Christ the Branch
And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. (Zechariah 6:12)
In Ezekiel 34 the Lord God denounces all self-serving false prophets, those men who feed themselves upon his sheep rather than feeding his sheep, and declares the certainty of his wrath against them saying, Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? (v. 3) Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand (v. 10). But that chapter is also a tremendous declaration of Gods saving grace in and by Christ, our Good Shepherd, and gives assurance of the absolute safety and security of Gods elect, the sheep of his pasture (Ezek. 34:11-17, 22-31). In verses 29-31 the Lord God promised that he would raise up for his sheep A Plant of Renown, that would shelter and protect us from all danger and all shame.
And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.
This Plant of Renown is our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He grew up before the Lord God as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground (Isa. 53:2), and grew into a stately tree of renown in the mountain of the Lord, a goodly cedar, under the shadow of which we take refuge and dwell in safety (Ezek. 17:23-24).
This Plant of Renown, our glorious, famous, renowned Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is set before us as the Branch of the Lord seven times in the Old Testament Scriptures (Psa. 80:15; Isa. 4:2; 11:1; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). I want to show you the beauty and glory, the blessedness and the fame of Christ the Branch, as he is set before us in the Old Testament. We will begin with Zechariah 6:12 and work our way back to Psalm 80:15.
Zechariah 6:12 is the last of seven distinct prophecies in the Old Testament identifying our Lord Jesus Christ as the Branch of the Lord. And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.
Here the Lord God calls for us to Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH. This word Behold is a call to faith. The Lord God here says to all who read and hear the words of this prophecy to look to, believe in, and trust this Man whose name is the Branch, the Lord Jesus Christ, his dear Son. Mark the wonderful features of his person; and behold him. He is the Branch. This is one of the prophetic names of him, in whom all the Old Testament saints lived and died in hope, the One they trusted as the Redeemer of Israel, and in whom they were accepted of God. The man whose name is The BRANCH.
May God the Holy Spirit give us grace to hear and heed the call, and enable us to behold this wonderful Man, whose name is the Branch. You will notice that Zechariah was inspired to write his name in all capital letters, as if to call our attention to the importance of this name for our Savior. The Lord God calls for us to trust his Son, the Branch. Then he gives us seven assuring descriptions of this Branch to encourage us to trust him. This is the Branch that Gods right hand planted. The descriptions of this Branch, his person, his glory, and his character are all things that identify the Branch as our Lord Jesus Christ. They have their accomplishment in him alone. Look at them with me, one by one, and behold the Lord Jesus as we do.
1. Behold the Man. That Man of whom the Scriptures speak, whose name is the Branch, is the Man God promised to send as our Redeemer and Savior, the Man promised to our fallen parents in Genesis 3:15, the Seed of woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, the Son of God and the Son of Man.
How blessed! Yes, he is the man, truly and properly man, as well as truly and properly God, all man and all God. Otherwise, he could never have saved us. As Hawker put it, God and man, forming one Christ, alone could be suited for a Mediator to accomplish redemption by his blood. This man is the Branch, the Plant of Renown, who God planted and raised up for us, under whose shadow our souls are made to dwell in safety.
2. And he shall grow up out of his place. That certainly has reference to our Saviors incarnation and virgin birth. This Man, the Branch, did not grow up by the sowing and planting of man. No man had a hand in his being. This holy thing was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit.
When the Lord God said, He shall grow up out of his place, he described our Saviors virgin birth; but there is more here than just his virgin birth. When the Lord God declares, He shall grow up out of his place, there is clearly a reference to eternity. His goings forth have been from of old from everlasting (Mic. 5:2). What is his place? The place from which he comes is heaven itself (2 Cor. 8:9). His place, the place from which he grew is the eternal counsels of the triune God (Pro. 8:23, 30-31).
The Psalmist asked, Who shall declare his generation? Yes, he is a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots. Yet, he is, himself, the root of David, planted in the eternal purpose of Gods own sovereign decree, and budding forth as a Branch in his incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and glory. What a Branch he is! Our blessed Redeemer is the Branch of never-failing loveliness, everlastingly luscious and fruitful in all the proclamations of his gospel, converting sinners, and comforting saints. Our Savior is the eternally perennial Branch to all his redeemed in grace and glory.
3. And he shall build the temple of the Lord: Even he shall build the temple of the Lord. This is stated twice, as if to show us what an important and sure promise this is. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Builder of his house, the church of God (Matt. 16:18), which is here (and throughout the Word of God) said to be his temple, his dwelling place.
