“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)
Isaiah was speaking to a culture with conflicted values. In some ways it was like our culture today, in which people might gather for worship but are not really interested in living for God. Many are distracted by wealth, beauty, power, and material things. (See Isaiah 1-2)
Isaiah’s message was uncomfortable for people then, and it still jolts people awake today. God isn’t satisfied with people going through the motions of worship and then ignoring his call to do what is just and right in the world. Isaiah’s message unveils the depths of God’s standards. Through Isaiah God warned the people that their sin would bring consequences: destruction and captivity.
But then later God would also bring restoration. God promised to send a Savior who would lead by doing what is right and just, bringing peace and rest for the nations.
Isaiah uses vivid imagery to describe all of this, and he compares the judgment and redemption of God’s people to trees. Big, lofty trees representing power and prestige will be cut down and brought low. But hope will rise again later when a shoot grows from a stump.
The Spirit of God will do this — not on the basis of human power or pride but by wisdom, mercy, and justice. Greatness will come through humility. Life will come through death.
God, we confess that we often think “bigger is better,” and we marvel that you will bring about redemption for all creation — not by a triumphant, overpowering conquest but through the unassuming birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.