“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. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is the name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 23:5, 6

Not many days hence, and we will celebrate the glorious event of the birth of our Savior.

For four thousand years the Church of God had looked for Him. On many pages of the Old Testament Scriptures you find the longing for the coming of this Savior, and on the other hand, the sure promise of His advent. God has promised throughout history that He would send His Goel, His Messiah. Yes, and it really means that God promised that He would come Himself. That is the gospel of the promise: I, your God, am coming to save you!

A very clear instance of such a promise we have heard in the prophecies of Isaiah 40:9. It concludes in the triumphant shout: Behold your God! In it is the glad cry: He came at last!

It is an answer to the ever recurring question: Who is active in religion? And the answer is: God acts. And when He acts there is religion. Then we corrupt ourselves again. Then God acts again, and the result is reformation. And thus it continues throughout all history. Yes, we are active too. But our action is the corruption of truth and life. That is the sad commentary of all history. Clearest of all in the book of the Judges. There you see the ever recurring cycle of God establishing His people in the truth. Then they corrupt themselves, God takes ven­geance and gives them in the hands of their cruel ene­mies. Then they cry to God. And He would send a judge to deliver them. And they are again estab­lished. But then the same cycle starts over again: corruption, misery, crying to God, and reformation. And that is our history.

Essentially you have the same thing in my text.

It is taken from the prophesies of the weeping prophet.

He wept for about fifty years.

Then God took him to heaven and wiped all his tears. He is singing now.

But we will take our cue from him for this little meditation.

For our comfort in these days of the advent of Christ.

Here is Jeremiah’s promise in the name of the Lord: God is going to send unto David a righteous branch!

And this branch is Jesus. This prophecy was fulfilled in that wonderful night when Jesus was born. It may have been the text for the sermons of those lowly shepherds.

Notice: God raises Him!

And: in the midst of the utmost wickedness. Not only in the earth, but Judah-Israel have become like unto Sodom and Gomorrah.

But God raises Him. You ask me why I emphasize this truth. Because it is fundamental, and because we are always trying to corrupt that truth.

It is fundamental for it reveals the entire style of the palaces of God’s salvation. All along the way it is God who saves. Not for one moment is it any differ­ent. God raises the branch, the Princeps, the leader of the people.

He is called branch, that is a twig that points in a different, in a new direction. And the direction this Princeps points to is the heart of God! This branch is tantamount to Paul’s cry: For out of Him, through Him and unto Him are all things. Amen.

You see, we are all going in the opposite direction to where this branch is pointing. Our direction is hell. But He comes unto David (so says the text) and He leads David back to the good conduct: right­eousness.

In one word: this branch brings salvation.

Who is David?

The text tells me that God will raise a righteous branch unto David.

But David was dead and gone by the time this prophecy was spoken.

Yes, but although King David, the father of King Solomon was dead at this time in history, David was still there.

David in my text speaks of Judah-Israel, the Church, God’s people, the elect.

And here I approach a chapter that is overwhelm­ing: I can hardly continue. It it the everlasting chap­ter of God’s love. For you must have asked your­selves: why call that church David? And the answer is that the name David means beloved!

Beloved? The Church? Israel? Judah? God’s peo­ple? We? I, of all persons?

Yes, my dear brethren, you and I, and all that hope in God. We are called David in my text, and that speaks of the eternal chapter of the love of God. I hear a man warble sometimes on my radio about the love of God. It is the title of a hymn. Oh, but it is beautiful and true.

Perhaps you would ask me for proof.

Well, there is proof; there is overwhelming proof.

The whole world is full of proof that God loves His own people whom He foreknew. There is so much proof in the world that the trees and the mountains are bidden of the Holy Ghost to sing and clap their hands, for that His goodness endureth forever!

But you ask for proof and I will give it. And you live this proof, bye and bye when you and your dear ones will travel again to Bethlehem to see the word that has come to pass.

The proof is that God came in swaddling clothes, in a dirty manger and dirtier stable, in order to show you how much He loved you. He came to point in the direction of His loving heart. He came in Bethlehem and said: Behold Me in your misery and poverty! But I come to make you rich!

Yes, the branch would be raised unto David.

And what would His labor be?

This: He would be a King and He would reign in justice and judgment.

There is an eternal terror in these words.

You know what would happen to you when justice and judgment would be meted out to you?

There is but one answer: you would find your­selves in outer darkness.

But wait! This branch is going to execute judg­ment and justice in the earth, as a labor of everlasting love of God!

And that makes all the difference.

Oh, I pity the world and the devils. They shall feel the justice and judgment, and its experience shall be hell forever. Did not this branch say: Now is the world judged! And also this: Now is Satan cast out!

But as for David: He will execute judgment and justice in the earth for them too, but then they will be saved. Jesus will prosper in that awful labor. But He Himself will go under. For He will take your hell and damnation on Himself.

You can read it in the text. The effect of His la­bor in the earth will be that Judah shall be saved! And Israel shall dwell safely. In these few words you have salvation, marvellous salvation, heaven and hea­ven’s joy and peace.

Saved, what is it? It is the loss of the greatest evil and the obtaining of the greatest good. Through His justice and judgment your sin and guilt are anni­hilated. And through the same labor your righteous­ness will shine as the sun in the firmament.

To dwell safely.

I yearn as I write. We do not dwell safely as sin­ners. There is an unspeakable apprehension in the very atmosphere. As sinners our lot is described in one of the prophets: In the morning we say: wish it were even! And in the evening we say: wish it were morning!

But through the labor of this branch Judah is saved and Israel shall dwell safely.

What unspeakable salvation!

His name is The Lord our righteousness!

Yes, that is first of all Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem almost two thousand years ago. There can be no reasonable doubt about that. The Branch is the Savior King.

But I would like to point out that He is in reality God Himself, Jehovah, Lord of Lords, and King of kings.

Salvation is of the Lord.

No, this branch is no third party that came be­tween the outraged God and the guilty sinner. Oh no.

But it is the party of the first part: God, blessed for­ever.

Yes, this branch is Jehovah in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger.

It is Jehovah clothed with humility, Jehovah clothed with our weakened, earthy, corruptible and mor­tal human nature. It is Jehovah with guilty David in His loins.

That is what you see in Bethlehem’s stable. That’s what the shepherds came to see. They saw the sign of all that marvellous miracle. They came to see the incarnation of Jehovah.

And He is called The Lord our righteousness!

These last words of His name tell a wonderful story.

It tells of the results of His labor. He established righteousness for David so that it might clothe him.

Read of it in the Revelation of John, the beloved apostle.

He saw a great multitude of happy souls, arrayed in long white clothes before the throne of God.

And there must have been a question in his soul for he is answered by one of the four and twenty el­ders who said to him: What are these which are ar­rayed in white robes? and whence came they?

But John did not know, and so he said: Sir, thou knowest!

And here is his answer, and it sheds light on the name by which Jehovah-Salvation is called: These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

And still clearer is John’s revelation in Rev. 19:8. There we read that to the bride of the Lamb (and that is the same as David in my text) was grant­ed that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.

The Lord our righteousness!

Thus shall He be called, says the text.

Oh, let us call Him that for evermore! Amen.

G. Vos