#16 in series for August 23
When one is confused and in turmoil because of sin, it can feel like drifting in a storm-tossed sea. One might think If only I had a branch to grab onto…
From Isaiah’s time on, most of the Kings of David’s line didn’t follow God. Neither did the nation. Therefore, Isaiah prophesied the royal line would be cut off, chopped down like a tree. The people must have wondered about Isaiah’s prophecy. How could Messiah come from the line of David if it is cut off?
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
The picture of a “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” means the coming anointed one would not simply be a continuation of the now besmirched Davidic line, but rather would “spring from the very roots of that dynasty.” He would rule with a different spirit than the disobedient kings; he would rule with the Spirit of the Lord (as David did when he was at his best.) By means of this Spirit, “God’s people will be able finally to keep their covenant with God.” (Oswalt, 187).
The Messiah King would rule in righteousness, equity, wisdom, and faithfulness. His kingdom would be peaceful; both people and animals would live with each other in love and security. Christians have a small glimpse of what this new kingdom, which we call Heaven, will be like. As we grow in Christ, we become more loving and begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Although already justified before God because of our faith in Jesus, we still have our sinful natures. We still struggle against temptations. But in Heaven, there will be no sin. We won’t have to fight the temptations of our old natures and will be able to live the way God desires. We are “already, but not yet” living in the Kingdom of God.
After Israel fell into idolatry, it was cut off in judgment. Isaiah’s picture of Israel as a tree which God cut down, using Assyria as his “ax” of judgment, is sobering. I often wonder—when will he cut down America, in which the majority of people seem to ignore him or rebel against him? In the United States today, idolatry is rampant in materialism and self-centered lifestyles as well as other ‘idols’ of our culture. Judgment comes in individual lives as natural consequences of sins, and our nation may be conquered by some other regime.
But praise God for his mercy! He doesn’t leave nations or individuals in the messes we get ourselves into. He rescues and redeems. He provides a branch to grab onto, a root from the stump of the cutdown tree. I experienced this truth in the 1980s after I felt my life had been cut down. After I repented, Jesus became the “Branch” to me. I realized in a new way how vital he is to my life. I needed to cling to him in trust and obedience. It was a matter of life or death. He taught me how to keep my covenant, to delight in God, (see Psalm 37:4, and 1:2).
Isaiah the prophet describes ‘the Branch:’ “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might…of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight will be obedience to the Lord.” He would be righteous and execute justice.
The Apostle Paul is talking about the same person when he says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross,…For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (Col.1:19–20 and 2:9, RSV). Jesus, the branch, preached good news to the poor, set captives free, healed the blind, helped the oppressed, brought judgment and eternal life to us, reveals the Father to us, dwells among us, gives us grace, suffered and died in order to bring us salvation.
Joshua was a high priest in the prophet Zechariah’s day. God sent an angel to tell Joshua, “I will bring my servant, the Branch…and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day,” (Zech, 3:8–9). This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus Christ died on the cross. By his death and resurrection, Jesus “trampled on the head” of Satan, conquering that devil and rescuing enslaved souls. He has provided atonement (reconciliation between God and humans.) After his final defeat of evil, Jesus Christ will usher in the Kingdom described in Isaiah 11:6–16.
Since Jesus provided the atonement, all we need to do is admit we are sinners in need of salvation, believe that Jesus—the Son of God—died to redeem us, believe he rose again, and receive him as our Savior and Lord.
Judith Vander Wege