By Angela Pleasants
December 3, 2021
During my time of prayer and study, I journal my reflections. After journaling, I include life application on how I will apply the Word of God to my daily living.
One of my applications involved repenting of the idols I have elevated above God. It took me through many months of lamenting and repenting before God. Toward the end of that season, I remember proudly praying, “God, I am so glad my idols are gone.”
No sooner were the words spoken from my lips, these words came into my heart from the Spirit of God, “Now repent from the idol of pride and self-righteousness.”
I am reminded how easily pride and self-righteousness can enter our hearts. One day a religious leader stood praying, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).
Jesus reminds us in this parable of the Pharisee and tax collector that righteousness is not a human achievement but a gift from God. Following rules and human effort is good, but it does not form a godly relationship with God and others.
In Jeremiah 33:14-16, the prophet announces that a righteous Branch from David’s line will arise and execute justice and righteousness.
Let’s take note of the timing of the Word of God to the prophet Jeremiah. It came when the people’s rebellion against God led to great unrest in the land. Jeremiah was confined under guard while the Babylonians were surrounding the city of Jerusalem and restricting their movement.
Imagine with me, living in a city where a fierce army was devastating everything you worked hard to establish. Let your imagination soar to your house of worship, soon to be utterly destroyed, and everything and everyone you knew either killed or taken into exile. While in exile, you are left with devastating memories, memories of fires and plagues that wiped out your home and city.
While sitting in your grief, you read these words, “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.”
Those in exile thought all was lost, and their hope for the future was dim. It was during this time they would have read the words of Jeremiah. How would they feel reading these words? Would it bring hope? As time passed by and many began to die, would they think this creation of a new future would be too hard for God?
God and his promises are not confined and hindered by our impossibilities. The God of possibilities reminds Israel and us today of the creation of a new future. God’s new thing is a radical new beginning through the Savior that was to come into the world. The righteous Branch is Jesus, born from the house of David. But what will this new future in Christ look like?
Some have asked, “What’s wrong with the world?” We are bombarded by the news of killings, division, wars, and the pandemic. We see accounts of children killing parents and other children. It’s challenging to witness the turmoil in our world, but it is not uncommon. It is a picture of human depravity. It is also why God looked at this world and loved us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, the righteous Branch, who came to execute justice and restore us to a right relationship with God.
Righteousness is not by human effort. It is in Christ that we are made in right relationship with God and one another. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus took on our sin, and we take on his righteousness. In the righteousness of Christ, we are a new creation.
God’s Word to Jeremiah brought hope to a people in exile. Today, in reading the prophet’s words, it can be easy to read from a lens of complacency since we know the end of the story. But let’s not fall prey to becoming lukewarm. God’s message is also a message of hope for us today as we await the return of Jesus and God’s kingdom in its fullness.
Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation. While waiting, we may not experience Israel’s devastation, but we do experience trials and hardship. So, how do we wait? Do we lose hope when all around us looks dim? No, we don’t lose hope. In Christ, we live in right relationship with God and one another.
God’s promised future has the power to change our present circumstances. Louis Stulman said, “Hope is God’s gracious gift to suffering people who are at their breaking point. It is the promise of life when none is expected.”
God’s promise that a righteous descendant from David’s line will reign over his people was fulfilled in Jesus Christ our Lord. And God’s promise will be fulfilled that Jesus will return and establish the fullness of his kingdom. So, we wait with hope, joy, love, and peace.
The Rev. Angela Pleasants is the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Vice President for Clergy and Church Relations. She is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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