Promise of the Messiah
- Main Text: Jeremiah 33:14-18
- Accompanying text: Mark 8:27-29
What this passage means to us
Jeremiah pointed to a new covenant that would change people from within. He understood that the human “heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). Although Josiah had led the nation in religious revival, “Judah did not return” to God “with all her heart, but only in pretence” (Jeremiah 3:10). The problem was the human heart, and its proclivity to sin. There, however, remains hope for faithless Israel (and for Judah and for all of humanity) because of the character and personality of God, because of who God is: “’I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry for ever…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors…This is the covenant that I will make…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts’” (Jeremiah 3:11; 31:3, 31:33).
The messianic Branch prophecies illustrate the faithfulness of our gracious God to a faithless humanity and how this heart-changing new covenant would be fulfilled. Isaiah 42:6 explains that this new covenant would be accomplished in a person: “I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles”. That the Branch refers to Jesus Christ and his sacrificial ministry is highlighted also in other prophecies such as Zechariah 3:8; 6:12 and Isaiah 4:2; 11:1. Jeremiah referred to it in Jeremiah 23:5, “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land”. “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1), is that King, the “righteous Branch” to “sprout from David’s line”. “the Lord our Righteous Saviour”, “the good promise” (Jeremiah 33:14-16). The Branch prophecy is an integral part of the prophecies about the Messiah alluded to by Christ in Luke 24:44, “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’”.
It is Jesus who is the King and the eternal High Priest, “who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:1-2), in fulfilment of Jeremiah 33:18. “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27). In his incarnation Jesus, “now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death”, “had to be made like them (us, all of humanity), fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:9,17).
Context and Story Line
When we think of the Old Testament prophets, it’s important to see them within the overarching biblical narrative of salvation in Christ, the promised Messiah. The story of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, whose own life typified the believer’s life of faith and who was also recorded as being a prophet (Genesis 20:7), was of a chosen people being prepared for salvation. They were not chosen because they were more special than any other nation or people group, rather their being chosen made them special. Thus, it is with all of humanity and with Christians in particular – Christ said to the disciples and thereby to all of us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Israel (and by inference all of humanity) and we who believe are chosen through God’s grace and not because we are or were more worthy than others. As the narrative unfolds, we get glimpses into the mind of God. What makes the true God different from pagan idols? The prophets begin to speak and write of God’s holiness and of his grace. God is not like the empty deities of the nations around them. Jeremiah expands the view of God and explains that the one and only God is the compassionate God who desires a relationship with us, and who, through that relationship, offers to transform our hearts.
“Throughout the Old Testament there were signposts directing people to the coming of a deliverer. From the earliest promise in Genesis 3:15 onwards, God indicated in various ways that the was going to save his people. As the centuries passed it was more clearly revealed that this was to be done through an individual figure, anointed for the particular mission on which he would be sent…Study of the Old Testament must always lead us to Christ, and to the Gospel that ‘God promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David’ (Romans 1:2,3)” .
Jeremiah’s warnings and hope-filled prophecies went unheeded. Soon the Kingdom of Judah would fall, and its people taken into captivity. “In the summer of 587 BC, the last in a long line of Judahite rulers was forced to witness the slaughter of his own sons before having his eyes gouged out. Zedekiah was dragged off in chains to die in the Babylonian exile…The Temple of Yahweh as put to flames. The bronze pillars and cultic furnishings were broken up and carried off. The High Priest, Zephaniah, the temple priests, the Judaean military commanders and friends of the king were rounded up and taken to Riblah where they were summarily executed. The royal palace and all the noble houses in the City of David were destroyed and the city wall demolished. The rest of the population was carried off into slavery. Little of value was left in the ruins for the few scavengers left behind. The Children of Yahweh were gone from King David’s royal city” [2.]
Jeremiah described the state of Jerusalem: “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! …After affliction and harsh labour, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place…All the splendour has departed…” (Lamentations 1:1-6).
The only hope for them, indeed for the whole world, would be the appearance of the Messiah, the Branch, the prophesied King and High Priest to come.
- Ezekiel 11:19; 36:25-27; 18:31;
- Hebrews 4:14-16
- 1 Timothy 6:13-16
Other GCI resources
Footnotes and references
- Allan Harman, Learning about the Old Testament: a Biblical-Theological Introduction (Ross-shire, UK, Christian Focus Publications: 2001, 2017). 116, 119.
- David Rohl, From Eden to Exile (London, UK, Arrow Books: 2003). 431.