Excerpt from: "Rays of Messiah's Glory: or, Christ in the Old Testament" by David, Baron

 

The Branch,
or
Four Aspects of Messiah's Character

David Baron
(1886)

 

1. The Branch of David.
"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." — Jeremiah 23:5, 6.

2. The Branch of Jehovah.
"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." — Isaiah 4:2.

3. The Servant 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.*"' — Zechariah 3:8.

4. The Man the Branch.
"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: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and He shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a Priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." — Zechariah 6:12, 13.

* These, with the exception of Jeremiah 33:15, which is a repetition of Jeremiah 23:5, 6, are the only four instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where the Messiah is designated by the title צמח: (Branch), and in the connections which will be pointed out farther on. (See Note)
 

There are four different aspects in which the Messiah is introduced to us under the above title in the Old Testament Scriptures, answering to what are generally believed to be the four different aspects in which the Lord Jesus is presented to us in the four Gospels.1

In Jeremiah 23:5, 6, He is called the Branch of David, answering to the description given of Him in the Gospel of Matthew, which was written for Jews, and where our blessed Lord is represented to them as the Son of David, the Messiah promised to the fathers. For this reason the genealogies in this Gospel are only traced to Abraham.

In Zechariah 3:8, He is represented to us as the "Branch" Who is Jehovah's Servant, answering to the Gospel of Mark, wherein, in a particular manner, is sketched the career of Him Who, although He was God, "made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant." This Gospel is a record, not so much of the words of Jesus as of His acts; hence it follows more minutely than do the others the services of Jehovah's righteous Servant, of Whom it was written in the volume of the book, "I come to do Thy will, O God" (Psa 40:7,8). Mark gives no genealogies of Jesus because a servant needs not such recommendations, he being judged by his work alone.

In the Gospel of Luke the most prominent feature of our Lord's character is that of the "Son of man" which in the Scriptures means the Man par excellence, the true Man, both the ideal and Representative of the race, the second Adam and the Saviour of men. The chief characteristic of this Gospel is its universality. It is a message which ignores all differences of race and class, and appeals to all the children of Adam, who are embraced in the one fallen family of man, to whom it proclaims a common Saviour Who should arise from their midst; and hence the Lord Jesus is presented here, not, as in Matthew, as the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel merely, but as the long-looked-for "Seed of the woman," Who, by conquering Satan, should redeem from his power men of all nations, and become the "Light of the Gentiles" as well as "the glory of His people Israel" (Luke 2:32). This is the reason why the Evangelist took upon him the laborious task of tracing the genealogies of Jesus to Adam. In this Gospel "behold the Man Whose name is the Branch," spoken of in Zechariah 6:12.

But just as in Matthew the most prominent feature of our Lord is His descent from David and Messiah-ship, and in Mark that of "Jehovah's righteous Servant," and in Luke that of the Son of man, so, in the Gospel of John, the light that shines most transcendently throughout is His Divine Sonship, that glory which He had with the Father from all eternity; hence His genealogy is not, as in Matthew, taken back to Abraham, for He of Whom it speaks was before Abraham (John 8:58), nor yet, as in Luke, to Adam, because John deals not here with the Son of Adam, but with the Son of God in Whose image Adam was created. He therefore traces not His human, but Divine pedigree, and shows us that, although He "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), He that did thus tabernacle with the children of men was none other than "he only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" and that, although "the Light" had only then just shone upon the darkness of this world, He that in grace and mercy had thus become the Light and Life of this dark and dead world was none other than He "Whose goings forth have been from of old, even from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2), "Who in the very beginning was with God and Himself was God" (John 1:1). Here then is the "Branch of Jehovah,"2 Whose glory and beauty Isaiah sang (Isa 4:2), and Whose Divine fruit has since refreshed and satisfied many hungry and thirsty souls from John until now.

But just as in each of the Gospels, though one feature of our Lord's character is brought more prominently to the fore, His twofold nature is always steadily kept in view, so it is also in each of the four different prophecies to which we have referred. Jeremiah, in this passage, speaks of Him as the Son of David, thus dwelling more particularly on His human nature; but he also declares Him to be God, by applying to Him the Divine title of Jehovah, "for this is His name whereby He shall be called, יהוה צדקנו, the Lord our Righteousness"; and, though Isaiah, in this instance, speaks of Him more particularly as the Son of God, he also by designating Him פרי הארץ (Fruit of the earth) declares Him to be an offspring of this earth—human. He is styled Servant in Zechariah 3:8, but it is the Branch Who is introduced as the Servant, and by this title we at once recognise, not only the Son of David, but the Son of God. Lastly, in Zechariah 6:12, 13, we are told to "behold the Man," but it goes on to tell us that this Man shall not only rule and be Counsellor of peace, but that He shall be a "Priest upon His throne." He must, therefore, to say the least, be a most extraordinary man, yea something more even than mere priest or king, to have combined both these functions, which belonged not only to two different persons, but to two utterly distinct tribes, in Himself.3 Now we will turn back successively to each one of the four passages referred to; and, with our Bibles before us, let us see how sublimely appropriate to the context is that particular feature of our Lord's character which is emphasised variously in each case.

 

1. THE BRANCH OF DAVID.

Let us look then first at Jeremiah 23:5, 6.4 And why does the prophet here introduce Messiah as the Son of David? It is because he speaks of Him as the King Who shall reign in Mount Zion and before His ancients gloriously (Isa 24:23), in "Whose days Judah shall be saved and Israel dwell safely." And who else can sit and reign in Judah on the throne of David but a Son of David? for has not God made an everlasting covenant (2 Sam 23:5) with David, "ordered in all things and sure," saying, "I will set up thy seed after thee which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His kingdom . . . and . . . the throne of His kingdom for ever"? (2 Sam 7:12,13; Psa 132:11). Does any one ask if I mean to imply that Jesus will literally reign in Zion over the Jewish nation? Yes, that is exactly what I do mean to say, and in doing this I only repeat the words of the angel Gabriel, who said that "the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end"5 (Luke 1:32,33), and the words of my blessed Lord Himself, Who said, "Sing and rejoice, oh daughter of Zion, for lo! I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. . . . And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again" (Zech 2:10,12).

