Devotional # 165. 11/30/15. Christmas, Part 1: The Stem of Jesse and Promise of the King.
This week’s Reading: Isaiah 11:1–10.
Introduction: I know, I know, we just got done with Thanksgiving and, like the stores, I’m already moving into Christmas. But I think most of us look forward to Christmas for a variety of right and wrong reasons so let’s focus on some of the right reasons. I’ll keep the tradition of years past where I send out 4 Christmas themed emails each Monday leading up to Christmas. Today we’re going to read about Jesus being the Stem of Jesse but that He will also rule a future Kingdom. What does that mean and how does it impact us today?
Prayer. Dear Lord, as we approach Christmas help us be in tune with You and what You desire for us to learn and share with others during this time. Help us look at prophecies and promises with a fresh and innocent heart. Help us to be receptive to Your word in each of our lives.
v. 1. As we start in on verse 1 we must look back at chapter 10 to know what we’re getting into. Isaiah chapter 10 talks about what was going on in the time of Isaiah, it is prophecy about being saved from Sennacherib. But here in verse 1 of chapter 11 we move to the prophecy of the Messiah.
What does it mean when it says that the Messiah would come out as a Branch out of the roots of Jesse? The major difference between Israel and every other nation is that God is with them. One commentator notes that at the time of Isaiah the line of David (implied here as a “tree”) looked like it was killed off just as other nations and lineages had fallen but because God was with them the “stump” and “roots” were still intact (Source 2). And from those roots would come the Messiah who would save the world.
I found it interesting that Isaiah says that the Messiah will come from Jesse. Who is Jesse and why did Isaiah talk about him as opposed to someone else? Jesse was David’s father and David was made king (1 Samuel 16) and given the promise that one day the Messiah would come from his lineage (2 Samuel 7:14-16). So why mention David’s dad and not David himself? Well, Isaiah couldn’t have known but by the time Jesus came to earth as the Messiah the line of David had ceased being kings and they were just peasants. But God knew. So the royal line started with Jesse who was a farmer and shepherd from Bethlehem and culminated back in Bethlehem with a peasant kid who was raised in a carpenter shop (Source 1, p. 107).
v. 2. This verse is important for at least two reasons: 1. It points out that the “Spirit of the LORD” will rest on the Messiah and 2. What the characteristics of the “Spirit of the LORD” look like.
Regarding the first, God is showing that these 7 characteristics of the Holy Spirit will be on the Messiah and we will be able to see that He is the Messiah because of these things. They are: 1. The LORD, 2. Of wisdom, 3. Understanding, 4. counsel, 5. might, 6. knowledge and 7. Fear of the Lord. So Jesus embodied all of these things when He came to earth.
Regarding the second, this verse (Isaiah 11:2) helps us to understand other verses in the Bible such as Revelation 1:4 which talks about the “seven Sprits” of God. We’ve talked about how the number 7 represents completion and perfection in the Bible so it is no surprise that the Holy Spirit shows Himself in seven facets.
vv. 3-5. These verses mark the transition from talking about when the Messiah would come to earth for the first time and the Second Coming. So in verse 3 we see that the Messiah will “judge” but that it won’t be by what He sees or hears. The implication is that the Messiah will judge as no one else can – by looking at a person’s heart and having seen all time and every situation. Then verse 4 shows that the Messiah is the only one also fit to be Executioner: “He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth.” This is comparable (Source 2) with Revelation 19:15 which says, “He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.” Interestingly, just as in Revelation 2:27, the “rod of iron” are actually believers who are ruled by Jesus. One commentator puts it well, Jesus won’t be “Christianizing” (re-formatting existing governments into Christians) but will totally annihilate existing regimes and implement His own (“the taking of all dominion and authority out of their hands and putting it in the hands of Christ, as the true and only King of the world”) (Source 3).
But the good news is that Jesus will judge and rule with “righteousness” and “faithfulness.” The earth isn’t trading a group of dictators for another. One commentator says that here “the wicked” should be translated “the wicked one” noting that Satan will be at his peak during the Great Tribulation but then Jesus will come down from heaven and establish His kingdom” (Source 1, p. 110). That’s good news and something for us to look forward to!
vv. 6-9. Every commentator I could find said that although many people today have heard this is something that will literally take place in heaven, it is not. Although there will be peace in heaven the scene described here is about something more than lions laying down with lambs (as this is often quoted). I think Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, explains it best: “This is not a picture of a Utopian Golden Era, referred to as The Millennium, rather it was a prophetic picture of the resultant peace from the spread of the New Covenant.” Finally he says, “In the meantime, the wolf lays down the lamb every time an Arab and a Jew find a common bond in knowing Christ as the Promised Prophet, Messiah and Saviour” (Source 4).
v. 10. Isaiah returns to the idea of Jesus being the “Root of Jesse” but this time we find that He will be a “banner to the people” and not just the chosen Hebrew people but the Gentile people also! A banner was an important thing, it was like a flag often used to put a type of coat of arms on, it distinguished what family you belonged to and where you would go. In the same way, when Jesus is our banner we belong to His family and we will go to heaven to be with Him in eternity.
Conclusion. I love that in just these 11 verses we’ve come from a promise of earthly salvation (for the Hebrews of 730 BC, when this was written), then to a promise that a Savior, Jesus, would come to earth in the earthly Hebrew bloodline of Jesse (why we celebrate Christmas) and finally a promise that the same Savior would save all mankind and rule His kingdom (which we haven’t seen yet). We are given great hope, living in 2015, seeing two of these three things come about we are given hope that God’s prophesies will come true because He is faithful and true to His word. With that in mind, knowing that we were sent Jesus as a Conqueror over death 2,000 years ago we are filled with hope that He will also come again as Conqueror over Satan and sin and pain!
Source 1: J. Vernon McGee, Isaiah, Vol. I .
Source 2: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 972.
Source 3: Guzik, quoting Seiss, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Rev/Rev_19.cfm?a=1186001
Source 4: http://www.andrewcorbett.net/articles/lion-lamb .