Summary: Just when the tree of David seems to be left without hope, without offspring, this Branch emerges to establish justice and righteousness in the world: the LORD our Righteousness.
THE GREAT REVERSAL
In a double metaphor concerning gardening and building, the prophet Jeremiah was commissioned by the LORD not only ‘to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy and to throw down’ but also ‘to build and to plant’ (Jeremiah 1:10). There was certainly enough doom and gloom around for a ministry which spanned the turbulent years of the last five kings of Judah: but the weeping prophet also offered hope. The so-called Book of Consolation (Jeremiah 30-33) points us beyond judgment to restoration, beyond exile to return, beyond being cast out by God to being gathered in by God.
The “good thing” (Jeremiah 33:14) which the LORD had promised ties in with the earlier prophecy (Jeremiah 23:5-6) concerning a righteous Branch (the Phoenician and Ugaritic translations read ‘rightful’ here) emerging as King from the family tree of King David. This King symbolically reunites the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 33:14). At a time when it seemed that the kingdom of Judah was being cut to its very roots, there could be no greater reassurance (cf. Isaiah 11:1).
“In those days” (Jeremiah 33:15) brings to mind other, less hopeful, thoughts of the ‘day of the LORD’ (Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:15). Yet Jeremiah uses the image of a Branch growing out of a felled tree – which so wonderfully typifies God’s dealings with His people. Just when the tree of David seems to be left without hope, without offspring, this Branch emerges to establish justice and righteousness in the world (cf. Psalm 72:1-2).
Back in the days when there was no king in Israel, the LORD raised up judges, or saviours, to deliver the people from their oppressors (Judges 2:18). Now Jeremiah sees the rule of the Branch of righteousness in terms of salvation and safety (Jeremiah 33:16). Isaiah sees something of the universal scope of this reign, as the Gentiles flock to His flag (Isaiah 11:10): and the Apostle Paul sees this fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:8; Romans 15:12).
The name of the rightful king in Jeremiah’s earlier prophecy is ‘the LORD is our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6). Here (Jeremiah 33:16) the name is appended to the LORD’s people, centred on Judah and Jerusalem. Out from Jerusalem flows the gospel, to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
As Christians, we also have the name of the Lord spoken over us. King David speaks of the blessedness of not having our sins imputed to us (Psalm 32:1-2). The Apostle Paul, in quoting David, shows the other side of this coin: we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Romans 4:6-8).