************ Sermon on Isaiah 11:1-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 7, 2014
"There Will Be Peace"
Our world knows so much turmoil. Ukraine daily faces interference from Russia. The Islamic State has swallowed up large portions of Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan continues to be a mess. The Kurds of Turkey and Iraq are demanding self-rule. There are protests in Hong Kong and other parts of China. Hardly a week goes by without Boko Haram kidnapping girls in Nigeria. In our own country angry crowds protest Grand Jury findings in New York State and Missouri; and, as the recent mid-term elections reminded us, we are a country divided between red and blue states.
This is nothing new. Isaiah, too, lived during a troubled time. Wicked king followed after wicked king. Judah was constantly at war with Assyria and Babylon and Egypt and Syria.
What is true for the political realm is also true in the personal realm. There is turmoil and brokenness in relationships with family, friends, and fellow believers.
Peace is what we need and, on this second Sunday of Advent, we see that peace is what we are promised through the Messiah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse.
I Who He Is (vs 1)
A We start by looking at who the peace-bringer is. Notice verse 1: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit" (Isa 11:1).
If you have your own yard, you are well acquainted with the image. A shoot grows out of a stump. About a year ago we noticed all these shoots growing in our front and back yard. The culprit was a variety of tree we planted. At a certain point they send up shoots from their roots. We had shoots popping up everywhere. We cut down the trees. The shoots kept coming. We put a spray on the stumps. The shoots kept coming. We cut down the shoots. The shoots kept coming. We sprayed a second time. They are almost gone now but once in a while they still pop up.
Notice what this tells us about Judah. Judah has been reduced to a stump. It is nothing but the stump of a fallen tree.
Every Israelite knows exactly what Isaiah is saying. The Kingdom of David has fallen as an oak that has been cut down. Only the stump remains. The glory is all gone.
From a wide-spreading, noble family tree that covered all Israel with its branches, the kingly house of David, son of Jesse, has withered and decayed to an insignificant little stem. All its former power and splendor has disappeared.
At the time of Isaiah, it was Assyria that was strong and mighty. Isaiah compares Assyria to the great and mighty cedars of Lebanon. But Assyria, too, will be greatly reduced:
(Is 10:33-34) See, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low. (34) He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax; Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.
The image of the trees symbolized the power and majesty of both Judah and Assyria. But God was saying He was going to take an ax and go through the forests of their power and He was going to cut it all down. When He finished with them, there would be nothing left of their pride and might.
B We all know why Judah was so reduced. It is because of sin.
(Is 1:2-4) Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: "I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (3) The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand." (4) Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.
On account of this sin, the Lord has done His work of pruning. He has cut off the unproductive branches and thrown them into the fire. And all that remains is an old stump.
C But this is not the end of the story. Like the stumps in my yard, a shoot is coming out of the old stump, a Branch that will bear fruit – much fruit. It starts so small, so humble – it is but a shoot. But someday it will be a branch that bears fruit. This implies, of course, a tree with a trunk and branches and roots.
Do you hear the promise? The promise is of a Christmas tree in Bethlehem. It starts off as a shoot from the stump of Jesse and it grows to become a great and powerful kingdom.
Who is this shoot? When we turn to the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3, we see that Jesus is the shoot that comes up from the stump of Jesse. He is "the son of David" (Mt 1:1). He is the tender Branch out of the withered stem of Jesse.
So, on this second Sunday of Advent, we look forward with Isaiah to the shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse.
II What He Has (vs 2)
A We all know that President Obama is at a low-point in terms of popularity. This happens to every earthly leader. Because they are only human, with human frailties and faults, earthly leaders experience the ups and downs of life. No earthly leader makes perfect decisions. No earthly leader receives perfect counsel.
B This is not the case, however, with the Branch, the shoot, from the stump of Jesse. Notice what He has:
(Is 11:2) The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--The shoot from the stump of Jesse has the Spirit of God.
Meaning what? Meaning His decisions are always right and perfect. Meaning He never makes mistakes. Meaning He never second guesses Himself.
So, at the start of His earthly ministry, what does Jesus say to a critical crowd at Nazareth? Quoting from Isaiah, He announces, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me ..." (Lk 4:18f; cf Is 61:1f).
This is the baby whose birth we celebrate this season of Advent.
III What He does (vs 3-5)
A Next we turn to what the shoot does. First, He "will delight in the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:3). It is His heart's desire to obey the Lord (cf Heb 10:7). He loves the Lord with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. His is a loving relationship with God. So, in the Garden we see Jesus submitting to God's will: not my will but yours be done (Lk 22:42).
