After Jesus’s birth, Joseph took his wife and newborn son and fled to Egypt because of the threat by Herod. When he died, Joseph and the family returned, but because the new Herod was cruel as well, they settled in Galilee in the town of Nazareth. After Matthew records this, he says by Inspiration, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).
One might search the Old Testament and talk to everyone they know who have claimed to do the same, and they will never find the phrase, “He shall be called a Nazarene” penned by any Old Testament prophet. A clue to the puzzle is that Matthew says this is said by a plurality of prophets, not a single prophet. Matthew is not quoting any passage, but summarizing several. Now the hunt for those few texts begins. Our next clue is the Hebrew word for “branch” is netzer. There are a small group of Old Testament verses known as the Branch prophecies, two from Isaiah, two from Jeremiah, and two from Zachariah. These not only speak of Jesus, but particularly as King and as Priest.
Most of the 2nd chapter and all of the 3rd chapter of Isaiah address God’s coming judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. The sins of idolatry and living rich are specifically mentioned as causes. When chapter 4 beings “in that day,” it continues the context. But the fuller context includes the beginning of chapter 2, which is a prophecy of the coming church, described as the spiritual mountain of Zion. This imagery is picked up here in chapter 4.
The shift may seem abrupt, but it is common in Isaiah for prophecy to have dual interpretations, one applicable to the ancient Jews and another for the gospel age. Captivity is a type of being lost in sin, the destruction of Jerusalem of hell, and the restoration of the Jews is the spiritual remnant of the worlds’ population who are saved by a faith that works through love in service the Jesus Christ.
The second “that that day” begins a purely spiritual outlay. Verse 2 reads, “In that day the BRANCH of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing, for those of Israel who have escaped.” For those of the true Israel of God, which is the church (Galatians 6:15), who have escaped the Babylon of judgment, they will enjoy the beauty and the fruitfulness of the earth in the restoration of the soul by means of the New Testament gospel. All of this will be accomplished by the Branch of the Lord.
Chapter 10 returns to the symbolism of judgement against God’s people. God’s people are compared to the Cedars of Lebanon, an impressive forest of the day. God is a mighty woodsman and the Gentiles are the axe in His hands. God will use the axe to chop down the forest, and if the axe thinks it did this on its own, it will also be dealt with by the woodsmen. Imagine a great forest, the sign of growth and prosperity, and in an instant, they become a sight of dead stumps, a once woods made into headstones.
Out from one of these stumps, the family of Jesse, will spring God’s Branch (Isaiah 11:1). Jesse is the father of King David, so this prophecy likes has to do with the promise made to him in Second Samuel 7 regarding how God will make a house for David, and this house would make a house for God. Simply stated, the lineage of David would build the true Temple of God, which is Jesus Christ building His church.
The ministry of the Branch is described with some interesting details that we will not look at here, but it is the end of the prophecy I’d like to focus on. It speaks of predatorial beasts coexisting with innocents and their usual prey (Isaiah 11:6-8). This plainly is not literal despite the claim by Premillennialists that all prophecy is to be taken literally. Isaiah’s prophecy of the Highway of Holiness says, “no lion shall be there” (35:9). Both cannot be literal, so figurative language is being used by God.
The point is the Branch will bring in a kingdom of peace, which is pictured by the vicious and the victim living together. The key is “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9). The mountain of the Lord, the true spiritual Zion, is the New Testament church. The peace spoken of here is not the absence of trouble, but the ability to bear through the troubles of life. This peace is the peace of the gospel, which is a synonym for forgiveness, or elsewise a consequence of being forgiven. When one is forgiven by God, they can properly hope for and anticipate Heaven. This places worldly suffering in a perspective that makes it more manageable, but the wicked have no forgiveness so they have no peace of mind (Isaiah 48:22, 57:21, 59:8). The New Testament church is a kingdom of peace.
The two Branch prophecies from Jeremiah are similar enough that they can be mentioned and discussed together. They build upon what God said first through Isaiah. From the same root of Jesse priorly mentioned, God will raise for David a royal Branch of righteousness. Like the Branch of Isaiah 11, this one will also rule by the Divine guidance of God. The Lord of righteousness will bring about salvation and safety, a Hebraic parallelism that again associates spiritual peace with forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15-16).
The Branch prophecy of Zechariah 3:8 addresses Joshua. This is not the Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho, but the High Priest in the days of the restoration of the Jews from captivity. In fact, Zechariah wrote in the time of the restoration and addressed those people recently relocated to Jerusalem from Babylon. This prophecy addresses the High Priest and his companion priests.
The Branch will remove sin from Judah in a single day (Zechariah 3:9), and this was the time of His crucifixion. Because of the removal of iniquity, those saved will spread the gospel and invite others to share in this forgiveness. This is described as a feast under the nice and the fig tree (Zechariah 3:10). This image is used elsewhere in the Old Testament. At the zenith of Solomon’s reign, the Bible says everyone will dwell safely under his own vine and fig tree. This associates peace with prosperity. Those at peace with God have all true Heavenly riches and spiritual treasures guarded in all spiritual blessings, which are found only in Christ (Revelation 3:18; Matthew 6:19-21; Ephesians 1:3). The greatest spiritual blessing is the forgiveness of sins (Second Timothy 2:10).
The second reference to vines and figs tress is in Micah 4, which is a text that reads much like Isaiah 2. Both of these are prophecies of the coming church, and both refer to the same spiritual peace we’ve been discussing. It does this through the image of smithing weapons into tools. Following this image in Micah, he adds that everyone who is a part of the mountain of the Lord, the church of Christ, will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and nothing shall make them afraid (4:4). The peace of the gospel means that true saints do not need to fear hell because of their hope in Heaven.
As the Branch, Jesus will bring about salvation, which is associated with safety and peace, the rule of righteousness, along with spiritual prosperity and comfort from fear. The Branch will do this as King, but also as High Priest. The Branch will also build His Temple (Zechariah 6:12-13). This may seem like a new element, but it really isn’t. If you keep in mind the previous references to Zion and the mountain of the Lord, these can be recalled and associated with the Temple of the because they are of the same reference. The Mountain of the Lord and the Temple are both references to the New Testament church.
The Temple is figurative for the dwelling place of God. The Temple in New Testament times is the church (Ephesians 2:18-22). By building His Temple, He can then sit on His throne, and He will also serve as a priest at the same time. Jesus is enthroned now and serves as High Priest for His people now. If there was any doubt about that at all, then the fact that the church exists now, the Temple built by Jesus Christ Himself, is proof that He is both king and priest.
The counsel of peace will exist in between these dual roles. This is the very peace we have been studying all along within the context of Jesus Christ as the Branch. This peace, which begins with being at peace with God by being forgiven and extends to peace within our hearts, is the single qualifying element of Redemption that touches on all of the roles of Jesus Christ and aspects of God. For these two, Christ offers His own sacrificed blood for the washing away of our sins as High Priest in Heaven. Having a forgiven people who are all His own, He can rule over them as subjects of the spiritual kingdom that one day will be taken to Heaven after time and the earth have served God’s purposes.