Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—"Jesus, the Branch"
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:
- “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” (Romans 15:8–12, NIV)
- “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NIV)
- “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”” (Revelation 22:16, NIV)
I. HIS ROOTS (Isa. 11:1-3)
- a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a Branch will bear fruit
- the seven-fold spirit of God will rest upon him
- 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 comparison here is with the barren tree of Israel which is cut down and uprooted
- but from the stump of Jesse—a humble sheep herder and the father of King David comes a branch (shoot) that will take root and fill all the world with fruit
- some may wonder why it says, “from the stump of Jesse.”
- why not mention David, the great king who was the son of Jesse?
- the most likely reason is that Jesse, David’s father, was indeed a humble sheep herder
- Jesse was unlikely root-stock for a great king, let alone, the greatest king who will ever rule on the earth
- the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” is evidence of God’s handiwork, and reveals just like the apostle Paul said
- "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are," (1 Cor. 1: 27, NIV)
II. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Isa. 11:3-5)
- He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears
- 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
- righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist
- ILLUS. Every four years or so we are reminded that we are a democracy because we go through elections where we hear politicians making promises they rarely keep, and berating the opposing party as though they were a plague and a blight upon our nation. The main thing we notice is that no matter who wins the election, we never seem to arrive at the utopian dream the politicians paint before Election Day. Let’s face it, no political regime up till now has figured everything out or solved all our problems.
- when Messiah takes over the millennial kingdom he won’t be judging on the basis of what he sees with his eyes or hears with his ears, but on the basis of perfect knowledge and wisdom
- in other words, the King of Kings will be able to read between the lines
- that is important for those who have learned the hard way that justice is hard to come by here in this world
III. HIS REIGN (Isa. 11:6-9)
- vs. 6-9 paint a picture of the Conditions during Christ's Millennial reign: Unparalleled peace and safety – a return to paradise where even infants and children are safe (Isaiah 65:20-25)
- the statements about wild animals and tame animals living together along with little children in complete harmony, the carnivores becoming herbivores, may sound idyllic, but allows us to know what God’s plan was from the beginning, and what kind of power the King of Kings will actually have in the millennial kingdom
- the ability to live in a world of peace, tranquility and safety sounds too good to be true, but we have never experienced life under the King of Kings yet
IV. HIS REMNANT (Isa. 11:10-16)
- vs. 10-16 shows how the people will be gathered to the “Holy Mountain” Where Messiah will rule
- both Gentiles (vs. 10) and Jews (11-16) will be gathered together
- the “root” is lifted up as a banner to all nations and gentiles are invited to participate in the kingdom (Is. 2:2-4)
- and in verse 11 we see the remnant of Israel coming from all four directions
- God's people cannot ignore Him and get away with it
- GOD’s warning is the same to you and me. GOD says, “I don’t care if your name is established in the community. I don’t care if you’ve got all your house paid off and a good retirement saved up. I don’t care been to church every Sunday since childhood. I don’t care if you know your catechism and your books of the Bible. If you decide to ignore me, to turn aside from me, I will cut you off.”
- I do not, do not, do not mean that God will remove His grace from your life, but He will remove His blessings
- God uses the insignificant things to accomplish His eternal purposes
- the picture of the shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse lets us in on the way God often chooses to work
- He allows things to start small from seemingly weak and inauspicious beginnings
- from these small beginnings great things are built by the intervention of the mighty God
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.