B Isaiah also describes His rule. What we see is a perfect rule. But what else would we expect from One Who has the Spirit of the Lord?
(Is 11:3-5) He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; (4) but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. (5) Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
In the last two weeks large groups of people have protested grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York states. I don't know if we will ever hear the true story in the Michael Brown shooting or the Eric Garner choking. In contrast to this the shoot from the stump of Jesse is not controlled by mob rule. Though, at the end of His earthly life, He did use the threat of mob violence to end up on the cross.
He rules with righteousness. His judgments are always correct. Because He is able to discern the heart of man (Jn 2:23-25). For instance, He knew ahead of time that Judas was going to betray Him and that Peter would deny Him.
IV What He Brings (vs 6-9)
A We end with what the shoot from the stump of Jesse brings: namely, peace. Isaiah presents an idyllic picture of peace:
(Is 11:6-9) The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (7) The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (8) The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. (9) They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.What a beautiful picture of peace.
(Cf Is 2:4; 65:25)
A couple of years ago on Memorial Day, Ruth and I decided to have a romantic lunch and hike in the Sequoias. I left early and biked to the top and Ruth met me there. As we were coming down the mountain we came across a mama bear and two cubs at Hospital Rock. I still have nightmares about what could have happened. Parents – really, really, really dumb parents – put their little kids by the three bears and started snapping pictures. When the parents didn't listen to me we took off down the mountain and reported what was happening to the rangers. You should have seen them squeal out of the parking lot. Why? Because in this life and on this earth hardly anything is a dangerous as a mama bear – that is even true in the human species. In this life and on this earth the lamb and the leopard, the calf and the lion, the infant and the cobra, are mortal enemies. Yet, in the future they will coexist peacefully. They will live together and lie down together and eat together without fear.
B Earlier, in chapter 2, Isaiah presents another picture of peace:
(Is 2:4) He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Imagine a world, congregation, without terrorists. Imagine a world without armies and guns. Imagine a world without missiles and tanks. Imagine a world without grenades and mines. Imagine a world where swords are beat into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (cf Is 2:4). Imagine a world where aircraft carriers are converted into cruise ships, where missiles are turned into silos for storing food, where tanks become All-Terrain-Vehicles, where guns become mere decoration.
B The Bible has a word for what Isaiah describes. In the Hebrew language the word is "shalom."
Most know that the Hebrew word shalom is understood around the world to mean "peace." "Shalom" is used to both greet people and to bid them farewell, but it means much more than "peace, hello or goodbye." "Shalom" is more then just simply peace; it is a complete peace. It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony. Shalom means the absence of sin and the consequences of sin.
According to my Bible dictionary, "shalom" means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.
Many search for peace, for shalom, for fulfillment, for happiness and contentment, in material possessions, money, sex, entertainment, etc. But those things do nothing to fill the hole in our soul that only GOD can fill! Those things only serve to distract and prevent us from finding true peace ... the shalom that can only come from Him who created and put all things into place.
C Do you remember what the angels sang at the birth of Jesus: goodwill to men and peace on earth (cf Lk 2:14)? Remember, we are talking about shalom. So we are talking about a full peace, a complete peace. It is peace with God first of all. But it is also peace among men. It is peace between Jew and Gentile, male and female. It is a peace that allows men from every tribe and language and people and nation to gather together before the Lamb. It is a peace that makes us all one in the Lord. It is peace established by the shedding of Christ's blood and the giving of His Spirit. It is a peace that has already come but it is not yet fully here.
In this Christmas season many of us have beautiful Christmas trees in our homes decorated with lights and decorations and ribbons. And that's alright. But those trees are either dead or artificial. And when the Christmas season passes, they'll be thrown away or stored in boxes.
But there is also another tree – a living tree, a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a fruitful Branch. And this is the tree you will always want in your home. This tree, this Jesus of Nazareth, is someone you'll never want to throw out or store away in a box. Why not? Because in that tender branch dwells all the fullness of God. In Him God was made manifest in the flesh. On Him rested the Spirit of God without measure, all the rich treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. He revealed the hidden counsels of God formed from the beginning of the world and taught man the way back to the heart of God, the way of the cross. On Him rested the Spirit of counsel and might.
So what, you might say? Let me remind you of our call to worship this morning. It spells out the result:
(Isa 12:1-3) In that day you will say: "I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. (2) Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
This is our joy, our song, our hope, and our prayer because of the shoot that comes up from the stump of Jesse. He is the living tree Who brings peace and therefore gives us the joy of salvation.
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