Advent: The Righteous Branch

One of the recurring themes in Scripture is redemption, rescue and renewal.

Over and over, just when it seems things can only get worse, God steps in and crafts an unexpected and beautiful story from the broken bits.

The challenge for we who are trapped in time is to remain patient and hope-filled in the waiting.

Israel had plenty of practice.

I do too.

But God doesn’t leave us without promises to hold onto while we wait.

Jeremiah is often called “The Weeping Prophet” because the messages God have him were full of gloom. Judgement and destruction were on the way. There was no escape and Jeremiah had been commissioned by the Lord to tell folks all about it.

Yet woven throughout the verses detailing all the awful, God spoke hope to the heart of His people:

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

15 “‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
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 Righteous Savior.’ “

Jeremiah 33: 14-16 NIV

These words speak hope to my heart too.

Dominic’s death is the most devastating thing I’ve ever endured. It was not only the earthly end of him, it was the earthly end of me in many ways. All the things I anticipated for him, our family and the future were cut down in one fell swoop.

So when Jeremiah promises that even though all that’s left of David’s progeny is a pitiful stump, God will raise up a glorious and most Righteous King, I hear that redemption is possible.

And because Jesus DID come, I know that redemption is guaranteed.

Advent reminds me that even when waiting is long and in the dark, God is working.

Just as He raised up life from a (humanly) lifeless bit of wood in the ground, He will raise my son and redeem my pain.

QUESTIONS:

  • Have you ever thought a plant was dead only to have it sprout fresh some time later? How might that experience help you cling to hope while waiting on the Lord?
  • What do the words “The Lord Our Righteous Savior” mean to you?
  • The literal translation of those words is “Jehovah Tsidkenu” or The Lord My Righteousness. There is no righteousness apart from Christ. No way for me to clean up enough to stand in the presence of God. Have you embraced and received the gift of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus? Is HE your righteousness?
  • God has never hidden from His people the fact that life in this fallen world is hard. Are you encouraged or discouraged by His honesty?
  • Do you have favorite promises your heart clings to in times of discouragement? Consider typing or writing them out in a journal or small booklet to review often.

PRAYER:

Father God,

It is so, so easy to be discouraged and disheartened. Truth is, life is hard and often seems headed in the direction of becoming harder.

I’m tired and sometimes I want to give up and give in. Not only is there no end in sight, I can’t even imagine an end that would be worth waiting for.

But I will choose to trust in Your unfailing word. I will rest in Your everlasting love. And I will take hold of every single promise You have made. Help me trust that You are working-even when I can’t see it-to redeem, restore, rescue and rewrite my story.

Let me remember that You are the God of new things, the God who transforms death into life.

Amen

Palm Sunday 2020: What If I’m Not Rescued?

This current worldwide crisis has both inspired me to write and constrained me from writing.

There is so much to say but I’m not sure most folks would understand.

Suddenly everyone is living a life they would not have chosen and for most, a life they couldn’t have imagined. But eventually most will resume the life they once had.

Things will return to normal. Kids in school, parents working, social distancing a thing of the past.

But some will never again know the life they had before this virus made its way across the globe. Someone or several someones they love will be snatched from the here and now and transferred to the hereafter.

So what if I’m not rescued?

What if my family isn’t spared?

What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?

Will I still believe?

Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?

That was precisely the question before Jerusalem’s Jewish citizens on Palm Sunday and the week that followed. Jesus entered the city to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”.

The faithful lined the streets and believed the Messiah had come to rescue them from the tyrannical rule and reign of not only irreligious Gentiles but corrupt leaders within the Hebrew hierarchy.

It didn’t take long for them to give up hope and call for His crucifixion.

He didn’t live up to their expectations. He didn’t act according to their timetable. He didn’t rescue them from persecution and suffering.

So they discarded Him.

Six years ago I woke to Palm Sunday wondering why my family wasn’t spared, why my son wasn’t rescued, why death had crossed our threshold and taken up residence in our home.

I had to decide if Jesus was Lord of all or if He was Lord at all.

I came face to face with the fact that God doesn’t need my permission to run the world according to His will. He doesn’t require my consent to do (or not do) anything.

But a God that needs my approval is no God at all.

I went to church that Palm Sunday, lifted my hands and voice in spite of my broken heart because I knew Jesus had not abandoned us.

He is Messiah.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.