“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” (Jeremiah 23:5)
Jeremiah lived through one of history’s darkest times: Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem. The walls and houses were demolished, Solomon’s temple was burned, and most survivors were deported to Babylon. Zedekiah, the king of God’s people, was blinded moments after witnessing the execution of his sons.
In the face of this mayhem and terror, the Lord offered a promise: “The days are coming . . . when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5). David’s celebrated family tree had been cut down. The greatness was gone. All that was left was what looked like a lifeless stump. And yet, from this lowly remnant, God pledges to provide a fresh Branch, a faultless Branch, a holy and everlasting king. Despite the devastation of Jeremiah’s era, God’s plan for salvation through his only Son could never be uprooted. Jesus, the perfect Branch, would sacrifice his life on another tree. His suffering of the punishment deserved by all sinners on the cross of Calvary opened heaven to believers.
In a time of seeming chaos and panic, our almighty Father remained in complete control. He directed everything for the good of his children, even though this plan included the sacrifice of his most precious treasure, his own innocent Son.
Since the Middle Ages, artists have made “Jesse Trees” to illustrate Jesus’ ancestry—the fulfillment of God’s vow in Jeremiah. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” This prophecy is the origin of a botanical metaphor to represent family. King David’s father, Jesse, is depicted beside a tree trunk at the bottom, with limbs ascending to fill the space with figures from the Savior’s lineage. The highest branch leads to Christ, the blossoming flower. In stained glass windows or illuminated manuscripts, these images offer a vivid reminder that human history is the story of God’s promises kept. This genealogy is a beautiful portrait of God’s faithfulness across 4,000 years.
Today, some Christians assemble Jesse Trees during Advent to ponder the thread of redemption woven through the Old Testament. Family devotions highlight Bible readings that trace the Messiah’s ancestry. A bare branch is decorated with a daily ornament, each offering a symbol related to the featured text.
When this practice began, the Jesse Tree was intended to share the story of salvation with illiterate people who were unable to comprehend the printed language of the Bible. To contemporary Christians, God’s guiding hand can seem similarly indecipherable in the unrest and turmoil of this sinful world. The narratives and visuals of the Jesse Tree offer blessed evidence that because of his great love for us, our Creator intervened to rescue his children.
Dear Lord, when I am tempted to let the confusion of this broken Earth shift my focus from your cross, let worship and your Word remind me that your pledge of heaven through Christ remains forever steadfast. Amen.
Paul Grubbs serves Martin Luther College as a professor of English.
Next Worship Opportunity
“The Gift of Hope”
Saturday: 5:30 pm / Sunday: 8:15 am and 10:45 am / Monday: 6:30 pm
Pastor Scott Oelhafen, Preacher