But have not these statements already been fulfilled? for does not the "throne of David" mean the throne on which Jesus now sits "exalted at the right hand of the Father," and the "daughter of Zion" the Church, in each particular member of which Jesus dwells? No, I do not so understand it. After careful and prayerful examination I can only find one throne of David, and that was in Jerusalem, not in heaven; and on this throne Jesus the Son of David never yet sat; and believing that the word of the living God cannot be broken, I verily believe that He will yet sit upon it.6 And as for Zion being the Church, I have, among others, this objection against it. I am told here that Jehovah shall again choose Jerusalem, which is here used interchangeably with "the daughter of Zion." Now, though we have no difficulty if we refer it to literal Israel, it cannot at all be applied to the Church; for the Church cannot be said ever to have lost God's presence and favour.

I cannot find one single passage in the whole Scriptures from which I could even infer that the Lord Jesus is now in the possession of His throne7 —that one which is peculiarly His by right, not only as the Son of David, but as the promised reward of His suffering and death; but, on the contrary, it would not be difficult to adduce many passages to prove that He is only now waiting to take possession of that throne.

Take, for instance, Revelation 3:21, and these are the words of the blessed Saviour Himself, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne." Now here we are told that the throne on which He now sits is not His, but the Father's, Who invited Him to share it with Him as a token of His perfect satisfaction with the finished work of His beloved Son; and that He only occupies this place until He takes possession of His own throne, on which He will grant the glorious privilege of sitting to all those who have been faithful to Him when all the world was in rebellion against Him, and who, although persecuted and tried, would still own no other king but Him. Then, in Hebrews 10:12, 13, we have it stated, "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." Here again we are expressly told that the place Christ now occupies at the right hand of God is not a permanent one, but only until His expectation—that of His enemies becoming His footstool—be fulfilled, and then, as the apostle tells us in the last verse of the preceding chapter, "He will appear the second time without sin unto salvation" to, and for, those whom, in His condescending grace, He is pleased to call, not His servants, or even subjects, but friends, Whom He is going to honour by making them share His government. Then, if Christ's throne is now established, who are they over whom He rules? It cannot be the Church, for we are distinctly told that when Christ's throne is established the Church, instead of being reigned over, shall then reign (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 5:10, 20:6, 22:5); and if, as is the opinion of some, before Christ's return all men, Israel included, will be brought to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour, they, of course, all consequently become members of the Church, whether Jews or Gentiles; then who, I ask, will be those over whom the Church, together with Christ, will reign? Then again, it would be easy to prove from Scripture, that Christ's reign on the throne of David does not commence until after He leaves His Father's right hand, and until after the Church, whatever may be understood by that term, is complete (see below); how then can that reign on the throne of David mean His present exaltation "at the right hand of the Majesty on high" and His heavenly ministrations over the Church on earth?

In Christ's parable of the nobleman who went into a far country "to receive for himself a kingdom and to return" (Luke 19:12-27), we have at once the reason of His present absence and a declaration that He only commences the actual administration of that kingdom after He returns to the earth. He tells us there that the object of His journey into the "far country," His ascension into heaven, was in order to be invested with the Kingdom; and of this investiture we get a glimpse in Daniel 7:13, where the prophet finishes the picture which the few favoured disciples who witnessed the ascension commenced, and tells us how this Jesus, the glorified Son of man,8 after that He disappeared on a cloud from the longing gaze of those who watched Him in Bethany, continued His journey until, attended by hosts of heaven, He reached the Eternal One, the Ancient of days, Who invested Him with dominion and glory and a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. This glimpse of what was going on in heaven was a glorious sight to the prophet, but when he turned his gaze back to the earth the vision that he got there was quite different, and such that "grieved his spirit and troubled his head." He beheld that while the King, Whom he had just seen invested with the Kingdom, tarried in heaven, usurpation was going on on the earth, and the subjects of the "Prince of princes" were prevailed against by the usurper, who was exceeding dreadful, "whose teeth were of iron, and his nails brass," and who devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped with his feet the saints of the Most High. But the prophet looked on, and presently he saw Him Whom he had before seen in heaven come back to the earth, to take possession of that kingdom with which he saw Him before invested. We see then, from these and other passages, that, first, the object of Christ's ascension into heaven was not to remain there, but merely to be invested with the Kingdom and to return. He tarries there, but it is not because, being occupied with the joys of heaven, He is insensible to the suffering of this groaning earth, but because He is longsuffering and willing to give the opportunity to as many as possible of those who rebelled against Him to make their peace with Him, ere yet He is obliged to assume the character of Judge and destroy all those who would not be saved; but when the time of grace shall be accomplished, when even the longsuffering of God shall be exhausted, He will descend again "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:8). Then world-power shall be at an end, and the government of the beast, which well describes the character of the rule of the various monarchies that have succeeded each other, will be superseded by the government of the Son of man, Whose reign will be in justice, righteousness, and "abundance of peace."

Secondly—to turn back to our original starting-point, from which we have strayed somewhat in order to clear the way before us—when Christ will so return, He will, in a special and peculiar sense, bless Israel as a nation, and reign over them in Mount Zion, and through them over the whole earth, from the throne of His father David. The present state of the Jews is pictured by the prophet Hosea in the third chapter of his prophecy, where they are described principally as "abiding many days without a king and without a prince," but they will not continue so much longer, for ''thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; ... and David My Servant shall be King over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in My statutes and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they and their children and their children's children, for ever, and My Servant David shall be their Prince for ever" (Eze 37:21-25). It is exceedingly interesting to note the two different terms applied to the Messiah in this passage, answering exactly to the third of Hosea. He is not only the "King," but the "Prince."

