We are moving into the Advent scriptures that focus on the peace on earth that will prevail when the Messiah comes to reign. I have always loved reading Isaiah in preparation for Christmas. I can hear Handel’s Messiah in his beautiful words of prophecy. In Chapter 11, Isaiah described what will happen to “the proud trees that God will chop down” which he had warned about in Chapter 10. After taking Jerusalem down to the stump, God will send a savior who will lead Israel back to prosperity after Assyria has done its damage. He foretells that a shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse:
Isaiah 11 (Common English Bible)
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
a branch will sprout from his roots.
2 The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of planning and strength,
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Jesse, of course, was the father of King David. Jesus, of course, was from the line of David and so our New Testament glasses allow us to read this as a prophecy about Jesus’ coming. Seeing Jesus through this lens, look how perfectly Isaiah describes our Savior:
3 He will delight in fearing the Lord.
He won’t judge by appearances,
nor decide by hearsay.
4 He will judge the needy with righteousness,
and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,
and faithfulness the belt around his waist.
Indeed, Jesus suffered no fools. When we focus on the gentle baby cooing in the manger, we forget about the radical Jesus who threw money lenders from the Temple steps and delivered many a harsh word against sin and unrighteous behavior. This picture of Jesus reminds us that he won’t play favorites with the rich and that equity for all will be the rule of law. He will be adorned in righteousness and faithfulness.
What will you be wearing this Christmas? As you adorn yourself in party clothes and that special Christmas Eve ensemble, will you also wear the clothes of your Savior and put on righteousness and faithfulness? Are you working for equity among all of God’s people?
Isaiah then turned to the “peace on earth” theme and wrote about the most extreme opposites getting along together. Do you suppose there will be a time when Democrats and Republicans will act this way as well?
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
the calf and the young lion will feed together,
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow and the bear will graze.
Their young will lie down together,
and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
8 A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole;
toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.
9 They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,
just as the water covers the sea.
Someday, SOME day, we will all be under Jesus’ reign and our differences won’t matter. We will all seek Jesus with our whole hearts, and this stump of Jesse born from a trunk that was cut down due to its arrogance will flourish and grow to lead us as a nation of peoples. And that place will be glorious.
10 On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.
Oh, come, oh come Emmanuel!
A Branch Will Grow by Becca Ziegler