15. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
15. Diebus illis et termpore illo germinare faciam Davidi germen justitiae; et faciet judicium et justitiam in terra.
Here the Prophet shews what Paul afterwards has spoken of, that all the promises of God are in Christ yea and amen, (2 Corinthians 1:20) that is, that they do not stand nor can be valid as to us, except Christ interposes to sanction or confirm them. Then the efficacy of God's promises depends on Christ alone. And hence the Prophets, when speaking of the grace of God, come at length to Christ, for without him all the promises would vanish away. Let us also know that the Jews had been so trained as ever to flee to God's covenant; for on the general covenant depended all particular promises. As, for instance, Jeremiah has hitherto been often prophesying of God's mercy to the people, after having punished them for their sins; now this promise was special. How then could the Jews and the Israelites believe that they should return to their own country? This special promise could have been of no moment, except as it was an appendix of the covenant, even because God had adopted them as his people. As then the Jews knew that they had been chosen as a peculiar people, and that God was their Father, hence their faith in all the promises. Now, again, we must bear in mind, that the covenant was founded on Christ alone; for God had not only promised to Abraham that he would be a Father to his seed, but had also added an earnest or a pledge that a Redeemer would come.
We now then perceive the reason why the Prophets, when they sought to strengthen the faithful in the hope of salvation, set forth Christ, because the promises had no certainty without the general covenant. And further, as the general covenant could not stand, nor have any validity, except in Christ, this is the point to which Jeremiah now turns his attention, as we have also seen in other places, especially in the twenty-third chapter, from which he repeats this prophecy. God then had promised that his people would be restored; he had also promised that he would be so propitious to them as to preserve them in safety as his people: he now adds --
In those days, and at that time, I will raise up, I will cause to germinate; the verb in the twenty-third chapter is hqmty, ekamti, I will cause to rise; but here, |I will cause to germinate;| and there we read, |a righteous branch,| but here, |a branch of righteousness,| which means the same thing. But why does the Prophet now speak of the seed of David? It is not an abrupt sentence; and the reason is, because the minds of the faithful would have alwass vacillated, had not Christ been brought forward, on whom the eternal and unchangeable covenant of God was founded. But they could not have had any taste of God's grace, had they not known that they had been gratuitously chosen by him. Adoption then was the foundation of the covenant; and then Christ was the earnest and pledge of the covenant, as well as of gratuitous adoption. Hence it was, that the Prophet, wishing to seal and confirm his prophecy, bids the faithful to look to Christ.
He says, In those days, and at that time; for, as it is said in the proverb, |Even quickness is delay when we have ardent wishes,| so now a long delay might have produced weariness iu the Israelites. That they might not, then, be carried away by too much haste, he mentions those days and that time So that if God deferred the time, that they might check themselves, he says, I will make to grow for David a righteous branch
This passage ought, no doubt, to be understood of Christ. We know that it was a common thing with the Jews, that whenever the Prophets promised to them the seed of David, to direct their attention to Christ. This was then a mode of teaching familiarly known to the Jews. The Prophets, indeed, sometimes mentioned David himself, and not his son,
|I will raise up David,| etc. (Ezekiel 34:23)
Now David was dead, and his body was reduced to dust and ashes; but under the person of David, the Prophets exhibited Christ. Then as to this passage, the Jews must shew their effrontery in a most ridiculous manner, if they make evasions and attempt to apply it otherwise than to Christ. This being the ease, were any one to ask now the Jews, how this prophecy has been fulfilled, it would be necessary for them to acknowledge Christ, or to deny faith in God, and also in Jeremiah. It is, indeed, certain that Jeremiah celebrates here the grace of deliverance especially on this account, because a Redeemer was shortly to come. For the return of the Jews to their own land, what was it? We know that they, even immediately at their restoration, were in a miserable state, though their condition then was much better than afterwards; for in after times they were cruelly treated by Antiochus and other kings of Syria: they were ever exposed to the heathens around them, so that they were harassed and plundered by them at pleasure. Then during the whole of that time which preceded the coming of Christ, God did not fulfill what he had promised by Jeremiah and his other servants. What is now their condition? Dispersed through the whole world; and they have been so for more than fifteen hundred years, since Christ arose from the dead; and we see that they pine away under their calamities, so their curse seems dreadful to all. God had, indeed, spoken by Moses, and then repeated it by his Prophets,
|Ye shall be for a hissing and for a curse to all nations.| (Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 25:18)
But that punishment was to be for a time. There is, therefore, no reason for what the Jews allege. It hence appears that they are wholly destitute of all credit, and only perversely pretend, I know not what, that there may be some show, though wholly hypocritical, in what they assert. But with regard to us, we see that the promise respecting the coming of the Messiah has not been made in vain; and we also know, that it happened, through the wonderful purpose of God, that the Jews did not enjoy full and real happiness, such as had been promised at the coming of Christ, lest they should think that what all God's servants had promised was then accomplished: for we know how disposed men are to be satisfied with earthly things. The Jews might then have thought that their happiness was completed, had not God exercised them with many troubles, in order that they might ever look forward to the manifestation of Christ.
