The Special Branch and Your Place in the Tree
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Jeremiah 23:5-6, Zechariah 3:1-10
December 18, 2019

For the last couple of Wednesdays, we have been tracing the family tree of Jesus, the Messiah, through the Old Testament. We have been narrowing it down as we went. We have traced His ancestry from Adam to Abraham to the people of Israel and to the tribe of Judah. Last week we traced Jesus’s ancestry to the family of Jesse within the tribe of Judah and then to King David, Jesse’s son. David becomes part of Jesus’s family tree because God promised that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. We saw how the Angel Gabriel, sent from God, referred to the promise to King David in the announcement to Mary. There Gabriel told Mary about the Son that she would conceive in her womb by the Holy Spirit and name Jesus.

This evening we change gears a little. Our focus is not Jesus’s ancestry. Our focus is on Jesus Himself as the very special branch of this tree and how this relates to us.

In this study, it has been interesting to observe how some of the promises of the Messiah are couched in terms of the image of a tree. We saw this in Isaiah 11:1 where the Messiah is referred to us a shoot from the stump or stem of Jesse and as the branch from the root of Jesse that will bear fruit to God.

Now we hear the words of Jeremiah 23:5-6, which we read earlier. In these verses the Lord promises to raise up for David a righteous Branch. Here the imagery of the tree with a Branch is joined with the imagery of a King, the proper son of David. This King, the very special Branch of David’s family tree will reign and prosper. He will make judgment and justice in the earth. He will save Judah and Israel.

And He will have a very special Name. He will have the Name no other person has ever had. Not even the Great King David had this Name. The Name of this Branch, the King and Son of David is this: the Lord is our righteousness. The Branch will bear this Name in His own person.

The little word “our” here in front of the word “righteousness” tells us that to be righteous in God’s sight we need to be connected to this Branch. Jeremiah says that this Branch is our righteousness. Thus, we hear and understand that this Branch Himself in His own person is our righteousness before God. As we are connected to this Branch, God sees us as righteous in Him.

Since this Branch is the only person who has ever had this Name, then He is singular and the One in whom alone we are found righteous by the Lord.

Now we come to the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah prophesied long after Isaiah and long after Jeremiah. We read there a few moments ago about that beautiful scene that Zechariah saw in a vision (Zechariah 3:1-10). The people of Judah have been in captivity in Babylon. Now Babylon has given way to the Kingdom of Persia.  The Lord is preparing for the return of a remnant of Judah to the Holy Land and to Jerusalem.

Zechariah sees Joshua, the chief priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord. Joshua is standing there in filthy garments. Satan is also there accusing Joshua in front of the Lord. Undoubtedly, Satan let’s neither Joshua nor the Lord hear any end of the sins of Israel and Judah and Joshua. You can bet that he never lets the Lord hear any end of your sins.

Then we hear these wonderful words: “The Lord rebuke you Satan” (Zechariah 3:2). It is wonderful to hear the Lord rebuke Satan, the author of sin and ceaseless accuser. “The Lord rebuke you Satan.” In Jesus’s Name, you can rebuke Satan too.

And then the Angel of Lord gives command that Joshua’s filthy garments, filthy with sin, should be removed and that clean garments be put on Him right in front of Satan. And the Angel of the Lord says to Joshua that He has taken Joshua’s iniquity away from him.

Then the Angel of the Lord goes on to tell Joshua of His servant, the Branch. And then He tells Joshua that He will remove the iniquity of the land of Israel in one day (Zechariah 3:9).

Jeremiah speaks of the Branch as the Lord is our righteousness. Now Zechariah speaks of the Branch in relation to putting robes of righteousness on Joshua, in exchange for Joshua’s filthy garments. And Zechariah speaks of this Branch as servant.

This word servant hearkens us back to Isaiah 53. There that Servant of the Lord will take all sin upon Himself, and Himself bear the Lord’s chastisement for all sin. And Zechariah tells us about this Servant-Branch in connection with the Lord taking away the iniquity of the land of Israel in one day.

This imagery being brought together of the Branch, the Servant-Branch, is painting a picture. And since this imagery of the Branch is expressly connected by Jeremiah to the promised Son of King David, a picture of the Messiah is being painted. This is Messiah-redeemer. His making judgment and justice to justify the ungodly, as Paul says in Romans 4. This good news is portrayed for us in the changing of Joshua’s robes and the promise of Israel’s iniquity being taken away in one day. God has had redemption of all mankind from sin in mind from long ago and brings it to fulfillment in Jesus.

So where do you and I come in? In Isaiah 11 where he speaks of the shoot from the stump of Jesse, Isaiah also says that the nations will inquire of this shoot.

In Isaiah 49, the Lord speaks about His Servant, the same servant in Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 3. The Lord says this:

 “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel;

I will make you as a light for the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6 ESV).

The Lord speaks of this Servant as redeeming the people of Israel. But then the Lord also says that this Servant will be a light for the nations, so that the Lord’s “salvation may reach to the end of the earth;” so that it will reach you and me.

The Son of King David, the King, the Branch, the Servant, is not just for the descendants of Jacob. He is the light for all the nations. He is the salvation the Lord has prepared for all people. He is “the Lord is our righteousness” for all who call upon His name. He is this for you and me.

So He is not only the one in whom Joshua the high priest of Israel at the time received the exchange of garments. He is the one in whom you also receive the exchange of garments.

He is not only the one who removed the iniquity of the land of Israel in one day, the day He made atonement for sin and said, while hanging on that cross, “It is finished.” He is the One who also removed your sin on that same day, as He said it is finished for you.

Our genealogy of Jesus began with Adam, one man. Then it spread out but then narrowed down again to the Messiah, the Branch, one Man. In Him, all of us who, as Paul says in Romans 11, are not naturally part of the Messiah’s family tree, that is are not descendants of Jacob, become part of His family by clinging to Him; by finding in Him the redemption we need and the life in God that He gives to all who abide in Him by faith.

So, we come down to this. Jesus’s family tree now includes you and me as we find our God and redeemer in Jesus, the servant-Branch, who is our righteousness. And since He reigns and abides forever, so you too will abide forever in God’s family, as you abide in Jesus by faith.

God has promised. He is faithful. He will do it.

Amen.



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