This week we look at some of the prophecies used in Advent.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David: and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Jeremiah lived in dark and difficult times. His land was in danger. Her leaders were weak. Even God’s law seemed to have lost its grip on the people. No wonder that his prophecies are full with pain and grief.
Yet still there was hope. In deep gloom you can pick out even a distant glimmer of light. When the sky is heavy with dark and the years with dread, hope draws your eye and holds your mind. So Jeremiah looked forward, to a law that the people would embrace (31). He spoke of land they would possess (32). He promised leadership they could trust (33). ‘The days are surely coming,’ was his chorus line (31:27, 31; 33:14) – a word to beckon onward, to kindle belief, and to lift the heart.
Real leadership means justice – doing the right thing. It needs strength – a touch of kingly power. It brings dignity – a sense that the best of the past can shape the future. This was the leadership for which Jeremiah longed. I wonder if he realised that it would never quite happen, until Jesus came.
Nations still long for leadership. We are often quick to criticise our politicians. But most of them carry the same mix of virtues and flaws as the rest of us. If we pin our hopes to earthly rulers, even the best of them will never quite deliver. Jeremiah’s ideals are good ones: justice, strength, dignity. We ought to ask our leaders for these qualities. But we should sometimes remind ourselves too that only Jesus lives right up to the ideal. He is our hope, and the world’s hope. The days are surely coming.
God of dignity, hallowed be your name;
God of strength, may your kingdom come;
God of justice, your will be done –
on earth, as it is in heaven;
among earth’s people, as it was in Jesus;
in our day, as in your day –
the day that is surely coming.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor is the General Secretary of the URC.