He promises to rebuild and restore Judah.
We are given the same promise of restoration when it comes to our sin. That restoration and salvation comes through the atoning work of Christ. By God’s grace, through faith we accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross allowing us to have a renewed relationship with our righteous God.
A righteous God provides for justice (vv. 14-16). God had made a “good promise” to Israel and Judah. The anointed kings of their past had not always lived up to God’s righteous standard. A time was coming when a righteous king from the line of David would come and do what is just. This promise points to Christ. He will bring justice and safety to the land, and His righteousness will be evident among His people.