He calls it the Branch of righteousness, by way of contrast, because the children of David had become degenerated; and God had almost deemed them accursed, for the greatest part of the kings were destitute of God's grace. There was, then, but one Branch of righteousness, even Christ. We further know how wide and extensive is Christ's righteousness, for he communicates it to us. But we ought to begin with that righteousness which I have mentioned, that is, what is in opposition to the many changes which happened to the posterity of David, for things often were in a very low state. Though unto David, ldvd Ladavid, is often taken as meaning, |I will raise up the branch of David,| yet God seems here to refer to the promise which he had made to David, as God is said in many passages to have sworn to his servant David. (Psalm 89:3; 132:11)
It follows, And he shall execute judgement and justice in the land By these words a right government is denoted; for when the two words are joined tegether, justice refers to the defense of the innocent, and judgment to the punishment of iniquity; for except the wicked are restrained by the fear of the law, they would violate all order. Judgment, indeed, when by itself, means the right administration of the law; but as I have already said, justice and judgment include the protection of the good, and also the restraint of the wicked, who become not obedient willingly or of their own accord. In a word, the promise is, that the king here spoken of would be upright and just, so as to be in every way perfect, and exhibit the model of the best of kings.
But we must always observe the contrast between the other descendants of David and Christ. For the Jews had seen the saddest spectacles in the posterity of David: many of them were apostates, and perverted the worship of God; others raged against the Prophets and all good men, and were also full of avarice and rapacity, and given to all kinds of lusts. Since, then, their kings had debased themselves with so many crimes, there is here promised a king who would so discharge his office as to be owned as the true minister of God.
It is, at the same time, necessary to bear in mind the character of Christ's kingdom. It is, we know, spiritual; but it is set forth under the image or form of an earthly and civil government; for whenever the Prophets speak of Christ's kingdom, they set before us an earthly form, because spiritual truth, without any metaphor, could not have been sufficiently understood by a rude people in their childhood. There is no wonder, then, that the Prophets, wishing to accommodate their words to the capacity of the Jews, should so speak of Christ's kingdom as to portray it before them as an earthly and civil government. But it is necessary for us to consider what sort of kingdom it is. As, then, it is spiritual, the justice and judgment of which the Prophet speaks, do not belong only to civil and external order, but rather to that rectitude by which it comes that men are reformed according to God's image, which is in righteousness and truth. Christ then is said to reign over us in justice and judgment, not only because he keeps us by laws within the range of our duty, and defends the good and the innocent, and represses the audacity of the wicked; but because he rules us by his Spirit. And of the Spirit we know what Christ himself declares, |The Spirit shall convince the world of righteousness and judgment,| etc. (John 16:8) Hence we must come to spiritual jurisdiction, if we wish to understand what that righteousness is which is here mentioned: of the same kind also is the judgment that is added. It afterwards follows, --