Download or listen to Advent Midweek II, “Life from a Stump” (Isaiah 11:1-10)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Cut down. Nothing showing above the lengthening grass but the edge of a stump. That’s Israel, there in the grass. And Isaiah is the prophet that Yahweh called to bear witness to it. Isaiah asked how long he was supposed to speak God’s Word to the people, and God responded: “’Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and [Yahweh] removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains until it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump” (Isaiah 6:11-13, ESV). And so it was in 722 BC. Israel lay waste, houses were without people, and the forsaken places were many. Like an ax, Yahweh had wielded the Assyrian army (Isaiah 10:15), and cut down Israel. Nothing showing above the lengthening grass but the edge of a stump. Dead, right? As dead as that stump in your backyard. But our God delights in bringing life to the dead. And so Jesse, thirteenth from Abraham as Matthew counts, would have a new Son, a new David, a Man after God’s own heart. From the Mouth of the Lord through the mouth of Isaiah: something out of nothing, a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a fruitful branch from dry roots. A King on whom the Spirit of Yahweh would rest: the Spirit of the fullness of God in a Man born from Jesse’s stock.
And when He finally comes? What hope! Eden restored! Wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, lions and calves, cows and bears, lions and oxen. And a little child shepherding them all. (Don’t try this at home.) “They shall not hurt or destroy in all the mountain of My holiness” (Isaiah 11:9a). Why? “…for all the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea” (11:9b). “Holy, holy, holy is [Yahweh of armies]; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). The root of Jesse, grown into the Tree of Life on the Mountain of Yahweh’s holiness, hangs heavy with the fruit of healing for the nations. In that day, when time was filled to the brim with the hope of the nations, the root of Jesse stood, and still stands, as a sign, a marker, a signal for the nations. Here! Here is righteousness and justice! Here is judgment for the poor and equity for the meek of the earth! Seek this King, and His righteousness, and everything else will be added to you! When your house is empty, because death has taken those you love; when your life is desolate with loneliness; when the land is laid waste, and the Lord has taken all that you thought was worth anything; now, again, Yahweh plants His flag in the midst of death and despair, emptiness and loneliness and the sighs released under the burden of life in this world; here, from His font, and from His mouth, and from His altar, He feeds His people the fruit borne of the flesh of a Virgin, descended of David. Stretching out His arms on a Tree, He allowed Himself to be cut down. Dead, right? But our God delights in bringing life from death. The holy Seed of Abraham, Jesse, David, and Mary rose up, and His resting place is glorious in its emptiness. And so will yours be: holy graves, sanctified by Christ’s three-day rest, empty as His. And a new earth, free of predator and prey, born out of this old stump of a world; and all the nations washed in the blood of that sign, lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, coming to the King who reigns in righteousness, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel. And you and me, with all creation, rejoicing in the knowledge of Yahweh our God. And a little Child, born of Mary, leading us into His eternal rest.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/5/13