Sunday, September 09, 2012

THE RIGHTEOUS BRANCH - PART 2


THE RIGHTEOUS BRANCH PART 2
Jeremiah 23:5-6

Third, the king will deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness in the land. (5) These are the characteristics of the Godly king. To “deal wisely” and “execute justice” is likely a parallelism. It is saying the same thing two different ways. A king of Israel demonstrated his wisdom by executing justice.

Your mind should jump to the image of Solomon here. He was the wise king of Israel and a type of Christ in this area. (Remember, the “type” prefigures the “antitype”) The writer of 1 Kings went to great lengths to show this. When Solomon became king, he prayed for wisdom. In the ESV, it  says “an understanding mind to govern your people”. (1 Kings 3:9) He wanted to discern between good and evil. God granted that fully. He said “behold I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

The book then goes on to demonstrate Solomon’s wisdom. The first story is that of two women claiming the same son. Solomon reveal’s the real mother by offering to split the child in half. (1 Kings 3:16-28) So we see that his wisdom allowed him to execute justice.

The renewal of justice in the land was a important concept. Much of the prophecy of the Old Testament is a condemnation of injustice. Most of that is directed at the way they treated the poor and defenseless members of their society. Instead of caring for them, they took advantage of them.

God decreed justice as part of the law of the covenant. Justice means that all people were judged according to the standard of the law. No one is given a pass. No one is judged more harshly than the law requires.

The 10 Commandments summarize the law. But there were many regulations that explained these laws that were contained in the books of the law, the first five books of the Old Testament. Every area of life was regulated according to God’s rules.  The idea was not to make life miserable. It was to make society just. It did not mean that everyone had the same success in life. Some were rich, some were poor. Some were free, some were slaves. Some were Jews, some were aliens. But each was to be treated justly under God’s law. A rich man could not take a poor man’s wife, land or cattle. (see 1 Kings 21 where Ahab is condemned for taking Naboth’s vineyard) If you harmed someone, you had to make it good. If you took a life, you had to pay with your life.  

Much of the prophecy of the Old Testament is a condemnation of injustice. Most of that is directed at the way they treated the poor and defenseless members of their society. Instead of caring for them, they took advantage of them. Read the words of Amos. First,
Amos 5:24 says: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Micah 6:8 says:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Yet, being human, Israel violated the law. Israel was not just. Amos 6:12 says “Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.”

The Messiah was to come and restore justice. Isaiah 11:1-10 also describes this. It speaks of the righteous branch also. One of the signs of this righteous branch will be that “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his hears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth”. (Isaiah 11:3) Isaiah was saying the Messiah would not judge by appearance, but with righteousness. Every prosecutor will tell you it is harder to convict a good looking person than an ugly person. You have seen on television how actresses and actors get light sentences for their crimes. You have seen prominent, wealthy families get their kids off for serious crimes.

He would judge the poor and the meek in righteousness. He would not show partiality to the rich and he would protect the poor and the meek.

The Jews saw concern for social justice as a sign or verification of the identity of the Messiah. So, when Jesus came, the disciples pointed out his actions that fulfilled the Old Testament scripture’s teaching of the Messiah’s justice.  When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, then healed all those who came to him, Matthew wrote “this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah “…he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles…” (Matthew 12:15-21)

Unfortunately for the religious leaders, Jesus did not criticize the Romans on the issue of justice. He criticized God’s people, especially their leaders. He told the Pharisees in Luke 11:42: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

In Isaiah 42:1, God the Father says his servant will bring forth justice to the nations. Then in verse 4 he says this servant, the Messiah, will not grow faint until he has established justice in the earth. In other words, Jesus will not quit working until he has established justice on earth. He did not do this while he was on earth. But when he returns, he will finish this work. When we live under Christ’s reign, we will see the perfect leader and ruler. Of course, the execution of justice will first mean the punishment of those who have rejected Jesus as king. They will be exiled from his kingdom and removed to Hell. This is the picture of Revelation 20:11-15. All of the dead stand before Jesus the righteous judge. And the books are opened. Those books are the records of the deeds of all men and women for all time. Those whose names are not written in the book of life are judged by their works and they are condemned for breaking the law of God. The death penalty is imposed. Only those who are left, those whose names are written in the book of life remain to live in the New Earth. Only then will perfect justice prevail. No one will be mistreated in the new earth. No one will suffer because of partiality.

Fourth, the Lord said “in his days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell securely.” (6)

Again we see Solomon as the type here. When he governed wisely and executed justice, Israel lived in peace, security and prosperity. 1 Kings demonstrates Solomon’s wealth in all his building projects and possessions. His fame spread so far that the Queen of Sheba came to see if he was as wise as she had heard. He took her breath away. (1 Kings 10:5)

When does this happen again? We know that Israel did not dwell in security, for Israel was already gone into captivity and few returned. A remnant from Judah returned, although many stayed in Babylon. But Judah was not saved either. Many came and conquered their land and eventually drove them from it again.  The Romans banned Jews from Jerusalem in 132 A.D.

“In his days” would mean when Jesus comes. But this did not happen physically at his coming, because the Romans ruled Judah and Jesus made no effort to change that. He even told them to render unto Caesar what was his. (Mark 12:17) So how did it happen?

I think this is a symbol for the church (or a prophesy of the church). It is the only way Israel and Judah could be united, for Israel, as in the Northern 10 tribes, basically ceased to exist in captivity. The church unites everyone who believes in Christ. When Jesus came, he broke down all barriers. There is one Lord or shepherd. There is one body of believers, whether you call it Israel or the church. Ezekiel 37:15-28 paints a picture of this. Galatians 4:26 says

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Ephesians 2:19 says of the gentiles:” Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Salvation comes to those who believe and follow Christ. They dwell in safety and security in a spiritual rather than a physical sense. They may lose their physical life due to their faith in Christ.

But they cannot lose their salvation. Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) The people of God dwell securely in the protection of God.

Jesus said:

I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-29)

The ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of security in Christ comes in the New Earth. Revelation described the New Jerusalem like this: “its gates will never be shut by day and there will be no night there.” (Revelation 21:25). 

The gates may be left open because there are no enemies. All of God’s people dwell in safety in security in the earth that is governed by the Lord Jesus in the presence of the Father.

  


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