Now the Hebrew word for Prince here is נשיא (nossi), which is generally applied, more particularly, not to an hereditary prince, but to one who is exalted, or borne up,9 by the free choice of the people; and this leads our thoughts to the time when, on Christ's manifestation to Israel as a nation, He will not only be recognised as Him "Whose right it is to reign" (Eze 21:27), as the hereditary Heir to the throne of David, but He will, of the free-will of the people, be elected their Chief. Instead of "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" "We will not have this Man to reign over us!" they will cry, "Hosanna! Blessed be He that cometh in the name of Jehovah!" (Psa 118:26). "This is our God; we have waited for Him: we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa 25:9). Thus the stone which some "builders refused" will by others be made the "chief stone of the corner." Even this shall be the Lord's doing, although "it is marvellous in our eyes."

Finally, we notice, in concluding these remarks, that Israel's King will be Israel's Shepherd too; and because "He will keep them as a shepherd keepeth his flock," Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and the promise of God to Israel will be fulfilled, "And He will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My Servant David; He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd, and I the Lord will be their God, and My Servant David a Prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it." Here again we observe the Divine character of Israel's Messiah as taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, for we are distinctly told that the Shepherd for Whom Israel is waiting, and Who will "save" them (compare Psa 80:1, 2, with Jer 23:6, Heb.), is none other than He Who of old dwelt between the cherubim and spoke to Moses from off the mercy-seat (Psa 80:1; Exo 25:20-22). "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! be glad and rejoice with all thine heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! the King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more." "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, Jehovah our Righteousness" (Jer 23:5,6).

 

2. THE BRANCH OF JEHOVAH.

We next come to Isaiah 4.10 And why does the prophet here particularly speak of Messiah as the Branch of Jehovah? It is because he speaks of the time when Israel shall not only be restored to Palestine, but when, after being "purged" and "washed" from their sin, which made them appear filthy11 in sight of Jehovah, Who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, so that He had to remove them from Him as an unclean woman (Eze 36:17), they shall again be remarried12 to Jehovah, and shall have even greater favours lavished upon them than they had before; and to accomplish this He must be the Branch of Jehovah, for though the Son of David may be sufficient to reign in Mount Zion on the throne of David, the Son of God can alone forgive sin. Just now the Jews object to the doctrine of the Messiah's Divinity, but it is mostly because they have not yet learned the real object of the Messiah's mission on the earth. When once they are brought by the Spirit of God fully to learn and believe that Messiah's work on earth is nothing less than the deliverance of mankind from the bondage of sin and Satan they will be convinced that if He is to be the Redeemer at all, He must needs be Divine; for if He were mere man, He could not possibly turn away "ungodliness from Jacob" (Isa 59:20), or "redeem Israel from all his iniquities" (Psa 130:8), seeing every man, even the righteous, appears sinful in the sight of God, so that He would Himself need redemption. Has not God Himself declared (Jer 30:15), that, because of the multitude of his iniquity, and because his sins are increased, Israel's wound is absolutely "incurable" as far as any human means is concerned? (Jer 2:22, 3:22,23; Isa 1:5,6, 59:16,17, 64:6,7). Must He not, therefore, Who was promised to Israel as He Who should bring health and cure (Jer 33:6-8) by cleansing them from all iniquity and giving them abundance of peace and truth, be Divine?

The prophet Hosea declares that Israel has "fallen by his iniquity" (Hosea 14:1), and Jeremiah asks, "Having fallen, shall they not rise again?" (Jer 8:4); but he leaves Isaiah to answer this question, and he says, Yes, the tribes of Jacob shall rise again, but not in their own strength, for they are diseased from the sole of the foot even unto the head—that there is no soundness left in them, so that they could not raise themselves even if they would, but the Messiah, Jehovah's righteous Servant, He Who shall be the Light of the Gentiles and the Salvation of God unto the ends of the earth, He shall "raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved of Israel." But surely if He is to raise those who have fallen (and all men have fallen, Pro 20:9; 2 Chron 6:36), He must Himself be something more than mere man. This, then, is the reason why Isaiah in this chapter speaks of Him as the Branch of Jehovah, because he introduces Him as He Who will purge and wash Israel from their sin, so that "they that remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, even every one that is written to life" (Isa 4:3, Heb.).

Hitherto I have ventured upon ground that is undisputed, for most who receive the Scriptures as the inspired Word of the living God, believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, is also the Son of God and David's Lord; they believe also that "Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation," and that "in Him shall all Israel be saved and shall glory" (Isa 45:17,25; Rom 11:26); but now we come to the question, When will the Son of God, this Divine Branch of Jehovah, thus manifest Himself for the national salvation of Israel?

To this question a great many different answers are given. There are some Christian teachers who teach that Israel's conversion to Christ will be effected gradually before His return to our earth, which event they postpone to the end of the world, and without any special manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Again, there are others who believe that at some period towards the end of the world God will pour out His Spirit in a special manner upon the house of Israel, and that then the conversion of the entire Jewish nation will be a simultaneous act. Even among those who believe in the personal and premillennial advent of our blessed Lord, there are some who believe that before they are restored to their own land, where the Messiah will appear to reign over them, they will be converted; while others proclaim their belief that their restoration will take place before their conversion, and that the latter event will only be accomplished when, with their bodily eyes, they look upon Him Whom they have pierced.

Now, without comparing and dwelling on any or all of these and many other notions on this subject held by different classes of Christians, I ask permission to produce a few passages of the Word of God, both in the Old and New Testaments, which, if taken in their obvious sense, will set us right on this subject if our hearts be open to receive the truth.

The Holy Spirit, through the prophet Ezekiel, says (36:24-28), "I will take you from among all the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh, and I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God."

