Today’s reading (see below) is one of the classic advent readings from the wonderful prophet Isaiah. I love the book of Isaiah: every time I read a prophecy like this I see new depths.
Image: Tree of Jesse Window: The Reclining Jesse, King David, and Scenes from the Life of Jesus. German, Swabia, painted 1280-1300 From Peterjr1961 on Flickr
We had a good discussion about the image of Christ as the root of Jesse in our small group this week. I was talking about the image of the root being connected to genealogy (which is incredibly important to the Jews). My friend said that for her, the image of the root and of Jesus being this root of Jesse as described by Isaiah shows that he is the root of all things: from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Rev 1:8). This was an insight I hadn’t considered!
This is one of the messianic prophecies that is the most clear, for me, in pointing to Jesus, especially the verse:
“He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy,with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
– when I read that this week I just thought “that’s Jesus!” Again, thinking of the theme of hope, this gives me great comfort. These words of Isaiah were written 600 years before Christ. This gives me hope that 2000+ years after Revelation was written that we can trust that Christ will come again.
The final part of this passage is the odd image of a baby playing over a snake’s nest and a child leading a lion and calf etc. This is the image you usually see on the front of those Jehovah’s Witnesses tracts – which is unfortunate as it spoils the image somewhat (for me, anyway!) I think Isaiah is using metaphor to describe the complete overturning of the world as we know it. I think this is about the very end times that we are still waiting for: the creation of a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1). This is what God does, some of which He does now, He turns our world and the world’s expectations on its head, the weak become strong, the poor become rich, the wolf lives with the lamb… I’m sure this theme will come up again later in Advent!
Here’s today’s reading in full. How does it give you hope?
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.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears; 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. Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
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.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.
(Isaiah 11:1-11 NIV)