The Church is compared to the temple of the Old Testament, because the temple was placed on a mountain, lifted above the earth, highly exalted and safe. The materials used to build the temple were choice stones and excellent timber, symbolizing Gods elect, who are as lively stones built up into a spiritual house, fitly compacted together. The temple was a magnificent, glorious place (Ps. 87:3).
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
He whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode.
Truly, our God has spoken glorious things concerning his church! She is a people chosen in love, redeemed by blood, called and kept by grace, and there is no spot in her. The Old Testament temple was called the temple of the Lord, because he built it, he dwelled in it, there he was worshipped, there he revealed himself, and there he met with his people (Ex. 25:22). So it is with the church of God, his true temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Christ is the Foundation and Chief Cornerstone of it; and he is the wise master Builder who builds it. He builds it on himself and for himself. He builds his holy temple by his Spirit, by his grace, and by his Word; and he alone is the Builder.
4. And he shall bear the glory. Who else? He bought it with his blood. He builds it out of nothing. He makes it glorious in himself, with his own glory. Therefore, the glory of his house shall be hung on him alone (Isa. 22:24). Truly, his glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him (Ps. 21:5). His work is honourable and glorious (Ps. 111:3). And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen (Ps. 72:19).
5. And (he) shall sit and rule upon his throne. Lift your eyes to heaven. There, in heaven, having finished all his work on earth, our Savior is at ease and rests, and his rest is glorious. He rules over all flesh to give eternal life to his elect, ransomed ones, to save, protect, and perfect the purchase of his blood.
6. And he shall be a priest upon his throne. The man whose name is the Branch, the One we are called to trust, our all-glorious Christ, is both Priest and King. By his one great sacrifice of himself, he has put away our sins forever. By his precious blood, he has perfected us forever. He is now seated upon his throne as our King, the King of Glory, crowned with glory and honor. He ever lives as our High Priest. He is both our Priest and our King. That means that all he seeks in his intercession for us, as he appears in the presence of God for us, presenting his blood, his sacrifice, and his righteousness to the Father, he shall have. This Priest is the King! He has power and authority as the King of Glory to effectually apply the benefits of his work and to effectually bestow the blessings of his grace, and to effectually accomplish the desires of his heart upon his people.
7. And the counsel of peace shall be between them both. That simply means, the man whose name is the Branch, our almighty Christ shall, by his sovereign dominion and eternal, effectual priesthood, fulfill all the covenant of peace toward us, for us, and in us by his omnipotent grace. To put it another way, He shall save his people from their sins!
Now, look at the preceding prophecies of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Branch. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH (Zech. 3:8). Here, the Lord God promised that he would send our Savior to perform his great purpose of grace in saving his people, making all his elect to be men wondered at, saying, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. He is the fruitful Branch, by whom Satan is spoiled, by whose omnipotent grace Gods elect are plucked as brands out of the fire, and his chosen ones are washed. By his will, his work, and his word our filthy garments are taken away and our iniquities are made to pass from us. Gods Servant, the Branch, Christ Jesus, clothes poor sinners with a change of raiment, even the garments of salvation, and sits the fair miter of holiness to the Lord upon us, making us kings and priests unto our God forever. It is he who removed the iniquity of Zion in one day, by his one great sacrifice for us.
In Jeremiah 33 our Savior is called the Branch of Righteousness. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness (Jer. 33:15-16).
He is the Branch who brought in everlasting righteousness for us by his obedience to God as our Substitute, living and dying as our Representative. By his life and death in our place, our blessed Savior fully satisfied all the requirements of Gods holy law and inflexible justice on our behalf, executing judgment and righteousness (the just verdict of righteousness) in the earth, by whom we are made the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). So complete and perfect is our righteousness in him that all his redeemed, the whole Israel of God, are named after him, the Lord our Righteousness. That is because we are one with him, truly one with him.
In Jeremiah 23:5-6 we read, 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.
In Jeremiah 33:15-16 the language is almost exactly the same as the language used here; but the slight differences are very significant. Both passages are talking about this gospel day of grace and salvation. Both are assurances that all Gods elect, all the Israel of God shall be saved. In chapter 33 the Lord God speaks of his Son as the Branch of Righteousness. Here he calls him the Righteous Branch. Our Lord Jesus Christ is both the Branch who is Righteous and the Branch through whom righteousness flows. In chapter 33 he tells us that, he shall grow up unto David. Here he says, I shall raise unto David. In chapter 33 it was promised that our Lord Jesus would grow up unto David, speaking of his own accomplishments as our Mediator. Here it was promised that the Lord God would raise unto David a righteous Branch, speaking of him as the Mediator raised up by God the Father. In chapter 33 he says, He shall execute judgment and righteousness. Here he says, He shall execute judgment and justice. But the words are the same in both places in the original. He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth, both speaking of the satisfaction of Gods law and justice.