Now here the order of events in connection with Israel's future is given to us, and that which is put first is their restoration: "I will take you from among the heathen and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land." Then next in order we have judgment; that, no doubt, is what is meant by the sprinkling of clean water in verse 25: it cannot mean sanctification, because it takes place prior to conversion, the bestowal of a new heart and of the Spirit, which surely occurs at conversion, being spoken of as taking place subsequent to the sprinkling of the water by which they are purged from all their "filthiness." Besides, the prophet Isaiah tells us clearly that the washing of the daughter of Zion from her filth will be effected "by the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning" (Isa 4:4).13

Yes, Israel has a baptism of suffering to undergo such as even they have never yet experienced in all the long catalogue of the inexpressible sufferings they have endured for ages, for hitherto the furnace in which they have been has been heated by the wrath of man, but what is this compared to the furnace, seven times heated by the wrath of the Almighty, which yet awaits them in Zion? Hear what Ezekiel says in another place (22:18-22): "Thus saith the Lord God, Because ye are all become dross, behold therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace to blow the fire upon it, to melt it, so will I gather you in Mine anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. Yea, I will gather you and blow upon you in the fire of My wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof, and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out My fury upon you." With this agree also the words of Jeremiah (30:3-7), who, after recording in a book by special command of God the fact that Jehovah will bring again the captivity of His people Israel and Judah and cause them to return to the land that He gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it, goes on to say, "And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." This is the immediate prospect after restoration to Palestine of the people who rebelled against the Most High and rejected His Son and always resisted the Holy Spirit—a furnace seven times heated and anguish as acute as are the pangs of a woman in travail. Alas! poor Israel who desire the day of the Lord, to what end is it for you? Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light, even very dark and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18-20). But, blessed be God, His anger will not endure for ever, and, "though weeping may endure for a night, joy will come in the morning," and even when Israel sits in darkness, a deeper darkness than they have ever been in yet, "the Lord shall be a light unto them" (Micah 7:8); and, although their tribulation and anguish shall be so great that there has been none like it (Jer 30:7), in the midst of wrath God will remember mercy, and, according to His promise, He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob (Amos 9:8). Suddenly, when the cloud will be thickest, and the anguish most acute; when even the small remnant that shall be left of Israel shall despair of hope, and Israel's enemies be most certain in their own minds of accomplishing their purpose of utterly exterminating that people whom they will think has been given over to them as a prey; when the proud spirit of the haughty Jew shall be broken, and humility and penitence take the place of stubbornness and pride; when the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, saying, "Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach!" and the whole people, brought to such extremities that they will be willing to receive help from whatsoever quarter it may come, cry, "Oh that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, that Thou wouldst come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence. . . . Be not wroth very sore, O Lord, neither remember iniquity for ever. Behold, see, we beseech Thee, we are all Thy people!" (Isa 64:1,9)—then, suddenly, with the speed of lightning, and attended by all His saints and hosts of angels, shall the same Jesus, Who ascended bodily and visibly on a cloud from the Mount of Olivet, so, and in like manner, be revealed again, but this time in a special and peculiar manner, as Israel's King and Deliverer. "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east"; and from thence He shall "go forth and fight against those nations" (Israel's enemies) "as in the day of battle " (Zech 14:3,4). "And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army," and He will go forth "with fire and with His chariots like a whirlwind to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and sword will the Lord plead with all flesh, and the slain of the. Lord shall be many" (Joel 2:11; Isa 66:15,16). Just as that shepherd of Bethlehem, himself one of the most perfect and beautiful types of Him Who is his great Son as well as Lord, "slew both the lion and the bear," and saved from their jaws the lamb which was taken possession of by them as their prey, so will the Shepherd of Israel "save" the remnant of His people from the hands and jaws of those who are stronger than they and slay them who devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped with their feet His chosen with a fierceness exceeding even that of the bear and the lion. Now the tables will be turned: Jerusalem, so long trodden down of the Gentiles, shall become again a praise in the earth (Micah 4:8; Isa 62); and the sons of Zion, whose name has been for ages a proverb and a by-word among all nations, shall "get praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame" (Zeph 3:19).

But along with Israel's national deliverance comes also their eternal salvation; hence the next thing we read of in the chapter to which we have referred (Eze 36) is, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God." Their national deliverance effected, Israel will gather round their Deliverer, and, saluting Him with "Hosannah! Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord," will ask, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, bearing Himself majestically in the greatness of His strength?" (Isa 63:1). "And what are these wounds in Thine hands?" (Zech 13:6). Who can describe the scene which will take place when the Lord of glory, the greater than Joseph, will reveal Himself to His brethren? Think of the awful amount of hatred to the person of Jesus of Nazareth accumulated in the Jewish heart! Think of the wrongs they have inflicted upon Him when on earth and on His Church ever since; think of their surprise when He Whom they thought was dead and done with suddenly appears alive, and as their Deliverer! "This is Jesus," they will say, "Whom we pierced; and these are the same wounds with which He was wounded in the house of His friends," and this discovery will break their stony hearts. "They shall look upon Him Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon, in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn every family apart: the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart." But the great Comforter will be in their midst, and He will comfort them with all the consolation of the gospel of His love. "As one whom his mother comforteth," so, He says, "will I comfort you, and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isa 66:13). He will say, "Jehovah My Father has sent Me to bind up your broken hearts, . . . 'to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness' (Isa 61:1-3). Weep not, nor let your hearts be troubled; God has turned 'the curse into a blessing.' Because I have died once, you may now live for ever; because you reckoned Me among the transgressors, you may all now be reckoned among the righteous. Arise! shine! I want you to assist Me in My gracious purpose to this earth, and to spread abroad the knowledge of your Messiah's Name among all nations, so that the residue of men may seek after the Lord." "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech 13:1). "And out of them shall proceed confession14 and the voice of them that make merry" (Jer 30:19). "O Lord!" they will say, "we will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with us, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst us. Behold, God is our salvation; we will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is our strength and our song ; He also is become our salvation" (Isa 12:1,2). "The stone which the builders have rejected has become the chief stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psa 118:22,23). "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:4-6). And these songs of praises and confessions will be heard far and wide, so that what has happened to Israel will at once become known in all the earth (Isa 12:5); and, as a consequence of this, "there shall come people and the inhabitants of many cities, And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech 8:2O-23). And for the fact that Israel will be so enthusiastic and loud in their praises of the Messiah Whom they have for so long despised and rejected, and also for the fact that Satan being chained, there will be nothing to hinder the heathen from believing their testimony; it will not be long before the knowledge and the glory of the Messiah will cover this earth as the waters cover the sea (Rev 20:1-3; Hab 2:14).

