Proclaimed by the Prophets
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness” (v. 5).- Jeremiah 23:5–6
God first revealed the gospel in the garden of Eden, but that was not the only time He spoke the good news of salvation to His old covenant people. As the answer to question 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us, the Lord also proclaimed the Mediator “by the holy patriarchs and prophets.” In making this statement, the catechism is simply reflecting the teaching of passages such as Romans 3:21–26 that tell us the prophets witness to the righteousness of God in defeating His enemies and declaring His people righteous in Christ. To put it another way, the prophets preached the gospel under the old covenant.
Today’s passage is one of many in the Prophetic Books where we find a prediction of the Messiah. Note that this passage stands in continuity with the first announcement of the gospel in Genesis 3:15. Kings are, among other things, military leaders who fight the enemies of their kingdoms in battle. The first prediction of the Savior tells us that the seed of the woman would crush our Enemy, and who could be better suited to do this work than a Mediator who is also King of kings and Lord of lords? This is the very King promised in Jeremiah 23:5–6.
Jeremiah’s prophecy also anticipates the fact that under the new covenant, God’s people will see most clearly that the Messiah will defeat all His enemies without compromising His righteousness. The King for whom Jeremiah was waiting would be called “the Lord is our righteousness” (v. 6), so there had to be a way by which He could maintain His justice even as He reconciled unjust people to a just and holy God. After all, we, no less than the unredeemed, were born into this world in Adam and thus at enmity with the Lord. In ourselves, we hated God and wanted nothing to do with Him (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12–21; Eph. 2:1–3). As we have seen, this reality could not simply be ignored or waved away; God had to punish our sin in order to maintain His righteous character and title. He did this by punishing our sin in Christ, thereby remaining just and yet becoming the justifier of the ungodly (Rom. 3:21–26). Being God incarnate, our Savior can go by the name “the Lord is our righteousness” because God did not sacrifice His righteousness when He accepted His Son’s atonement for our sin.
Muslims, Mormons, and many other groups all claim to have a revelation that stands in continuity with what the Old Testament prophets originally wrote. Yet their perversions of the biblical stories and embrace of unbiblical doctrines, such as the Mormon affirmation of polytheism, prove that they do not have a true revelation at all. We are to judge the truth of what someone proclaims by whether it stands in harmony with God’s revelation.
Passages for Further Study