A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 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 – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:1-3a (NIV)
Read: Isaiah 11:1-16
Consider: Isaiah 11 uses the imagery of a tree stump to describe the people of Israel. Isaiah’s prophecy tells us that even though the nation of Israel would be decimated by its oppressors, the promised Messiah would come from this remnant (stump). Isaiah 11 contains two prophecies – one for the coming of the Messiah into the world and the second speaking of his return (second coming). The outline of the chapter would be:
Isaiah 11:1-5 The coming of the promised Messiah
Isaiah 11:6-16 The return of the Messiah
Looking firstly at the coming of the Messiah (which we celebrate at Christmas), Isaiah tells us that ‘The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him …’ (v2). This is fulfilled in the New Testament account of Jesus when the Holy Spirit came on him at his baptism (Matthew 3:16). Isaiah also tells us that this promised Messiah ‘… will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears’ (v3b). Jesus taught this truth to his disciples and the crowds when he said: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2). He also applied this to the teachers of the law. When they accused him of being demon-possessed, he said: Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly (John 7:24).
The implication of this for us is that our natural tendency is to judge others by outward appearances and often to make snap judgements based on what we hear about a person. If we wish to become more Christlike, we need to ask God to develop spiritual insight in us, so that we can discern something of the condition of a person’s heart.
Isaiah 11 also speaks of the Messiah’s return when he will establish his kingdom for ever. The imagery used by Isaiah of dangerous animals and children playing together (11:6-9), speaks of a time when God’s creation will be brought back into harmony. Isaiah also says this about that time: In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner of the people, the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious (11:10). Remember that the fulfilment of this prophecy will only take place when Jesus returns.
Christmas, therefore, reminds us of the certainty of two things. Firstly, that Jesus came into the world when he was born as a baby in Bethlehem. Secondly, it reminds us of the certainty that Jesus will one day return to rule over the earth and to establish his kingdom forever. The fact that several hundred years passed between Isaiah’s prophecy and the coming of the promised Messiah, should reinforce for us the certainty of Jesus’ return. How do you live? As if Jesus has come and gone, or as one awaiting his return?
Pray: Father, we thank you that Isaiah’s prophecy of the promised Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. May we not doubt the certainty of Christ’s return and live accordingly. Amen
Next: #5. Advent Reflections – God with us