“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
Justice and Righteousness are two different things. To be just is to rule fairly, to see that the law gets enforced. Even today our justice system generally deals with punishing crooks. To be righteous means to do that right and good things, the things that just need to be done.
Judah had been having kings that were neither righteous nor just. Wickedness was going unpunished, and the kings weren’t even positively helping folks out. The Lord’s promise of a righteous King, a solid and steadfast branch off of the enfeebled and ever increasingly wicked line of David seemed too good to be true.
And in the short term, it was. Judah is conquered and the line of kings is cut off. Never again would Judah have an earthly king. However, the promise here is for the coming of Christ Jesus, and Jeremiah rightly notes that He will execute justice and righteousness.
We often speak of Christ being righteous – of doing the right things. Healing, feeding, teaching – those are all righteous things. But what of justice? What of punishing the evil doer? You cheer for justice when you are innocent… but what if you are guilty? What if you know your own sin and you that justly deserve temporal and eternal punishment?
In that case, you look to Christ Jesus, who in executes justice in the most righteous way possible – He takes up your sin upon Himself. He punishes the sinner upon the Cross. The Cross is where justice is shown; the fact that it is Christ upon the cross and not us shows Jesus’ righteousness. He will both punish sin and do good to you.
When Jesus comes to execute justice and righteousness, it’s not with military might or a swat team. He comes just with Himself, true God and true man, the lamb of God bearing the sins of the world to the cross to do away with them. Your King is determined to do good for you and to you, and so He redeems you from your sin.