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Covenant Reformed News - June 2019


Covenant Reformed News

June 2019 • Volume XVII, Issue 14

Jeremiah’s Prophecy of the “Branch”

Apart from the 150 Psalms, Jeremiah is the longest book in the Scriptures. Yes, Isaiah has 66 chapters and Jeremiah has only 52 chapters, but the latter contain more verses and words. In the second longest book of the Bible, this is the most glorious prediction and the greatest messianic prophecy: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6).

There are three prominent characteristics of the One prophesied in this text. First, there is His genealogical descent. He is the offspring of David: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch” (5). The ancestors of David include Jesse, Boaz, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Shem, Noah, Seth and Adam. The “Branch” predicted by Jeremiah will be a descendant of David.

Second, we are told His office. The “Branch” will be a king. Not all the descendants of David were monarchs. In fact, only twenty of them in the Old Testament were. But the One spoken of in our text will be a king: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign” (5).

Third, besides His descent and office, Jeremiah informs us of the character of the coming One. The “Branch” will be righteous. Not all the kings of the line of David were righteous. Most of them were not, such as the last three mentioned in Jeremiah 22: Jehoahaz (Shallum), Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin (Coniah). The righteousness of the prophesied Davidic king is mentioned three times in our text: He is “a righteous Branch” who “shall execute … justice [i.e., righteousness]” and who is called “The Lord Our Righteousness” (23:5-6). The other two descriptions of His piety serve His righteousness: He shall “prosper” or act wisely (5) and “execute judgment” or justice (5).

Nobility is one word that sums up what we have seen so far regarding the predicted Saviour. The “Branch” is noble in birth, in office and in piety. Our text is a prophecy of the righteous, Davidic king.

Now let us observe a couple of points about the way the “Branch” is introduced in our text. First, the passage begins with the word “Behold” (5). This is the word order in both Hebrew and English. “Behold,” that is, pay attention to this highly significant Word of God about the “Branch”: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper” (5).

Second, the next few words speak of the time of His coming. From the perspective of Jeremiah, when he wrote these words by divine inspiration, he was not referring to a figure in the past or in the present but in the future: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (5-6).

In short, the introductory words of our text indicate that this righteous, Davidic king is highly significant (“Behold,” this great figure!) and coming in a time that is future to Jeremiah (“Behold, the days come”). Clearly, we are dealing with a very important predictive prophecy concerning the “Branch.”

So what about the identity of the One predicted in Jeremiah 23:5-6? Is He Josiah? Josiah was a righteous, Davidic king. But Josiah did not belong to Jeremiah’s future, nor even his present, but his past (22:10-11).

What about the Davidic kings who came after Josiah: Jehoahaz (Shallum), Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin (Coniah), the three other monarchs mentioned in Jeremiah 22? What about Zedekiah who succeeded them? None of these four was righteous; all were wicked.

Josiah was Judah’s last godly king and Zedekiah was Judah’s last king. Some 2,600 years have passed since Jeremiah’s prophecy. God has confounded the unbelieving Jews! Many of their leading theologians even acknowledge that Jeremiah 23:5-6 is a messianic prophecy. In his commentary on these verses, John Gill mentions nine Jewish authorities who hold this view. But does anyone even know who the physical descendants of King David are today?

The mocking words of Pontius Pilate above our Saviour’s cross are literally true: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). Our Lord Jesus is the King of the Jews, the real, true, spiritual Jews (Rom. 2:28-29).

Christ reigns wisely, justly and righteously at God’s right hand in heaven, as He executes Jehovah’s eternal decree (Jer. 23:5). Jesus is the son of David (Matt. 1:1), who sits on David’s throne in glory (Acts 2:30). In these New Testament days, we enjoy full messianic salvation by faith alone and “dwell safely” with Him in covenant fellowship through the Holy Spirit (Jer. 23:6).

So many things can be said here by way of application but here we will focus on just three. First, we observe the fulfilment of prophecy. Jeremiah predicts the coming, righteous, Davidic king; 600 years later He came as promised (Gal. 4:4-5)!

Second, we see here the prominence of Christ in the Old Testament. The Messiah is even central in Jeremiah, the Bible’s second longest book which is filled with so many judgments. Yet, even here, in the midst of man’s sin and God’s wrath, the coming “Branch” is presented as the only hope!

Third, in all this, we behold the glory of the Triune God, for, in this prediction of Christ and its fulfilment, Jehovah proclaims that He is all-powerful, infinitely wise and absolutely faithful in bringing this to pass. Let us believe, enjoy God’s rich salvation and praise Him in Jesus Christ! Rev. A. Stewart


Abhor Evil!

“Abhor” is a very strong word. The Scriptures command us not only to abstain from evil and avoid evil, but to abhor evil: “Abhor that which is evil” (Rom. 12:9)!

The word means to dislike utterly, detest, abominate and hate; it includes a strong feeling of horror. The Greek verb translated “abhor” in Romans 12:9 is only found here in all the New Testament. Its prefix means “away from” and the idea is that of shrinking back from something out of loathing. The child of God is to identify evil according to the Holy Scriptures. His calling is then not to do it or like it but detest it.