Now I turn to the New Testament Scriptures to see if we can confirm the principle which we have laid down on the authority of the Old. I go to that epistle first of all which is perhaps more than any other book a compendium of Christian doctrines—I refer to the Epistle to the Romans—and what do I find taught there concerning the time of Israel's national salvation and the manner of its accomplishment? In the eleventh chapter, which was dictated by the Holy Spirit for the express purpose of enlightening Gentile Christians concerning God's purpose in Israel's past, present, and future, Paul says, "For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins" (ver 25-27). Here we are told that Israel's present state is that of blindness, and I need scarcely say that the most marked symptom of that blindness is that they see not Him Who is the "Light of the world." We are further told that there is a limit to that blindness both as to its extent and duration. It is not total as to its extent, for there is "a remnant according to the election of grace" from Israel even now who are, by the free grace of God, made partakers of the blessings of the gospel of Christ, and who, together with the people "taken out for His Name" from among the Gentiles, are made one in the Church which is the fulness of Him Who filleth all in all (Eph 1:23). Nor is it final as to duration, for it is limited by an "until." Until what? Well, there are two landmarks which I beg you to notice with all attention, because on the right understanding of them will depend the verdict which you are called upon to give as to whether this passage teaches that Israel's national conversion will take place before or after the return of Christ. The two landmarks are these:—the "fulness of the Gentiles" and the Redeemer's return unto Zion. Now as to the first, it is not so much a question as to what is meant by the term "fulness of the Gentiles," although it is clear from the context that it cannot mean the conversion of the whole world, since it is completed before the blindness is removed from Israel, and the apostle tells us in verse 15, that the conversion of the world will not be effected until after the receiving again of Israel. It must mean therefore the completion of that number who are now, by the mercy of God, called from among the Gentiles to fellowship with His dear Son, or, in the words of James, "the people taken out for His Name" who constitute the Gentile portion of the bride of Christ; but the point is, whatever is meant by that term, that we have it here stated on the authority of the Holy Spirit that Israel nationally will remain blind, and in their blindness reject the Son of God, until after the "fulness of the Gentiles be come in," so that we have no warrant to expect the Jews brought nationally to accept Christ through the efforts of the Christian Church. And I may add that since, as has been stated, the conversion of the world will only be effected after Israel is received again to favour with God, and only through their active instrumentality, as we know from other parts of Scripture (Zech 8:2O-23; Isa 2:2,3), there is even less warrant to expect that the Gentile nations, as such, will be converted by the efforts of the Church. How can the world be converted as long as they who are to convert the world are themselves in blindness?

Then the second landmark is the Redeemer's return unto Zion, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; and this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins." Now this is a parallel passage to Acts 15:14-18, where James says that after God's present visitation of the Gentiles "to take out of them a people for His name" is accomplished, Jesus will return, and only then build again the tabernacle of David, which until then will remain in its fallen condition. By the "tabernacle of David" is doubtless meant the throne of David and the restoration of Israel, which, as we have seen, takes place prior to their national conversion; for it is in Jerusalem that "they look upon Him Whom they have pierced." I might go on and indefinitely multiply passages both from the Old as well as the New Testament Scriptures in support of what has been stated, but I trust that enough has been said to convince any candid reader that Israel's national conversion will only take place simultaneously with the return of Jesus Christ, Who is the glorious and beautiful Branch of Jehovah, as well as the Fruit of the earth.

 

3. THE SERVANT THE BRANCH.15

Now we are to consider Zechariah 3 and contemplate our adorable Lord in the character of Servant: "Behold, I will bring forth My Servant the Branch."

