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Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—"Jesus, the Branch"

Notes & Transcripts

In Isaiah chapter ten, the prophet paints a picture of God humbling proud Assyria. God is going to use Assyria as a rod to punish Judah for its rebellion and idolatry.    

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.” (Isaiah 10:5–6, NIV)

When Isaiah makes this prophecy, this would have been hard for King Ahaz to believe. Even though he was evil, he reigned during a very prosperous time for Israel. Their economy was good. They didn’t have any nearby enemies to really threaten them. Yet they failed to realize that without God on their side, they had no future.  Zedekiah, Ahaz, Saul—all of these kings—it wasn’t as if they weren’t warned. God had a very simple message for them0. “Don’t you dare get too big for your britches. Don’t you dare try to live without me. If you do, I’ll cut you off. Don’t think that I’ll give you preferential treatment just because there’s a temple in Jerusalem or just because you come from a royal line of kings through the house of David. It doesn’t matter if I promised David his line would rule forever. I’ll still cut you off."

But Assyria, too, is under the sovereign hand of God, and God gives Isaiah a word of encouragement regarding Judah's survival and Assyria's demise: 

“Therefore, this is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “O my people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. Very soon my anger against you will end and my wrath will be directed to their destruction.”  (Isaiah 10:24–25, NIV)

This portion of Isaiah's prophesy closes with portraying Assyria's destruction by God Himself who acts like a supernatural Paul Bunyan felling a vast forest with his ax:

“But now watch this: The Master, GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, swings his ax and lops the branches, Chops down the giant trees, lays flat the towering forest-on-the-march. His ax will make toothpicks of that forest, that Lebanon-like army reduced to kindling.” (Isaiah 10:33–34, The Message)

Assyria is going to club and plunder" Judah (Isa. 10:5-6).  But God is going to ravage Assyria.  All that's left of Judah is a scorched landscape.  All that's left of Assyria is an army so depleted that a child can count the number of soldiers left alive on his or her hands. After this great conflagration of destruction an interesting event takes place—a shoot appears from one of the stumps and begins to grow. In time this shoot will mature into a full tree and it shall begin to bear fruit:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1, NIV)

To understand this word picture we first need to understand that the Bible pictures Israel, the nation, among other things, as olive tree. Olive trees are very hardy, drought-, disease- and fire-resistant, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. The older an olive tree is, the broader and more gnarled its trunk appears. They can live to be thousands of years old, and several trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (from the Hebrew words "gat shemanim" or olive press) in Jerusalem date back to the time of Jesus.  The purpose of this word picture is to show that the Messiah will have a small and humble beginning (like a shoot rising from a stump) like a cutting taken off of a dying plant, but after a humble start he will grow into the mightiest ruler the world has ever known.

The Symbol of the Root, is also found in the New Testament three times:

CONCLUSION: Jesus is the Branch. We are called to be like Jesus, so it shouldn’t surprise us that we also are compared to Branches.

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