The matter of truly great significance I want you to see is this. In Jeremiah 23:6 we are told that as the result of Christs finished work of righteousness, by all who Behold the man whose name is the Branch, by every sinner who trusts Christ alone as Savior, he is called Jehovah-tsidkenu The Lord our Righteousness. In chapter 33 (v. 16) we are told that, as the result of his finished work, all who trust him are called by the Triune God Jehovah-tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness! Every believing sinner truly is one with Christ, and, drawing all righteousness from him, we are the very righteousness of God in him! His obedience is our obedience. His death is our death. His satisfaction is our satisfaction. And his righteousness, being made our righteousness by God himself, is our righteousness. As it is written, As he is so are we in this world!
In Isaiah 11:1 our Savior is called a Branch; but the word Branch here (and only here) is a different word. It is the word from which we get the word Nazarite. In fact, this word is commonly translated Nazarite, or Narzareth. Yet, the word is, without question, properly translated Branch in Isaiah 11:1. And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the only true Nazarite, is that Man who had his family roots of royalty in Jesse, Davids father. And he is the Branch from whom all the blessings of grace, righteousness, and peace, described in the rest of Isaiah 11, flow down to us, because the Spirit of the Lord rests upon him and he judges his people with righteousness, and not according to the sight of the eye or the hearing of the ear.
When we compare this with the law of the Nazarite in Numbers 6, we see this clearly. All the blessings of grace, righteousness, and peace are given to us according to righteousness and truth because of the faithful obedience of Christ the Nazarite, required and described in Numbers 6:1-21. Upon the basis of the Nazarites obedience, because he is the Branch of grace, from whom we receive all blessings and blessedness, the Lord God commands Moses (the law) to bless us, and promises that he shall perform the blessing (Num. 6:22-26).
Isaiah 4 gives us another view of Christ the Branch. In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem (Isa. 4:2-3). Take a brief look at these two verses line by line. They are bursting with the good news of the gospel.
In that day That day is not a literal day, or a specified time. It is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2; Isa. 49:8). It is the day when God visits his elect in the mighty operations of grace, revealing Christ and giving us faith in him. In that day shall the Branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious. When the Lord Jesus is revealed and the sinner is made to know him and trust him as the Branch of the Lord, the Branch into whom we are grafted and from whom flows to our souls life, and grace, and salvation, he is truly beautiful and glorious in our eyes!
And, when Christ is revealed, once the sinner looks to him in faith, the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them. Our Lord Jesus, the Branch, who was brought forth from the earth as the Fruit of the earth, the first begotten from the dead, now appears excellent and comely for us. Our blessed Savior sprang forth as righteousness from the earth when he was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:25; Ps. 85:10-11).
That cannot be said of everyone, but it can be said and is most assuredly true for them that are escaped of Israel. Unto you, therefore, which believe he is precious! Who are these? They are described in verse 3 as he that is left in Zion and he that remaineth in Jerusalem. Believing sinners, having escaped the wrath of God, remain among Gods people, worshipping him.
Who are they? They are those who, being grafted into the Branch of Righteousness, are called holy. Yes, God himself calls us holy, because he has made us holy in his Son.
Who are these who have escaped? Who are those who shall escape? They are those, everyone of them, whose names are written among the living in Jerusalem. If you will refer to the marginal translation, you will see that those words might be more accurately translated, written to life. In other words, those who have escaped and shall escape the wrath of God are those whose names were written in the Lambs book of life before the world began (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27).
No wonder, then, that our Savior said, Rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Unless our names were written to life in heaven, in the book of life, we shall be cast into the lake of fire. Truly, the Lamb of God, who is the Branch, is beautiful and glorious, excellent and comely, when he gives us faith and causes us to see that our names were written to life before the world began!
Psalm 80 is a prayer to God our Savior, the Shepherd of Israel, desiring him to make his face shine, visit us in grace, and visit his church, the vine he has planted. Look at the language of the prayer in verses 14 and 15, and you will see that we have every reason to confidently expect him to do so.
Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself.
The vine God planted is his church; and the Branch he made strong for himself is Christ our Savior. In this passage, again, the two are spoken of as one. When the psalmist prayed for God to visit his vine, he was praying for him to visit his Son. If he will do that (and he most assuredly will), all is well, and we shall be saved (Ps. 80:17-19).