December 20, 2018
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
Isaiah leads into today’s passage with an image of destruction. In the previous chapter he sees a once mighty forest reduced to a wasteland. He says even a child could count the trees and write them down. It’s a glimpse of what has and will come from the failed Kingdom of Israel.
After the reign of Kings David and Solomon, the Kingdom Of Israel splits, each side collapses and caves in because of moral decay and rebellion against God. Finally, one side is destroyed by Babylon, the other by the Assyrians. Isaiah‘s vision cast them as a forest laid to waste. The rings of their history exposed, revealing cycle after cycle of disobedience and stubborn-hearted sin.
But in the midst of the destruction, there is one flicker of hope. A shock of green in the wasteland. From the broken stump of Jesse, the father of David, there is a shoot that will become a branch that will bear new and lasting fruit. The family tree of David will persevere and reclaim the throne once again.
Trees are a prominent image all the way throughout Scripture. They are central to both the First Garden and the New Creation. And in this passage, it seems as if Isaiah’s vision of a broken stump is meant to stand between those two ends, tying them together. It’s like Isaiah is reading a scroll that stretches from Genesis to Revelation. He is caught between a memory of what was and a vision of what is to come. He is, in a sense, remembering the future.
And this is what he sees: a shoot is rising. The wasteland is not forever. The wait will soon be over. And when this long awaited King arrives he will bring with him a restoration of Eden. When His Kingdom comes, enemies will be reconciled and Creation will be healed. In the established reign of our Prince of Peace, the wild and dangerous wolf will lie down with the gentle lamb. And a little child will lead us into the arms of our Father forever.
From the stump of Jesse comes the Righteous Branch of David. And this Anointed Shepherd King, emerging from David’s line and born in David’s town, will defeat the giants of sin and death with the unlikely weapon of cross and blood.
The language of Isaiah is stirring. The beauty is captivating. But this is more than poetry. It’s prophecy. And prophecy cuts through the page and across time and space and into the everyday. Which sparks the questions . . .
- What will this reign of the King look like in my life? I’m happy that the wolf and lamb will work things out, but what does this mean for my home, my relationships, my anxiety, my mental and emotional and physical and spiritual health?
- Where do you see the shoot pushing up from broken places?
- What does it look like when the Branch starts to bear His fruit in my life? What is changing in me because of His reign?
Prince of Peace, reconcile the impossible divisions that still exist in my life. Make my life look like your Kingdom.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.