Glimpses of Great Joy: The Branch
One evening, out in the fields of Roman-occupied Judah, some shepherds witnessed a great, glorious event—the angelic birth announcement of the King of kings. The appearing angel said: “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David” (Luke 2:10-11).
So familiar to us are these words, and so full of meaning during the Advent and Christmas season. But we must remember that the angel was not proclaiming his message into a vacuum, as if God had just made His first move on that one, not-so-silent night. Many messages—many Old Testament messages—coalesced on that evening, one of which involved the symbol of a new branch shooting out of a dead stump (Isa. 11:1).
The prophet Jeremiah declared the Lord’s promise of a “Righteous Branch of David” on two occasions: first in Jeremiah 23:5-6 and second in 33:14-16. In this context, “branch” means “a rightful heir to the throne.”
At this time, the people of Judah were living under the thumb of the king of Babylon, with him making executive decisions over the leadership of their nation. In this, Babylon was a tool of judgment against God’s people—they had chosen to worship other gods, so the Lord was being faithful to His word to punish them accordingly.
In Jeremiah 22, the Lord singled out King Coniah (also known as Jehoiachin) and declared none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne of David (22:30). Coniah was exiled by Nebuchadnezzar and imprisoned in Babylon for 37 years! Seems harsh, and it was, but given that Coniah lived over 2500 years ago, it’s easy to blow right by this little footnote of history. But this harsh tidbit makes God’s promise of a “Righteous Branch” all the more glorious!
You see, evil and wicked King Coniah was the end of the line for Davidic kings on the throne of Judah. Rotting in prison was the last hope of God being true to His promise of an eternal throne for David (2 Sam. 7:16). But God always keeps His word.
None of Coniah’s sons ascended the throne, for there was no more throne to ascend. Babylon conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the city, and exiled the people. Yet the Lord promised a new King would come, even from the broken house of David, the dead stump of Jesse, and this King would be righteous, wise, and just—a Savior named “Yahweh Our Righteousness”! Righteous is who He is, and righteousness is what He does.
At this point in Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, Babylon was taking steps to end Judah for their rebellion. They had laid siege to the capital city, and Jerusalem was counting down the days until their destruction. Again, this was all the working of the Lord, judgment for Judah’s idolatry and rebellion against Him. But in the midst of His wrath, He granted a ray of hope, a promise of restoration, which would come to fruition in the days of the “Righteous Branch.”
He said, “I will purify them from all the wrongs they have committed against Me, and I will forgive all the wrongs they have committed against Me, rebelling against Me” (33:8)! If you are like me, forgiving is about the furthest thing from my mind when there is rebelling going on, but so great and infinite is our God—perfectly holy, just, wrathful, gracious, loving, and kind. So again He promised a King from the line of David to be righteous and to do righteousness. Again the Lord said He would be a Savior for His people. But then the Lord did something amazing—He declared that His city, His people, would be named “Yahweh Our Righteousness”!
Not only would the promised King, the Messiah, be the embodiment of the Lord’s righteousness, but He would grant that righteousness to those who find their salvation in Him. Truly “good news of great joy…for all the people”!
While we await the full restoration coming in the days of the “Righteous Branch,” who is Jesus, this Messiah-King in the line of David is already on His eternal throne at the right hand of the Father. By faith in Him, we are called “Yahweh Our Righteousness,” and so, being righteous in Christ, we now make it our aim to do the righteousness of Christ while on mission in this world with the gospel of Christ.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14).
Today’s post is by Daniel Davis, the content editor for The Gospel Project for Adults and student pastor at Edgefield Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.