A SHOOT FROM JESSE
(The Epilogue of Christmas)
Isaiah 11:1-11 (K.V.: 11:1)
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
Merry Belated Christmas! Thank God for granting us Baby Jesus in our hearts even in these dark times. Through Sh. Carlos’ message last week, we learned that Christ is the Christmas, which means Christ is the focus and essence of the Christmas where we receive him as God’s gift and accept him as the Savior of the world. We also learned that shepherd-like people (humble and faithful ones like DuPage UBF coworkers) deserve to meet Baby Jesus first. We pray to be that kind of people all the more this season. Since we have not done much during the Christmas break, we might wonder if we could stay a little longer in the Christmassy mood. Sure! Yet, we still need to conclude the year 2020 and prepare for the year 2021. This passage is a perfect fit for that purpose in that we revisit the meaning of the birth of Jesus and redefine our mission with Jesus’ in this coming year. So, with that in mind, we pray that God may enable us to finish strong and to start anew by the epilogue of Christmas.
A Shoot (11:1-5)
Verse 1 starts with a figurative speech that represents the meaning of the birth of Jesus: a shoot. A shoot is new fresh plant growth (like a sprout or a bud), which is a very tender and soft part. A shoot symbolizes a new life and a new beginning. A plant or a tree having a shoot is a natural process. What is unnatural here is that as Isaiah says this shoot comes up from a stump. A stump is the bottom portion of a tree that is left after that tree is chopped down. It visualizes the end of a history, lifelessness and hopelessness. A stump can only be used as a resting place, like in the book “the Giving Tree,” the tree gave its stump to its old friend. From this seemingly dead stump, we are told that a shoot will germinate. And this stump is the stump of Jesse. Why Jesse? Why not David? After all, isn’t this shoot pointing out to the birth of Jesus? It is because David’s kingdom was so humbled and destroyed that it would be as if David’s descendants had become ordinary people like Jesse. Before David became a king, he was the youngest son of Jesse who lived a quite life in a quiet town, Bethlehem. Jesse was an ordinary man and so was David. After calling him and firmly establishing his kingdom, God promised to David that his kingdom would endure forever and his throne never ceasing. He promised the Messiah would come from his own body. Then there was a judgment on Judah due to their rampant idolatry and sins. The dynasty of David was cut off as the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was captured, blinded and carried away to Babylon along with numerous Judaic captives.
Despite their unfaithfulness and failure, however, God would keep His promise anyway by raising up a shoot from David’s line. Surely, Jesus’ father and mother, Joseph and Mary, came from the bloodlines of David, and went to Bethlehem, the town of David, to register. So, Jesus would be born in the line of David and at the town of David to fulfill the promise of God. He would then grow up before God like a tender shoot (Isa 53:2a), and have no beauty or majesty to attract us (Isa 53:2c). This shoot-like Jesus would become a fruitful branch that would bear much fruit for the whole world. Not just him alone, but whoever is in him would be also as fruitful as him.
During this unexpected but elongated pandemic, we feel we have become like stumps stuck in our own homes and cannot do much except some cooking such as making lots of bread. Nevertheless, we believe that in due time, God would make our own little shoots come out of us so that we become like fruitful branches again. So, we do not despair. Surely, our shoot-like 1:1 Bible studies will germinate from our small houses, from COD and Lewis and even from our newly purchased Bible House near Wheaton College!
Look at verse 2. Here, we see how Jesus would carry out his ministry. It is through the Spirit of the LORD that he would do God’s work. The four-verse repetition and the six-fold characterization of the Spirit truly emphasizes how versatile and multifaceted a servant of God should be in doing his tasks. Note in verse 2a that the Spirit would rest on the future Messiah. Surely, we cannot force the Spirit to come to us like using a magic spell (Wingardium Leviosa). Instead, we only pray that the Spirit would come and rest on us gently and peacefully like a dove. Surely, the Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove before his public ministry.
Verse 2b first characterizes the Spirit as the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding. According to the dictionary.com, “wisdom” is defined as “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” So we can know that wisdom has something to do with distinguishing between right and wrong and with proper action. We can see that in Solomon’s case as he prayed for wisdom and understanding to best govern his people (1 Ki 3:9). Accordingly, Solomon received unprecedent wisdom and he used it very preciously such as proving who was the true mother of the baby out of two women. There will be always disputes and all sorts of courts and rulings among us, because no one wants to be wronged but everyone wants to be right. Which is right and which is wrong, then? Are we always right? God is always right and saving life is always right. Apparently, all the problems and tragedies started when Adam did not listen to God who is right but instead listened to the serpent who is wrong. That was not wisdom. Look at what Jesus did with wisdom. Once Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand on a Sabbath. The legalistic Pharisees criticized him for breaking the law and yet Jesus would challenge them with a question, asking which would be lawful (or right ()) on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it. Eventually, Jesus himself would become the true way of life to the Father when he listened to Him to the point of death.
