“In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.”
Once, it was like a mighty oak. Its large limbs stretched upwards. Its leaves offered shade. It stood strong against the wind. It was expected to stand like this forever.
It did not. It was cut down. Only a stump was left.
This once-monumental tree was the nation of Israel, now cut down by her enemies. Assyria trashed the northern tribes. Babylon carted away the debris left behind in the south.
Israel of old that had carried the hope of life and peace forevermore was as good as dead.
It had become an object of pity, its owner the object of derision. Threatening rulers echoed the challenge of the Pharaoh of Egypt, “Who is the Lord that I should listen to him?”
Jacob’s Israel had become diseased with the virus of rebellion against heaven. Corruption had replaced justice. Depravity overtook righteousness. The nation would reap what it had sown. Evil would prevail. Judgment would come.
The weeping prophet instructed mothers: “Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament” (Jeremiah 9:20).
The captives took up that lament: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).
The day of judgment dawned before Jeremiah’s eyes—but it was not the final judgment.
There still was hope. A new day would dawn. The God of Israel made a promise.
“In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line.”
The stump was not dead. The Righteous One would be born of David’s line in the City of David.
He was called “Jesus” because, as the angel said, “He will save his people from their sins.”
The escape from Babylon was startling. The nation of Israel should never have survived the heathen conquest and captivity. Seventy years had passed since Jerusalem was reduced to rubble. No Israelite army arose to regain the city. No rescue team was deployed to free the captives. There was no hope.
Except, the God of Israel had announced in advance that the captives could come home after seventy years. He could promise this because he was the Lord of nations. The Lord had announced the sentence, and he announced the freedom.
There was no breakout. There was no escape effort. The Jews in Babylon were simply told they were free to leave. The Lord God freed Israel from the Babylonian grip by overturning that empire and replacing it with the Persians—and he did it overnight.
There still was life in the cutoff tree! But release from Babylonian captivity was not the greatest work of Israel’s God.
The rescue of the human race from captivity to sin, death, and the devil—that was his great work of deliverance.
And we are among those that he rescued!
Saint Matthew begins his Gospel by showing the link of the Messiah to King David: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…”
He ends it with Jesus saying: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
The righteous Branch grew out of Israel for our benefit. We are co-heirs of the inheritance of salvation through Abraham and David.
This line will live forever.
So will we.
Prayer: With grateful hearts, Savior God, we rejoice with the news that you have kept your promise and have brought life to those who were dead to hope. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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