Here we have the picture of the high-priest Joshua, who represents Jerusalem (ver 1,2), standing before the Lord, ministering before the altar, in filthy garments, typical of inward defilement by sin, and Satan (the Hebrew term meaning adversary in a law-court) standing at his right hand, the usual position of the prosecutor, to accuse him. We are not told what these accusations were, but I think we get a clue to them in verse 3: "Joshua was clothed in filthy garments," and Satan may have said, "Lord, Thou art of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. How canst Thou suffer to approach, and to receive the service of, those who are so defiled by sin and who have rebelled against Thee? They are fit only as chaff for the flames." The adversary may also have whispered into the heart of the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, "How dare you take it upon yourself to approach the Holy One? Know ye not that even the heavens are not pure in His sight?" Thus was the evil one contending against Israel, seeking their destruction on account of their defilement, which he used as a pretence, for he is not the one really to hate evil, seeing he is the originator of it; but again, as when he contended for the literal body of Moses16 (Jude 9), this arch-enemy of the Church of the living God was rebuked and silenced. Not that his accusations were in themselves false, for even this father of lies dare not utter pure falsehood to the face of the God of truth and righteousness. "Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; even Jehovah, that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. Is not this a brand plucked from the burning?" was the reply of the great Advocate—the Jehovah-Angel, He of Whom it was said, "He shall make intercession for the transgressors." "It is true that, in herself, the daughter of Jerusalem is defiled, filthy on account of her manifold transgressions, having lost all her original beauty and comeliness, so that all that is left of her may fitly be described by the smouldering remains of a log of wood; but has not Jehovah set His love upon her and chosen her from all eternity? and have not I endured the scorching flames in the act of rescuing this smouldering brand from the burning? Thinkest thou that those for whom I have tasted the fiery ordeal of Divine justice shall yet be condemned? No, they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Which hath given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (John 10:28). Satan is silenced on the sole ground of God's choice; and the daughter of Zion, through her representative, Joshua, may well have sung, "He is near that justifieth me: who shall contend with me? let us stand together. Who seeks judgment against me? let him come near to me." But to justify the really guilty would mean a partaking of his crime; how then could God be just in giving sentence in favour of Jerusalem, since by neither party was it denied that she was really filthy? Here is the reply: "Behold, I will bring forth My Servant the Branch." This is how the righteous God can be both "the Just and the Justifier" of all who are chosen of Him in Christ; His Servant the Branch solves the mystery. From the person of Messiah the justice, as well as the grace of Jehovah, shine forth in transcendent beauty, and blend in splendid harmony. Look at the spectacle of Gethsemane and Calvary, which was long before minutely described in Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and Daniel 9:26, and behold His wrath poured out in all its fierceness upon His righteous Servant, Who was the delight of His soul, as soon as He came into contact with sin by taking it upon Himself, and who will dare lay to God's charge any moral complicity with sin except to condemn it?

Then again, where can we go for a full manifestation of God's tenderness, sympathy, and love? Come with me to Calvary again. Contemplate the scene amid the throng of invisible and astonished angels, weeping disciples, and the mocking multitudes, and remember that He Who thus suffers is none other than the Only-begotten and Well-beloved Son of God, and when you have failed in all attempts to measure the greatness of God's love to us, in that He spared not even His Son, then you will exclaim, "Truly God is love! Herein is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and gave Himself for us!" The Messiah must be Son of David, else He could not sit upon the throne of His father David; He must be the Son of God, else His death would not suffice for our atonement; but, for man's justification, He must also be the Servant Who should for us pay a perfect obedience to the Father, else even His death would not benefit us, for we would morally still be left in a condition unfit for fellowship with God, for "can two walk together except they be agreed?" A notorious criminal might for some cause obtain his pardon, but he would be no fit object to associate with his judge who openly denounced him as being fit only for the gallows; and so the sinner may have obtained pardon in virtue of Christ's death, but, being still a sinner, and not a saint, he would be no fit object to sit down and sup with the Holy One Who Himself banished him from His presence (Gen 3:24) as fit only to associate with the disobedient angels in the regions of darkness. It is clear, therefore, that, if the sinner is to be admitted to the banqueting table of the righteous God, it cannot be in his own righteousness, for, first, his moral condition is in such a helpless state that he is absolutely incapable of doing good so as to please God (Job 9:20, 15:14-16; Pro 20:9), and secondly, supposing, even now, after being pardoned for his past offences, man could and would do God's will, there would still be no merit in his services to God now to blot out his past disobedience, for the very idea of merit is utterly inconsistent with the idea of his relation to God as his Creator. Man, as creature, is bound by the very fact of his creation to love God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, and to do all His will. Whatever, therefore, he might do now, he could not exceed his present duty, and this would in no wise alter his condition in the presence of God as regards the past. He would still, as criminal, although as pardoned criminal, be unfit to hold communion with God, still be a stranger to the fulness of joy which is in His presence and the pleasures which are at His right hand. Let this be clearly understood, for I fear that there are many Christians even who are confused on this point, and seem to think that, although they depend exclusively on Christ's finished work for pardon, yet it is their own good works which can fit them and merit for them the enjoyment of God's presence here and hereafter, forgetting the words of their blessed Master, Who said, "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants" (δουλοι, slaves); "we have done that which it was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). This surely does away with all merit. We are unprofitable, for it is no gain to Him that we make our way perfect (Job 22:3); and besides, we are slaves, and what slave speaks of wages to his master? Think ye a slave would be entitled to sit down at the table of his master and to intimate intercourse with him, even if he did ever such a good day's work? Yet this is what the believer in Christ is privileged to do. He is called to fellowship with God; to sit down at the table and partake of "the feast of fat things" which was not only provided by God, but at which He Himself presides; but we do not do so in our own names, nor is even the garment in which we appear our own. If we are bidden to sit among princes, it is only in virtue of our oneness with the Prince of princes, our fitness being, not in ourselves, but in Jehovah Tsidkenu, and the garment is the robe of His righteousness, with which He clothes us.

In this connection how precious is that statement in Isaiah 53:11, "By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant make many righteous" (בדעתו יצדיק צדיק עבדי לרבים).

By His perfect obedience to the Father even unto death, Christ acquired so much righteousness that it is sufficient to make "many"—as many as will appropriate it by faith—righteous in the presence of God, just as the pouring out of His one soul unto death is sufficient for the propitiation of the sin of the whole world. I have said before that there is no possibility for man to lay any claim to merit, because, to speak of merit, he must be on equal terms with Him from Whom he claims it, for something which he conferred which the other had no right to expect, but the Messiah was on equal terms with God, for He Who becomes our Righteousness is none other than Jehovah, Who, instead of being a creature, is the Creator of all things (Zech 12:1; John 1:1-3). The law of God was for servants, not for His own Son, but the Son voluntarily took upon Himself the form of a servant and perfectly obeyed it. God's justice only denounced death on the sinner, but here is the Holy One, Who stoops to a death the most ignominious; He can therefore speak of merit, and, on account of His exalted character and the magnitude of the work accomplished by Him, can claim so much of it as is sufficient for all who are united to Him by faith.