Verse 2c talks about counsel and might. These coincide with the first two characteristics of the Messiah depicted in Isaiah 9 (Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God). Surely, with the Spirit’s counseling and power, we can go to the best way we should go and overcome the most difficult problems such as sin and death.
Verse 2d deals with the knowledge and fear of the Lord and we see that in verse 3a again. In our previous study of Exodus, one thing we really enjoyed was that we newly discovered how much God wanted to let His people know who He really is. Every time there was to be a plague, God put an emphasis on its purpose and meaning by saying that they would know that He is the Lord their God. That includes the Egyptians. So, at the time of the plague of hail, finally, some of the officials of Pharaoh began to fear God and hurried to bring their livestock inside. To know Him better, God gave His people the Law and the detailed instructions about the Tabernacle. When they encountered God on the mount Horeb, they trembled and did not want to directly hear the voice of God. The Messiah would be filled with the knowledge and fear of the Lord through the Spirit. He would not only be able to have a right relationship with God himself but also guide the people to do the same. That would be good news to the poor and freedom for the prisoner-like people (Lk 4:18).
Verses 3b-5 teach us what he would do in regard to judgement. Our Lord Jesus would be the ultimate Judge who determines the fate of all. But we are comforted at the thought that he would not judge by surface things (like by what he sees and what hears) but with righteousness and justice. Perhaps, the needy and the poor longed for divine righteousness and justice all the more because of oppression by the wicked rulers of the earth. For those kinds of people, our Jesus would be a righteous and just judge. At the same time, he would be a stern punisher toward the wicked.
In That Day (11:6-11)
Verse 6 begins with the new era that the future Messiah would bring, which the current situation would never be able to explain. There will be wonderful peace on earth in the new age. Sometimes, the Bible uses animals as illustrations to help us understand key points. So here comes the wolf and the lamb. In the natural world, the wolf is a ravenous predator that jumps on its prey, the lamb. What about the leopard and the goat? The calf and the lion? The leopard and the lion are expert hunters. But there will be no more hunting. No longer will there be a predator and prey relationship. Only harmony and coexisting! Even a little child can lead them all. Msn. Mary Kim can finally put Dr. Jason’s kitty on her lap and pat on it. The cow will feed with the bear and the lion will eat straw like the ox instead of filet mignon. No more snakebites that cause sudden and painful death. This truly envisions the restoration of the paradise that Adam once lost. Apostle Paul says the creation is groaning and eagerly waiting for this wonderful moment. Surely, this world we are living in is not the paradise yet. We have racial, cultural, political and economical issues everywhere. However, we pray that Jesus hastens to bring this paradise of harmony and unity to us in his time.
Verse 9 explains the reason why the new world can be the paradise where there is no harm or destruction. It is because the knowledge of the LORD would fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. The broken relationship with God and with each other will only be fixed through God’s initiative. That initiative is propelled by the knowledge of the LORD. We are told this knowledge would permeate the earth. It means every corner of our heart has full knowledge of God and we all become like family in God. So, we as a family member do not need to fight another family member. And our Big Father is watching over us.
In verse 10, we see that the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. It will be like a sign on the mountain or holding up a placard to show to the world who the Root of Jesse is. It is a good way of advertisement. Here, the Root of Jesse implies the divinity of Jesus because we know that humanly speaking Jesus would be a descendant of Jesse. So, Jesus would be both divine and human. When the nations see the advertisement, they would rally to him and his resting place would full of the people making it popular and glorious.
In verse 11, we see what God would do to the surviving remnant. He would reach out to them and give them a second chance to come to him regardless of their current locations. Whether they would be a hostile country like Assyria or a godless country like Babylonia and thus lost their faith, God would not forget them but surely bring them in to the new earth.
In conclusion, we learned a shoot from the stump of Jesse will become a fruitful branch, bringing us new life and making us as fruitful as him. We also learned the multi-fold Spirit would equip Jesus with wisdom, understanding, counsel and might to carry out his ministry. The knowledge and fear of the LORD will help us to come to Him every closer. With Jesus’ righteous and just ruling, there will be the paradise restored starting from our heart. May the knowledge of the LORD cover every corner of our heart to fully restore our DuPage ministry in the year 2021!