The key to the people’s safety is spelled out in this passage, and it isn’t what they had tried before. Prior to Babylon’s invasion, the people of Israel had been pretty desperate: they tried to shore up national security by making alliances with other more powerful nations; They attempted balancing the national budget on the backs of the poor. They took matters into their own hands, believing that God would help those who help themselves. It didn’t work. And now that the worst had happened, the people were open to what God had been saying all along: Trust me. “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David,” God says.
From the family tree of the great King David, now 500 years in the rearview mirror,
the Lord will raise up a leader, a new branch on what had seemed a dead stump.
This leader will bring back the glory days of Israel – not by scheming and power plays
by giving justice to his own people and making Israel a light to the nations, an example for the world to see how living in God’s presence promotes righteousness safety and the healing for all people. I think Jeremiah’s words are important to us today as well.
Because at a time of insecurity, we are likely—like the Israelites—to put our trust in the wrong places, and to make decisions based on fear.
As our country debates the policies toward immigrants and asylum seekers
we must remember that our spiritual forebears were displaced people, too.
As our country continues to strengthen our national security, we must remember that our ultimate security is not found in bigger walls or stricter background checks. For us as Christians, our safety is found in God. This assertion has a number of implications.
First, our faith calls us to a posture of trust, rather than cowering in fear or putting up our fists for a fight. This trust calms our irrational mind, and puts us into a place where we can examine the data, the history, and the situation from a more balanced point of view.
We do not need to make knee jerk decisions. Instead, we must make decisions that benefit the greater good, and keep in mind the needs of the most vulnerable.
The other important implication of this trust in God has to do with the title of the leader promised to the Israelites: he is called, “The Lord is our righteousness.” His direction is meant lead other people into that same righteousness, multiplying the justice and healing in the world. Doing right for all, not increasing personal security, is therefore the most important goal those who follow him.
As Christians, we believe that the righteous Branch was Jesus. In Advent, we pray for his coming in our lives and our world, not just as a baby long ago but among us today.
Our prayers are personal, that we lay aside the anxieties that seek to immobilize us
and also in our public lives as we do justice and promote righteousness in society.
Our daily living is a chance for us to follow the example of Jesus, who made the needs of the poor and the outsider his agenda. The message this first Sunday of Advent is this:
In Jesus we can face our fears, and allow the light of trust to dispel the darkness.
In Jesus we pray for his work in all circumstances.
We join with Jeremiah in proclaiming the day when God’s work will be complete
when all people will be saved and that all will live together in safety.