Our second passage from the book of Isaiah again looks forward to a time of peace and justice. The opening phrase may appear rather strange: ‘A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots’. Jesse was the father of King David, perhaps the most famous of the kings of Israel, probably living around the year 1000 BCE. Genealogies were very important to the Jewish people, giving a sense of identity and of belonging. The genealogy of Jesus was traced all the way back to David. (See: Luke 3:23-38 & Matthew 1:1-16}. This prophecy was seen by his followers as referring to Jesus.
A shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:1-4a & 9)
Jesus described himself using a similar image of a tree and its branches when he said to his followers: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower… Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches’ (John 15:1 & 4-5). Isaiah foresees that a descendant of Jesse will bring justice for the poor and the meek and that he will have ‘the spirit of wisdom and understanding’.
When preaching in the synagogue of his family’s home town of Nazareth Jesus quoted another of Isaiah’s prophecies (Isaiah 61:1-2):
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:16-21)
Another message of justice, peace and hope. Here is a short prayer for help to realise this vision:
Lord Jesus, at a time when walls of hostility are being built up all around us, help us to commit ourselves anew to breaking down all walls of hatred and hostilities, building bridges of unity instead. Amen.