This teaches us that Christian ethics or gospel living, the subject of the whole of Romans 12, includes not only our thoughts and words and deeds, but also our affections, which involve a proper sense of revulsion or disgust at iniquity. We are not speaking here about a delicate person who is revolted at poverty or physical ugliness. We are dealing with detestation and abhorrence at moral evil or sin. The world does not like this!

At some level, practically everyone understands that ethics involves revulsion and detestation. Just about all are disgusted if, say, a young man throws an old woman to the ground and kicks her. Romans 12:9 deals with this sort of thing and, indeed, all that God’s Word identifies as “evil.”

So what is included in the evil that the Triune God calls all His children to abhor? In one word, sin! Sin is especially defined by the Ten Commandments written on two tables of stone at Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:1-17) and on the “fleshy tables” of our hearts in regeneration (II Cor. 3:3).

In the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods besides me” (Ex. 20:3), we are called to detest and abhor all idolatry, the worship of anything other than the Triune God, revealed in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and taught in sacred Scripture. Thus Paul’s spirit was “stirred” or provoked when he saw Athens full of idols (Acts 17:16).

Whereas the world says that we are to celebrate the plethora of gods, the Christian abhors the dishonouring of the true God who is the Creator, Governor, Judge and Saviour: the Father in election, the Son in redemption and the Spirit in sanctification.

This is the Christian attitude to every idol: “Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing” (Deut. 7:26).

The second commandment, which forbids false worship, gives this warning: “for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:5). No wonder Moses zealously detested the golden calf!

The regulative principle of worship, enshrined in the second commandment, forbids the statues and pictures of Rome, and the idolatrous icons of Eastern Orthodoxy: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (4-5). The idolatry of salvation by man’s own free will is also to be abhorred, for “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Oath breaking is condemned in the third commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). This includes the sins of husbands and wives who commit adultery (after swearing to be faithful to one another “till death us do part”) or divorce for any other reason than fornication (Matt. 5:32; 19:9); church office-bearers who break their solemn vows by preaching and/or defending false doctrines or deserting their office; witnesses who perjure themselves in a court of law; and parents who baptize their children in the name of the Triune God (28:19) and swear to bring them up in the truth of the Reformed faith, yet who huff over some trivial matter, and take themselves and their children from a faithful church.

In the world, taking the name of Christ or God in vain is seen as normal, natural, genuine, forceful and/or funny. However, in Old Testament days, blasphemers were stoned to death (Lev. 24:10-23). God abhors the profaning of His name and we must too!

Sabbath breaking is forbidden in the fourth commandment. Yet look at the wretched condition of our land today. Even many professing Christians openly disregard the Lord’s day and do not “keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Sadly, many churches allow this. We need more of Nehemiah’s holy abhorrence of Sabbath breaking (Neh. 13:15-22)!

The fifth commandment condemns dishonouring our parents. Listen to this vivid, and even gory, proverb: “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Prov. 30:17). Christian children must abhor the disrespect of parents.

The sixth commandment forbids murder (Ex. 20:13), and sinful wounding, injuring, hating and taking vengeance on others. The world calls abortion, the killing of unborn babies, good. According to the ungodly, it is good for women to murder the babies in their womb! Abortion is a major feature in the world’s ethics, something which must be exported and promoted all around the world, which just shows the rottenness of its whole moral system and values. The Triune God declares, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).

Abhorring evil means that we must detest adultery, stealing, lying and covetousness—all sins against the seventh to the tenth commandments. Many of the sins against the second table of the law are listed in Proverbs 6:16-19: “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” So we must hate these sins too. The believer’s heart must be like that of the Psalmist: “I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love” (119:163). This is crucial, for the abhorrence of evil arises out of the love for that which the holy God proclaims to be truly good! Rev. A. Stewart

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
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Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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The Royal Sufferer
Herman Hoeksema 
(96 pp., hardback) 

Christ is and was the king …

… whose kingdom is not of this world and who rejected all the glory that this world offers
… who refused to allow the Jews to crown Him king, though He was the King of the Jews
… who fought alone, without an army
… who was arrested by His own people and mocked by the representatives of the Roman Empire, the great earthly kingdom of that day
… who was crucified because He was King and remained King when He died
… who, being risen and ascended, is the King of kings and Lord of lords

To this divinely anointed King, this book is witness. Behold your King and worship Him! (The 8 chapters of this book were originally published as part of Herman Hoeksema’s longer work, When I Survey.)

Only £8.80 (inc. P&P)

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N. Ireland BT42 3NR
(028) 25891851

Make cheques payable to “Covenant Protestant Reformed Church.”
Thank you!

BRF Conference CDs or DVDs 

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The Reformed Family—According to the Word of God (2018)
9 lectures and 2 sermons on topics such as singleness, marriage, divorce, child-rearing, childlessness and Christian education.

Behold I Come Quickly: The Reformed, Biblical Truth of the End (2016)
9 lectures and 2 sermons covering important aspects of eschatology, such as the great apostasy, dispensationalism, antichrist and the final judgment. 

Ye Shall Be My Witnesses (2012)
7 lectures and 2 sermons dealing with all aspects of witnessing—the calling, the content and the manner of the church’s and the individual’s witness. This set also includes a bonus disk with two author interviews.

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Last modified on 15 June 2019