The Righteous Branch of David
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 23:1-40, Jeremiah 24:1-10, Exodus 12:33-38, Colossians 1:13-14
I’m sitting at my dining room table on the verge of tears. It’s been a good day, really. I slept in, made breakfast for my family, went to the gym, ate a nutritious lunch, and now, the toddler is napping and I’m sitting here, feeling so empty I could cry.
Some modern-day advice-givers would be quick to point out my many blessings; for one, my family is intact and loving toward one another. Other people might try to help by pointing me in the direction of self-help guides, books to help me cope better because people like me shouldn’t be feeling any existential or emotional angst. Still others might remind me that the universe “has my back,” that in the end, everything is going to be okay. But is it? On the surface, my circumstances don’t justify this level of emotion. And yet, I have this sense, deep down, that something is wrong, that even though everything on the surface seems okay, everything on the surface isn’t all there is.
That’s what’s happening in this cryptic chapter of Jeremiah. The people of Israel had been led astray by false teachers—teachers that Scripture likens to “evil shepherds.” These teachers told the people that everything was fine. Even if they lived lives of evil, these teachers promised that God would grant them peace (Jeremiah 23:17). The false teachers encouraged people to persist in their godless actions, and when the people felt the inklings of sadness creep up—sadness that might lead them to repentance—the evil teachers distracted the people with stories of their dreams and false words wrongly attributed to God.
And here’s something important to take away from this passage: God has no patience for people who speak on his behalf, and speak falsely. As I write this devotion that a large community of women from all around the world will read, I should take this warning to heart. Those who attempt to communicate truths from Scripture are held to a high, exacting standard.
Sometimes, a shepherd must strike the sheep with his crook in order to keep the flock together. Sometimes those are acts of mercy. Words of kindness and encouragement have their place. Words of discipline and correction are just as valuable. But I need a doctor that won’t sugarcoat my diagnosis. I need a friend who can look me in the eye and say, “Yes, this sadness that you feel is real, and it’s stemming from the fact that your entire life is structured around serving your own needs and desires, rather than serving others.” I need teachers who will tell me the truth, even when the truth hurts.
We live in a culture that longs for God to be all-merciful, all-healing, all-loving—and He is. And yet, over and over again in Scripture, He uses images like the good and bad figs (Jeremiah 24) to represent the reality that there will come a judgment day when our actions will be measured and weighed. Knowing this, the Lord again provided another way so that one day, His sheep will no longer be afraid or discouraged, nor will any be missing. He declared:
“Look, the days are coming”—this is the LORD’s declaration—
“when I will raise up a Righteous Branch for David” (Jeremiah 23:5).
Our lives here matter. Our choices here matter. And when we go astray, our God doesn’t shout orders to us from afar to get us back to where we belong. No, our Savior came to us to provide a way to God the Father. And when we go astray, Christ doesn’t shout that He loves us from afar; He provides a way to God on our behalf, one that stretches between the Father and us. Through Jesus Christ, “he has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14).The end goal isn’t just heaven someday. It’s being close to God right now, today.