Church of the firstborn, elect of God! to thee no less than to Israel does the Divine voice come. "Behold My Servant! Behold in Him thy fitness to approach God and to enjoy His blessed fellowship. Behold in His righteousness the wedding garment without which thou hast no right at the feast. Behold Him!" It was through faith in Him that Abraham was accounted righteous; a vision of the same righteous Servant of Jehovah made Isaiah to burst forth into song: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall be joyful in my God, for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom maketh himself a priestly headdress and as a bride adorneth herself with ornaments. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations" (Isa 61:10,11).

After beholding Him, Paul, too, could sing, "What things were gain to me, those I count loss for Christ: yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil 3:7-9).

Behold Him, then, even though as yet the vision may be "as through a glass dimly"; contemplate Him as He humbles Himself for thy sake and takes upon Him the form of a servant; direct thy gaze upwards and behold Him Who is thy Righteousness now exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high as an assurance that Jehovah is well pleased with thee for His righteousness' sake (Rom 4:25; Isa 42:21); and exclaim, "Blessed indeed am I, unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity" (2 Cor 5:19), "and in whose spirit He finds no guile!"

 

4. THE MAN THE BRANCH.17

We finally come to consider the Messiah as He is represented to us in Zechariah 6, in the character of Man—"Behold the Man Whose name is the Branch!"

That the Messiah was to be man I need not stay to prove. It is implied by His birth, which, though miraculous, was yet of a Jewish virgin18 (Isa 7:14). He Who should gather scattered Israel and keep them as a shepherd keepeth his flock was to be "a Man compassed by a woman" (Jer 31:22). It is also implied by the nature of the work He should accomplish for us upon the earth, for though, for instance, His Divine nature could impart infinite value to the blood which He shed for us, it was only as man that He could shed it; and it was only as man, and One made under the law, that He could render to God a perfect obedience for us, and by His suffering and death redeem us from the curse of the law by "being made a curse for us." Then the Messiah was to come to reveal to man the character of God and to teach them His law. Now, although as the Son of God alone could He know God perfectly—"for no man knoweth the Father save the Son" (Matt 11:27)—yet only as the Son of man could He communicate that knowledge to the children of men. Thus we see that even in the patriarchal and Mosaic dispensations, before the Son of God became real man in order to make God known to the sons of Adam, He again and again appeared in the form of man. "Art Thou the Man that spakest unto the woman?" was the question of Manoah (Judg 13:11). "And He said, I am." And yet He Who thus appeared in the form of man was none other than the Jehovah-Angel (ver 3),19 the Angel of His presence, "Who was the Saviour of Israel even in the days of old" (Isa 63:9), and the Divine Lord (האדון) for Whose advent the Jews were waiting, and the Angel of His covenant Who was suddenly to appear in His Temple (Mal 3:1).

Again, it was necessary for the Messiah to be man, else He could not, as our Advocate and Mediator, efficiently represent man's case before God. "It behoved Him," says the apostle, "in all things to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High-priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people, For we have not an High-priest Which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but" (One Who was) "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 2:17, 4:15). Then also both the Old and New Testament Scriptures represent the Messiah as the Head of mankind and of all creation; the Progenitor (Isa 53:10; Psa 22:30) of all those who are born into the Kingdom of God; the second Man (1 Cor. 15:47), Who should have all things put under His feet and resume the supremacy over all creation which Adam had lost by the fall, but, inasmuch as those who become His "children" are partakers of flesh and blood (Heb 2:13,14), and supremacy over creation was originally promised by God to man (Gen 1:27,31; Heb 1:6), it was necessary that He too should partake of flesh and blood and become real man. This, and the fact that the promise of God to Abraham was, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed (Gen 12:3), is the reason why the Messiah took "not on Him the nature of angels" or of any other being, "but He took on Him the seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16).

But in the text before us (Zech 6:12,13) "the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5) is introduced in another connection from those I have already mentioned. "He," we are told, "shall grow up out of His place" (or "shall branch up from under Him," ומתחתיו יצמח). "And He shall build the Temple of Jehovah"; and, to emphasise what His work shall be, the prophet again repeats, "He shall build the Temple of Jehovah." Originally God created man to be a temple to contain His perfection and fulness. Having formed his body from the dust of the earth, God "breathed into it the breath of life, and man became a living soul." But soon Satan, through sin, defiled that temple and made it no longer possible for God to dwell therein, for "what communion can light have with darkness?" (2 Cor 6:14). But the heart of God yearned for man, and, though He could no longer dwell in them, He yet did dwell with them. He chose Israel, whom He suffered to approach to Him through the sprinkling of blood, which in His mind pointed to the blood of the everlasting covenant which the Messiah, Who was to be "led as a lamb to the slaughter," was to shed as an atonement for sin; and to them His proclamation went forth, "Make Me a tabernacle that I may dwell among you." The tabernacle was built, and then the Temple on Mount Moriah, but soon, alas! this temple too was defiled, and sin in its progress made such rapid strides that it penetrated even into the holy of holies, and God was obliged entirely to withdraw His manifest presence even from His chosen dwelling-place. After the destruction of the first Temple by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25) the Jews built another one after their restoration from Babylon, but the manifest presence of Jehovah no more returned to it; for Rabbi Samuel Bar Juni in the Talmud (Yoma, f. 21b), and Rabbis Solomon and Kimchi in their comments on Haggai 1:8, all agree that five things that were in the first Temple were wanting in the second—i.e., 1. the ark, wherein were the tables of the covenant, and the cherubim that covered it; 2. the fire that used to come down from heaven to devour the sacrifices; 3. the Shekinah glory; 4. the gift of prophecy, or the Holy Ghost; and 5. the miraculous Urim and Thummim. But just then another Temple, not built by the hands of man, arose, and in it dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9). One came, and in the sight of the magnificent structure which had then become more a "den of thieves" than a "house of prayer," proclaimed, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up again," and this He spake "of the Temple of His body." Who was this Who spoke so but the promised Messiah, with Whose advent the presence of Jehovah should again return to His people, and in the anticipation of Whose appearance Isaiah exclaimed "עמנואל" (Immanuel), God with us? "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men" once more, "and He doth dwell with them," "for the God Who said, Light shall arise out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). Secondly: But if any one think that this is not the Temple which was predicted by Zechariah in our text, which "the Man Whose name is the Branch" was to build, I can tell him of another temple—a temple of which the Son of man is not only the foundation (Isa 28:16; 1 Cor 3:11) and the top stone of the corner (Psa 118:22; Eph 2:20), but the Builder.

