Branches in the world of the Bible were either on trees or vines and were relatively rare given the arid climate, so the picture of a healthy and fruitful tree was a symbol of vigor and prosperity. “Branch” or “branches” could refer to families (Gen 49:22) or rulers (Ezek 31:3,6). Broken or unfruitful branches symbolized judgment or the downfall of a person or nation (Job 15:32; 18:16; Dan 4:14; Isa 9:14: 17:6; Jer 11:16). But God always gives the hope of restoration, and branches figure in the symbolism of redemption as well: “When that day comes, the branch of the LORD will be beautiful and wonderful. The fruit of the land will be the pride and joy of Israel’s survivors” (Isa 4:2). The image of judged or redeemed branches reaches its climax in the prophecies of the messianic Branch and the salvation he brings.
THE MESSIANIC BRANCH
The Old Testament includes six central passages in which the title Branch is used to refer to the coming Messiah (Isa 4:2-6; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12). Jeremiah declares that the Branch will represent God like no other.
“The days coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will grow a righteous branch for David. He will be a king who will rule wisely. He will do what is fair and right in the land. In his lifetime, Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety. This is the name that he will be given: the LORD is our righteousness. (Jer 23:5-6).
This branch not only comes from David’s royal line, but he also will be one grown by God, hinting at the divine nature of the Branch.
The term branch is not used in the New Testament in the form of a name as it is in the Old, but the prophetic voices that announced the coming Messiah didn’t hesitate to include branch in their descriptions: “Listen, Chief Priest Joshua and your friends sitting with you. These men are a sign of things to come: I’m going to bring my servant, the Branch” (Zec 3:8). When Matthew opened his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, he provided a description of the generational tree from which the Branch was delivered to his people in order to do his work of salvation. “Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD of Armies says: here is the man whose name is Branch. He will branch out from where he is, and he will rebuild the LORD’s temple (Zech 6:12).
BELIEVERS AS BRANCHES
In a broader sense, the term branch can be used of people in general, with Israel described as a tree and its citizens as branches (Ps 80:8-11; Ezek 17:6, 23; Hosea 14:6). Jesus used this imagery in describing his relationship to followers. He is now the Branch who becomes the main trunk from which all branches grow:
I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.
You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me. (John 15:1-4).
The branch is a fitting symbol for the essential union believers have with Christ, because without him their faith has no nourishment or support and it cannot grow or bear fruit.
the apostle Paul, describing the relationship between God and Jews and Gentiles, turns to the idea of grafting branches to explain what God is doing:
If the root is holy, the branches are holy. But some of the olive branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place. You get your nourishment from the roots of the olive tree. So don’t brag about being better than the other branches. If you brag, remember that you don’t support the root, the root supports you. . . .
If Jewish people do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted onto the tree again, because God is able to do that. In spite of the fact that you have been cut from a wild olive tree, you have been grafted onto a cultivated one. So wouldn’t it be easier for these natural branches to be grafted onto the olive tree they belong to? (Rom 11:16-18, 23-24)
The image of the branch comes to us with an invitation to share connection with a common trunk from which we all gain life and nourishment. As Jesus describe the kingdom of heaven, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone planted in a field. It’s one of the smallest seeds. However, when it has grown, it is taller than the garden plants. It becomes a tree that is larger enough for birds to nest in its branches” (Matt 13:31-32).
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE- Let us yield ourselves to be pruned by the word, that we may not need the pruning of awful sorrows. It is said that three out of five of the vine-berries are cut off that the remainder may attain their full size. How many of our own promptings have to be excised in order that our best fruit may be yielded!