Waiting in Joy
By Irwyn Ince

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house
of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 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. 16 In those days
Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell
securely. And this is the name by which it will be
called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”
Jeremiah 33:14–16 ESV

My father’s favorite poem was If, by Rudyard Kipling. He grew up in Trinidad and Tobago when it was still a British colony. So, it isn’t surprising that his favorite poem was written by an Englishman. I also memorized it as a young man, and the second half of the first stanza stands out,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet, don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Waiting is hard, especially in a world that is broken, full of lies and hatred. But Advent reminds us that God has broken in on our waiting with his promise of joy, abundance, justice and righteousness.

Waiting in Joy

In Jeremiah 33, the prophet is in jail (v. 1). The Babylonians have come to destroy Judah and Jerusalem. The nation is under siege and the wholeI land will be a place of desolation such that there are neither people nor animals in the cities of Judah or on the streets of Jerusalem (Jer. 4:27; 9:11; 10:22). What must have ruled the day was terror, despair, depression, hopelessness. But in the middle of that, the Lord gave Jeremiah this word:

Jeremiah 33:10–11 ESV

10 “Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord: “ ‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’ For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.”

How is it that there will be joy again? Here’s what Jeremiah is saying to them from his prison. You might not be good, but God is good. You might not be faithful, but God is faithful. The promise of restoration and joy is based on the goodness of God. You can wait in joy even in desperate times because of the goodness of God.

Waiting in Joy for Abundance

God promises to change desolation into joy. Then he promises to change desolation into abundance.

Jeremiah 33:12–13 ESV

12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.”

The Lord says, “All over this land, in the hill country, in the valley (Shephelah), in the south (Negev), in the land of Benjamin, all around Jerusalem, the flocks will again pass under the hand of the shepherd as he numbers them to make sure that none are missing.” This is another unbelievable promise. But the Lord says in v. 14, “Days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This promise of abundance would be seen when he causes a righteous Branch to spring up for David (v. 15).

In Advent, God breaks in on our waiting in a visible, physical, and tangible way.

In other words, the Advent hope of joy and abundance has already been seen. It’s no coincidence that the Gospel of Luke tells us that when Mary gave birth to Jesus and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night (Luke 2:8). The promise of the return of habitations of shepherds resting and counting their flocks all over Judah was fulfilled in real time and space so that we could have a better hope of abundance.

Waiting in Joy for Righteousness

If waiting in joy and waiting for abundance would’ve been hard for Jeremiah’s audience, waiting for righteousness and justice would’ve been even harder. In Jeremiah 23:5-6, the Lord said that he would raise up a righteous Branch who will execute justice and righteousness in the land. Now, in 33:15-16, The Lord is our righteousness won’t just be the Savior’s name. He’s going to give this name to the place where his people dwell! He’s going to give his name and righteousness to his people! God’s city would be as righteous as her King. When Jesus was born in that manger, it wasn’t just the fulfillment of the joy and abundance we’ve been waiting for. It was the fulfillment of the hope of justice and righteousness. His birth was God’s answer to the greatest problem we have: injustice and unrighteousness.

In Advent, God breaks in on our waiting in a visible, physical, and tangible way. Advent is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. His physical birth. His physical death. His physical resurrection. Therefore, we wait in joy for the full abundance of the kingdom to come as we labor for justice and righteousness in our day. May we not be tired by waiting.

This Advent series was published by Mission to North America. It has been republished with permission. 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

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