The Lord our Righteousness

Jeremiah 33:16 “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord our Righteousness.”

Judah’s real problem was never so much the hostile neighbors who kept invading–the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians. They made life miserable, but the problem ran deeper.

Their problem wasn’t even so much in their own wicked kings. People like to blame bad politicians when things go wrong. But nobody put a gun to the citizen’s heads and made them imitate their leaders. They still had God’s prophets to teach them what was right. They knew better.

Israel’s real problem lay in their own rebellious souls. They had been resisting God’s ways from the days of Moses. They were quick to forget his goodness. They were quick to turn to the disgusting practices of the gods of their neighbors. In the end they had no one to blame for their misery, their spiritual bankruptcy, or the judgments God visited on them but themselves.

We’re not so different. We would like to believe that the blame for our misery rests on someone else’s shoulders. We wouldn’t be so grumpy if others treated us better. We would behave ourselves if it weren’t for the terrible influence of our peers, or the failure of our parents to nurture us in a more loving and godly way.

But in the end, it’s our life. Our reactions are our reactions. Our sins are our sins, and we will personally own the consequences, too.

That is why this picture of days to come is such great news. Jeremiah couches God’s promise in pictures the people of his day would understand, but he is describing a salvation that’s spiritual. “Judah will be saved.” Jesus’ coming has saved us, not from foreign powers, but from guilt and distress over our sin. Here’s the picture wrapped in Jeremiah’s Hebrew: We no longer must live like a city under siege, squeezed and choked until we are spiritually starving to death.  Our consciences no longer bombard us with guilt; Satan can’t torture us with fear. We are free from all that, free to live and breathe, free to trust God and love him, with no enemy and no threats anywhere to be seen. This is what it is like to live under this King.

“Jerusalem will live in safety.” Here is the second picture: Our coming King faithfully protects us. Death has been arrested, found guilty, and securely locked away in prison. Only a faint resemblance of it still goes free–not to murder us, but to escort us to the door of a new home. There we are safe and secure with the rest of God’s family around us. Whether we are still on our journey home, or whether we have reached our final destination, we are safe under our new King’s rule.

This is all true because the King has dressed us up to look like himself. “This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord our Righteousness.” In an earlier chapter of Jeremiah, “The Lord our Righteousness” is a name given to Jesus (23:6). Here the “it” to which the name refers is the people of God represented by Judah and Jerusalem.

Either way, the name tells the story: Our Lord Jesus has given us his righteousness–the righteousness of his life, and the righteousness of his death. We wear it as our own in place of the rags of our sin. He has come not only to be near us. He traded identities with us, and dressed in his righteousness we have nothing to fear. Our sin is removed, replaced. Our salvation is sure. We are safe in the royal robes of our King.

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