Feb 21, 2013

The LORD's Glorious Branch

Isaiah 4:2–6

"In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem" (vv. 2–3).

Closely connected to the concept of "the latter days" in Scripture is "the day of the Lord." Also known as "that day," the day of the Lord is the point at which everything will be set right and the enemies of Israel and Israel's God will receive the fullness of the Lord's condemnation (Isa. 2:12–19; 13; Jer. 46:1–12; Joel 1:15–20). The prophets often warn God's people about that coming day, calling them to repentance that they would escape the Creator's wrath, be reckoned as true Israelites, and enjoy the restoration promised to the faithful in Judah and Israel. In many texts, the day of the Lord and the latter days restoration seem to happen almost simultaneously. Joel 2:28–32 says that those who call on the Lord's name will escape the day of the Lord. They will survive the day of the Lord to receive great blessing. Malachi 4:1–3 says the righteous will experience great healing and victory over their foes—restoration images—on judgment day.

Today's passage refers to "that day"—the day of the Lord—but it emphasizes the great blessing it will have on those who survive, namely the surviving remnant. Isaiah promised that there would be a branch of the Lord that would be "beautiful and glorious." Since Israel is often called God's vineyard or vine in the prophetic literature (Isa. 5:7; Jer. 2:21), the branch represents everything that is left over after the Lord executes His judgment. But there is more. The branch imagery is also applied to the true Davidic king, the faithful ruler from the tribe of Judah—the Messiah (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 4:12). In this we have a hint that the prophets foresaw the Messiah as the true remnant of Israel, as the only righteous servant of God, and the representative of His people.

In the day of the Lord, the prophets said, the fruit of the land would be so abundant and healthy that it would be regarded as the "pride and honor" of the survivors of Israel (Isa. 4:2). By His grace, God would restore the fruitfulness of Israel through His branch, the Messiah. The day would also be one of purification, for the remnant would be cleansed fully of its sin (vv. 3–4). Moreover, the remnant would experience full comfort, for it would take refuge under "a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night." These are symbols of the Lord God Almighty Himself, who went before the wandering Israelites in Moses' day in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex. 13:21). In the day of the Lord, the righteous look to God for their shelter.

Coram Deo

When we come to the New Testament, we find that the unexpected—from our perspective—has happened. The latter days of judgment and blessing have been extended for many years, with the Lord's blessing being emphasized through the preaching of the gospel and the conversion of the nations. That does not mean, however, that the final day of judgment is not coming. Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ and thus prepared to meet God on that day?

For Further Study