The Righteous Branch of David (Jeremiah 23:1-8)
This is the ninth in a short series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you’ll want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here).
My goal in these eschatological adventures is two-fold.
First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church.
In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP.
Since the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is important that we stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.
The Righteous Branch of David
The book of Jeremiah contains a great many OT Kingdom prophecies, most of which appear in chapters 30-33. (1) The prophecy before us gives the gist of them all. And since this is a great favorite among our premillennarian brethren, we have all the more reason to examine it briefly here.
Wicked Shepherds to be Removed
In verses 1-2, the great theme of prophecy emerges: The Shepherd(s) of LORD. Here, God begins by warning of coming judgment against Israel’s faithless leaders, both temporal and spiritual. Because of their failure properly to shepherd God’s flock, the sheep will soon be scattered among the nations, and they themselves will be punished (Ezek. 34:1f).
Righteous Shepherds to Come
In verses 3-4, God offers the faithful Israelites hope, promising that he will surely gather a remnant of his flock out of all the countries where he has driven them. In that Day, he will give them godly shepherds, and make them fearless and fruitful in the Promised Land.
Since it is written that they shall fear no more, we know that the reference here is to the ingathering of eschatological “Israel” (v. 4). With the help of the NCH, we can see how this OTKP will be fulfilled.
On the one hand, it will be fulfilled among elect Jews who, in the last days, will turn to Christ, and so inherit all the blessings of the Kingdom. On the other hand, it will also be fulfilled among elect Gentiles, for they too will turn to Christ.
Both people groups are “remnants,” some from Israel, but all from Adam’s fallen race. Both, because of sin, have gone into exile—some from Palestine, but all from Eden. And both, because of God’s sovereign grace, will be gathered into Christ for eternal life in their eschatological Homeland.
The Righteous Branch of David
In verses 5-6, God speaks of the divine/human Agent through whom he will grant these blessings to his holy eschatological nation (1 Peter 2:9). In fulfillment of his ancient promise to David, he will raise up a righteous Branch from (the line) of David: the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:1, Luke 1:32, 69).
He will be a King whose righteous reign overspreads the whole land. This promise is fulfilled in Christ, whose heavenly reign overspreads the whole earth through the preaching of the Gospel during the Era of Proclamation (Mt. 13:31-33, Acts 1:8, Col. 1:6, Rev. 5:9).
This King is a Judge. Whether now from his throne above, or later at his Parousia, he is the One appointed by God to execute justice and righteousness in the earth (v. 5, Mt. 28:18, John 5:22, Acts 17:31).
In his days, Judah and Israel—which together stand as a type of the one unified Church—will dwell securely in the only true ark of safety, Jesus Christ (John 10:28-29, Eph. 2:14-18, Heb. 6:8). Why? Because the perfect righteousness of the Righteous One will be imputed to all who call upon him as Lord (John 16:8, 10, Acts 3:14, Rom. 3:21-22, 10:9-13, 1 Cor. 1:30).
A Second Exodus
In verses 7-8, God frames the coming ingathering as a Second Exodus. These beautiful words—full of praise for God’s sovereign grace—can and will be spoken by all Christ’s saints, whether Jew or Gentile. For just as in ancient times God rescued ethnic Israel from their oppressors and restored them to the Land of Promise, so too in these last days has he rescued eschatological Israel—the Church—from every enemy of the Domain of Darkness, and restored them, in Christ, to their heavenly homeland, both now and in the World to Come (Mt. 12:29, 2 Cor. 1:10, Eph. 2:1-10, Col. 1:3, Heb. 12:22).
(1) See also 3:11-18, 12:14-17, 29:10-14, 50:4-5, 17-20. For Jeremiah’s promise of eschatological mercy to the Gentiles, see 46:26, 48:47, 49:6, 49:39, 50:34