“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill 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.” (Jeremiah 33:14-15, NRSV)
The prophet Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet because of his deep empathy for those to whom he writes. In this case, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, are advancing on Jerusalem. The streets of Jerusalem will soon fill with the dead (33:4-5), and the prophet Jeremiah himself imprisoned by King Zedekiah (33:1). As bad as it seems, the worst is yet to come. The city doesn't have a chance to survive. Jeremiah's prophecies declaring judgment on Jerusalem—the very same prophecies that have landed him in prison—are coming to fruition. Yet now, in this darkest of moments, Jeremiah finally speaks words of promise.
The words of promise are not just words about finding a compromise that will restore order. Jeremiah's words are precious to the ears of the Israelites, as he is declaring that the peace will come through the reestablishment of the royal line of King David—the most revered warrior king of Israel. Jeremiah describes it as "a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land." The image is one of hope and unexpected joy. There will be new life springing up that will set right the wrongs done to God's people. Reconciliation is coming.
History shows the Israelites to whom Jeremiah prophesied did not receive a new king; however, the promise seemed to be enough as they continued to hope for the Messiah who would come and save them. Eventually, the king arrived, but not as a warrior king, as the people expected. Instead, God sent a baby in a manger, whose power was not in his capacity to destroy and conquer, but whose strength was in his ability to see people for who they were and to call forth their better natures. Jesus did not come into the world to invade other nations as a warrior king; instead, he entered into the world to inhabit the hearts of those who dream of a better way and who invite him in as Lord and Savior.
In this season of Advent, also described as a season of waiting, may we open ourselves anew to the power and presence of Jesus, who brings his love and reconciliation to bear on a world bent on invading and conquering. In our waiting, let us rid ourselves of a desire for a warrior king, and embrace the promise of the Savior King who brings justice, righteousness, and ultimately, reconciliation to God’s beloved children—you and I!