MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.22
Isa 11:1,4 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit….. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Do you ever find yourself either reading a paper or watching the news on TV and thinking, “For goodness sake, why doesn’t somebody do something!” There is a frustration living in today’s world. It is because we live in a news or communication world and so we hear of all the wrong things in society, whether it be some government department losing yet more citizens’ personal data, or city traders making obscene amounts of money and then asking us to bale them out when things go wrong. Or it may be the apparent inability of the police to deal with troublesome drunks or whoever else disturb our peace. But it is a common response: “Do something someone!”
When it comes to wickedness in the world we feel the same, except now it is “God, why don’t you do something!” We recognise the evil in the world and want someone to do something about it. It is the cry of justice that demands action. When it comes to the judgment of God, the same critics berate Him because He does do something about it.
Chapter 11 is all about the Lord ‘doing something about it!’ We have just seen at the end of the previous chapter His activity in ‘cutting down’ the unrighteous – but this is a specific one-off historical judgment that deals with a specific limited geographical area. Out of the ‘cutting down’ in Judah (which is now referred to as a ‘stump’) there will come one, being referred to here as a ‘shoot’ that will develop into a ‘branch’ which will grow and ‘bear fruit’ (11:1). This is clearly a man – see the use of ‘him’ (v.2) and ‘he’ (v.3). This man will be particularly blessed by God so he will have a special endowment of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, respect and knowledge of God, in which he will delight (v.2,3).
Moreover he is going to come as a judge and will make decisions in favour of the poor and needy (v.3,4) and when he speaks he will bring down the wicked. Righteousness and faithfulness will be the clothes he wears (v.5) and he will bring in a new era of peace in the knowledge of the Lord (v.6-9). When that happens, people will flock to him from all nations (v.10), the righteous remnant from many countries (v.11,12), bringing reconciliation to warring factions (v.13), victory for God’s people (v.14), and the Lord will make it easy for the righteous remnant of His people to come to Him (v.15,16).
If we see that in purely geographical terms, then that is still yet to happen, but if we see these descriptions as prophetic or poetic analogies, then we see that this has already happened in some measure at least, by the coming of Jesus and the establishing of the era of the Church. As God has moved, so people have been drawn to Him in their millions through His Son Jesus and they have known righteousness, peace, harmony and reconciliation. These indeed have been the fruits of ‘the stump of Jesse’, of the son who was born, in human descent at least, from the family of David. Some believe that the complete fulfilment of these verses will only come at the end of time, or indeed, after the Lord has created a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1).
How, to go right back to some of my earliest comments in this series, do we see here the God who John described as love? Well, look again at the broad sweeps of this chapter that we have already considered once. Out of the wreckage of what had been Israel, the Lord brings a Saviour. Centuries later, even when Israel are under the oppressive hand of Rome, the ‘stump of Jesse’ brings forth a fruitful shoot, Jesus. The Lord is not put off by the affairs of men. With the coming of Jesus, it is almost as if the Lord delights in acting right under their noses. They hold an empire of force. He comes with weakness and humility to express His love to the world.
This One who comes speaks to the poor and weak and needy: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:3-5). These ones are encouraged by the promise of a kingdom, comfort and an inheritance. This is not a kingdom of power as the world thinks of power. This is not an inheritance of great monetary wealth, but both the kingdom and the inheritance are worth far more than all these things.
God’s intent in all this? To express His love by bringing His people into a place of peace and harmony and complete security. See the big themes in this chapter and you cannot help but marvel at the Lord’s loving intentions and His goodness as He works towards these things, despite our sin, and despite our inadequacies, weaknesses and foolishness. No, love is not put off by any of these things. He will work despite them and using them. How marvellous!
But please note, as we close this series for a while at least, that God’s way of ‘doing something’ is not the same as ours. He works on changing hearts and from those changed hearts, brings a changed world. We, sadly, so often only look for changes in society without the changes of heart. No, God deals with hearts and then the changes in society will be real and not cosmetic.