Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1
Branch – You may not appreciate the message in this verse unless you live in Long Branch, New Jersey or North Branch, Minnesota or Olive Branch, Mississippi or West Branch, Iowa. Why? Because there is a play on words in Hebrew that is all about a city named Branch.
The Hebrew word for Branch is netzer. This was a special name for the Messiah – the Branch of Jesse. All you have to do is look at the next verse to see how this person is described. God’s Spirit rests on him. He has wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and reverence. He is a delight to God and exhibits God’s character. Every Hebrew reader knew what this meant. But even though they knew the meaning, they failed to see the irony.
God loves riddles. Here’s one of His favorites. Where will the Branch of Jesse be revealed? Where else? In Branch, Israel. You see, the name Nazareth (Netzeret) is derived from this word netzer. It is a branch in the road, a little nothing of a town, just a place where travelers have to choose a direction. But out of this fork in the road comes the greatest direction-changer the world has ever known. The Branch of Jesse is from Branch, Israel. Matthew 2:23 makes the connection obvious. “He shall be called a natzrin.” We translate this as Nazarene. God seems to love a little pun now and again.
Imagine how difficult it was for the people of Branch, Israel, to understand what was happening in their village. A son of a carpenter stood up in their synagogue and proclaimed that He was the Messiah, and more than that, the human manifestation of God. They were shocked, not simply because of the blasphemy, but because they all knew that Branch, Israel, was nothing special. They all knew that nobody of any importance ever came from Branch. The Messiah had to come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth. The Messiah couldn’t be a carpenter’s son, especially this carpenter’s son. After all, they knew him. He was just like them; a man from a fork in the road.
Imagine the intricate engineering of God to bring all of this to fruition. God has to make sure that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, even though His earthly father doesn’t live there. God has to engineer the genealogies in a way that He can overcome the curse on Jehoiakim and still retain the line from Solomon (look at Jeremiah 36:29-31) and the house of David. Finally, God arranges that Joseph and Mary bring Jesus out of Egypt and settle in Netzeret, exactly as required to fulfill the word play in Isaiah. Of course, there are dozens of other engineering feats accomplished in order to complete the ancient prophecies. Frankly, it’s simply beyond human ability to orchestrate a story that would cover all these conditions. Isn’t God amazing!
If God takes such care of human circumstances over thousands of years in order to bring about each tiny detail, what does this tell you about God’s engineering in your life? Do you think that He is any less capable, less interested or less engaged? God has been working on your plan for eons. How does that make you feel?
Topical Index: Sovereignty