“A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2022

“A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

Maybe when you heard today’s Old Testament Reading, from Isaiah, you were thinking: “Shoot? Fruit? Root? What in the world is Isaiah talking about? And who is this Jesse fellow? And what could all this possibly have to do with me?” Well, it has everything to do with you, so let’s listen now as Isaiah tells us about “A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse.”

Our text is the reading from Isaiah chapter 11. The prophet begins: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” Who is this Jesse, and why is there only a stump? This goes back to several hundred years before Isaiah, back to around the year 1000 B.C. Israel was going to have a new king. The Lord sent the prophet Samuel to the house of a man named Jesse, and the Lord told Samuel that he was to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be that king. It turned out to be that Jesse’s son David was the one the Lord had chosen. So in time David became the king of Israel.

After David’s reign became established, the Lord made a special promise to him. From David would come a whole line of kings, until eventually there would come one particular descendant of David who would rule over an everlasting kingdom of blessing and glory. Well, after David died, one of his sons, Solomon, did indeed become the king of Israel. And while Solomon’s reign attained a certain degree of glory, it fell short of the grand expectations that the Lord had promised to David. And it was not an everlasting kingdom.

After Solomon, his son Rehoboam became king. But his reign fell even shorter than Solomon’s. And so it went, one king after another, some good, some not so good, for several hundred years. Then we get to about the year 600 B.C. At that time, the nation Babylon conquered Judah and Jerusalem, and took their king, Jehoiachin, captive. He was the last actively ruling king from the line of David. And that was it. No more kings from the Davidic line. Oh, the physical lineage continued, generations of descendants from David. But none of them would reign as an active, independent king.

So, what would become of the promise God had made to David? If there was supposed to be a line of descendants from David, leading to that one greatest-of-all-king, the Messiah, who would deliver Israel from all her foes–well, that hope looked like a tree that had been cut down, clean cut off, and all there was left was a stump. A dead stump. And if you trace it back to David’s father, Jesse, you could call it, as Isaiah does, “the stump of Jesse.”

Have you ever had a great hope in your life that got cut down, cut off, thrown in the trash bin, over and done with, deader than a doornail, with no chance of ever being revived? Then you have an idea of what this must have felt like for the people of Israel. It looked like no hope. No chance for that supposedly great king ever to take up his throne. It looked like, quite frankly, that God had forgotten his promises.

But what did Isaiah prophesy? “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Wait a minute! Hope is not dead! From what looks like a completely dead stump, somehow there will emerge a little shoot coming forth, small, not very impressive at first, but one that will grow and become a fruitful branch. This shoot from the stump of Jesse will become mighty and meet the expectations set for the Messiah.

This is for sure a messianic prophecy. This Messiah, this Anointed One, what will he be anointed with? Isaiah tells us: “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” Friends, think of what happened when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. The Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, came down and rested upon him, anointing him for his ministry. And Jesus’ delight was in the fear of the Lord. He came to do the will of his Father. Jesus always kept the commandments of God, fulfilling the Law on our behalf. So Isaiah was prophesying the Christ, who turns out to be Jesus!

Isaiah tells us more about the Messiah to come: “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” Jesus will be this great king, establishing justice and righteousness in his realm. He will make all things right.

Christ our king will undo the damage to creation and the hostility in nature that set in when mankind fell into sin. His kingdom shall be the peaceable kingdom: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.”

What a wonderful world it will be! We’re not there yet, but it’s on the way. Paradise restored. What hope! An Eden prophesied, which will reach its fulfillment when Christ our Lord comes again. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

This is what we have to look forward to, my friends! Let this hope uplift your drooping spirits when you get down. Death and its curse will be reversed! No more sorrow! No more sadness! “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!”

And it comes in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the shoot that comes forth from the stump of Jesse. He is the branch that bears fruit for eternity. Our joy and our hope come in the person of Christ. No one else can do what he has done, is doing, and will do.

What has Jesus done? He has taken the judgment that you and I deserve, and has suffered that judgment for us, in our place, on the cross. Your sins have been atoned for. His righteousness, his faithfulness, supplies what we are lacking. And so we are accounted righteous before God for Christ’s sake. This is good news! This is the sweetest good news we could hear! God has had mercy upon us!

What is Jesus doing for you? He is coming to you right here in this service. He is speaking his holy absolution into your ears. He is proclaiming his victory over sin and death, which he shares with you, his baptized believers. He, Jesus, is giving you his very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Christ is here, wrapping you in his arms, in his love.

And what will Jesus do for you? He will come again and pronounce you righteous and blessed on the day of judgment. He will raise your dead body from the grave and restore you whole, complete, in both body and soul. He, King Jesus, will welcome you into his eternal kingdom. That’s who Jesus is. That’s what Jesus does.

In our text today, Isaiah starts out: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” And now our text concludes: “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” Did you catch that? The shoot from the stump of Jesse is also the root of Jesse! The shoot is also the root! The one coming forth from the line of David is, at the same time, the source and origin of the Davidic line. This marvelous mystery points to the unique nature of Christ Jesus as both true God and true man. He is the Son of God from eternity. And he came down from heaven to be our incarnate Savior. Jesus is both the shoot and the root of Jesse. And he bears abundant fruit. You are part of the fruit he has borne. For he is the Savior not only of Israel, but also of us Gentiles. We too get to glorify God for his mercy.

Brothers and sisters, here is encouragement for you today: When it looked like all the hopes of God’s people were like a dead stump, lo and behold, here comes this little shoot, coming forth from the stump of Jesse! No, God has not forgotten his promises! Let this faithfulness of God sustain you in the midst of all your dark nights of the soul. “He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.”

It’s Advent. During this season, we see how Christ came to fulfill the ancient prophecies. We rejoice that Christ comes to us now in Word and Sacrament to forgive our sins and strengthen our faith. And we anticipate, with eager longing, his coming again to restore creation and to usher in the peaceable kingdom. “Behold, your king is coming to you, righteous and having salvation.”

And now: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Published in: on December 3, 2022 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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