"Thou art Peter" were the words of Jesus on one occasion, "and upon this rock" (i.e., the confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God") "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," and what is the Church but the Temple of the living God? (1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16). "Now therefore," says Paul (Eph 2:19,22), "ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone: in Whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." How glorious is this temple which the Branch is now building! He has created one temple which is now filling the minds of men with wonder and astonishment. I refer to the material temple of the universe. What a spectacle do the starry heavens present to us! The more we contemplate it the more we are lost in wonder at its immeasurable immensity, and the more our hearts go up in reverent adoration to the God Whose eternity, glory, power, and wisdom they ceaselessly declare in language intelligible to every heart, but oh! the Temple which He is now building, when complete, will astonish even the admiring angels, and will demonstrate even more than the material temple does to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10).

But there are still two other temples to one or other of which some may think the words in our text may rather apply. One is that which Daniel predicts in the ninth chapter of his prophecy and the twenty-fourth verse. Speaking of the time of Messiah's advent, he states that one of the things that will accompany that event shall be the anointing of a most holy place.20 Now, I believe of this we have an explanation and fulfillment in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel. There, in the recorded conversation of our Saviour with the woman of Samaria, a blessed announcement is made by Him, an announcement which marked an epoch in the spiritual history of the world, and was a revolution in all previous ideas of the relation of man to his Maker. Before this the worship of God was always associated with some particular place: "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and ye say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." But Jesus, though claiming for Jerusalem precedence when compared with Mount Gerizim and declaring the Jews alone to be possessed of the true knowledge of God, and that they are the channel through whom the salvation of God must proceed, announced the time when neither Mount Gerizim nor yet Jerusalem shall be the only place to worship the Father (John 4:21): "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23) Thus "the veil of the Temple was first rent at Jacob's well,"21 and from within the veil of His Father's house in Jerusalem came forth the Saviour of the world to consecrate all the earth as one vast Holy of Holies.

The other is the Temple foretold and described by Ezekiel (40-44), which I verily believe shall be built under Messiah's superintendence on His second advent. But to whichever temple above mentioned our text refers, we see the sublime appropriateness that the Messiah, Who was to build it, should be introduced as the Son of man, for in each case the gates of the Temple stand open not only to one particular class, no more even exclusively to favoured Israel, but to all the children of men, Jew or Gentile without distinction.

Is it Messiah's person which is meant? The Seed of David is also "the Seed of the woman," and He from Whom emanates "the glory of Israel" emanates also the Light of the Gentiles (Isa 49:6). Is it the Church? The live stones which are built upon the one foundation, Jesus Christ, and together with which it is "growing into an holy temple in the Lord," are not hewn from the Jewish22 quarry alone, but they belong to all "nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues." Is it the Temple described by Ezekiel? Over the gates thereof shall no more be found the inscription כל זר לא יבא בו ("No stranger shall enter into it"), as was written over the former Temple; but many nations shall say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." And, finally, is it the consecration of the whole earth into an holy of holies, wherein was to dwell the presence and fulness of God? That work the Messiah could only accomplish as the Son of man, for as the Son of David He is more particularly connected with Palestine and with the literal Temple of Jerusalem. "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; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne, and He shall be a Priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. . . . And they that are far off shall come and build in the Temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent Me unto you. And this shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God" (Zech 6:12-15).


Note: As has been said, Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Zechariah 3:8; and Zechariah 6:12, 13, with the exception of Jeremiah 33:15, which is a repetition of Jeremiah 23:5, 6, are the only four instances in the Hebrew Scriptures where the Messiah is designated by the title צמח (Branch), and in the connections pointed out. English readers may be surprised at this statement and inclined to doubt its accuracy as Psalm 80:15, Isaiah 11:1, etc., are brought to their minds; but I must explain that I have only to do with the original. The word rendered Branch in Psalm 80:15 is בן, and literally means "son," so that that sentence ought to be rendered, "And the Son Whom Thou hast made strong for Thyself." In Isaiah 11:1, the word rendered Branch is נצר, and literally means twig, sprout, or sucker. It has also the idea of concealment or secrecy, something hidden, so that the prophet may have intended to describe the insignificance and unobtrusiveness of the Messiah on His first advent; hence some think that the words of Matthew 2:23, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene," were in reference to this verse, i.e., they trace Nazarene to נצר (Netzer). The little town Nazareth was probably so called from its insignificance, as we know that it was so obscure that it was neither mentioned in the Old Testament nor in Josephus. It was of no account compared with other towns, the same as a Netzer (twig) is of no account when compared with the tree. But for my own part I believe that Matthew does not refer here exclusively to this passage nor to any other single passage, but to the general tone of the prophets, all of whom spoke of the humiliation of the Messiah on His first advent as well as of the glory that was to follow His second coming, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets" (not one prophet), "He shall be called Nazarene," i.e., Netzer, one despised.

I might mention that on comparing the Hebrew with the English text I found no fewer than thirteen different Hebrew words all rendered by the word "Branch" in the English, and in several instances incorrectly so, but as none of these passages are of any Messianic import, I do not dwell on them.

 

Luke 19:12-27
He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

 

Isaiah 62
For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness.

Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.

 

Isaiah 53
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

Psalm 22
To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.

Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

 

Copyright 2006 JCR
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