Isaiah 11:1-16 – The Shoot of Jesse

Read Isaiah 11:1-16

There are so many beautiful images of peace in today’s reading. Did you have a favorite? Again, Isaiah’s prophecy is pointing toward the Messiah. “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” The “Branch” will be Jesus fulfilling the promise that our eternal king is from the line of David.

While our text translation doesn’t say “Jesse” directly, Jesse was David’s father, and I have seen other references to the stump of Jesse. In fact, when I was Children’s Ministry Director, we had a family event during Advent called “Jesse’s Tree.” It was designed for families to set aside intentional time during Advent (the preparation before Christmas in our tradition) to decorate a small tree with ornaments. Each ornament was chosen to tell a part of God’s story. This included prophecies of Jesus as well as symbols of the birth like a star, a shepherd, etc. There was a devotional guide that families would use as they placed each ornament on the tree. It was great fun setting up for the event, and then using the tokens to help prepare our hearts for Christmas each year thereafter.

Whether or not Isaiah was speaking of real animals or the symbolic meaning of the power or weakness of these animals, I am not certain. What I do know is that the picture it conjures up for us is one of peace. Those in power will not lord over the powerless. Those who are weak by comparison will enjoy equality. Gone will be the worry of being taken advantage of or harmed. “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” That last line just gives me goose bumps!

Can you even imagine living in a world filled with people who know the Lord? Surrounding ourselves with other believers can feel so safe. There is nothing more reassuring than to talk to a fellow Christian who “gets me.” I don’t have to walk on eggshells wondering if what I am saying will hurt or offend. I can boldly state my intention to be a Christ follower, share the blessings I experience because I am a forgiven sinner, and dream of the life God is planning for me, giving HIM the credit for all. What peace!

The reading today not only foretells of the peace God intends for his people, but it also continues the promise.  “In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.” Glorious indeed! In our world full of chaos, hate, fear, and oppression, it is time for us to rally together and focus on being the people God wants us to be. I’m ready, are you?

Do you think Isaiah is merely speaking of his own people here? I think not. We can get caught up in all the geography. But as I understand it, the locations he mentions are boundaries at the north, south, east and west of the lands known to them. Had they gotten in an airplane, they would realize there is a much bigger world out there. To those hearing Isaiah’s words, these boundaries are the entire world. In other words, “He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth.” That includes us all.

This prophecy, pointing to the promise of Jesus, speaks of the beautiful path God promises to bring us all together again. John 14:6 reads, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” I love how Old Testament prophecies point directly toward Jesus. Our Bible is such a gift to help us feel like we are included in the story from the beginning. God’s intentions were set long before we existed. How does that make you feel to know you are loved that much and belong to such a legacy of faith? Spend some time today thanking God for your heritage.

Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you for how you have been working among your people for all these years. You have never given up on me either for my waywardness. I look to you for clarity on how you would like me to live my life. I look forward to the day of total peace when all the chaos is only a distant memory. Forgive me for being easily distracted. Shine through me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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