Someone told me this week that they are engaged. They did not hesitate to speak of their fiancé using language that communicated that they were very much in love. Whether it is a newly engaged couple, a couple that has been married and in love for a long time or even parents speaking of their children, it doesn’t take much for us to speak lovingly about those we love.
Yesterday when we celebrated Christmas we gathered together here to talk about the great gift we have received in the person of Jesus. If we have grasped the wonder of that gift and if we have received Jesus, then it isn’t very hard to talk about Jesus because we love Him. That is what I want to do this morning. Jesus is wonderful and I want to talk about how great He is and by doing so, I hope to stir us to love Him more.
In order to focus our thoughts, we will look at Isaiah 11:1-5.
I. The Branch - Isaiah 11:1
I love this picture. The story behind this picture is that the youth group of the Manitou MB Church planned an Easter Sunrise service. Some of the group went to the edge of the Pembina Valley, in the area where they now do the Passion Play, found a good place to have a service and found this tree and trimmed all the branches off the tree, cut off the top and tied it across so that it looked like across. Then on Easter Sunday morning they got up early to thank Jesus that He had died on the cross and had risen from the dead.
I heard about this and being a person who likes trees, I was sorry that they had destroyed a tree, even though it was for a good purpose. Later that summer we went back to that location and discovered that the tree was not destroyed. Through the spring and summer, it had sent out shoots and was growing again. Someone went back and took a picture of the tree because it was such a powerful image of the life that comes from the death of Jesus on the cross. It symbolizes both His death and resurrection.
It is not unusual for a tree to do this. I am always amazed at how severely you can prune a tree and it will still grow. We are always brutal to our rose bushes when in fall we cut them almost all the way down, but each year they grow back and produce beautiful roses. There is a point, however, when that doesn’t happen anymore. Particularly if a tree dies and you cut it right to the roots, it won’t grow any more. I know, because I mow over a whole bunch of stumps in my yard because trees have died and have been cut down and all that is left is the stump.
Please keep that image in mind while I talk about something else for a moment and then come back to this picture.
In II Samuel 7:16 God told David, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” Solomon was God’s chosen king after David and after that there were a series of kings who were also descendants of David. But there was a problem. David was a man after God’s own heart, but as time went on, the kings who ruled Israel were not all men who followed God. Some were, but many were sinful men who disobeyed God, worshipped idols and encouraged others to worship idols. God was not Lord for many of them.
Because of this failure to follow God, prophets, like Isaiah, warned them that the nation would be punished for their sin. Powerful words of judgment were spoken against Israel. For example, In Isaiah 9:8 & 12 – 14 we read, "The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel…Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west have devoured Israel with open mouth. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised. But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day…"
In this warning, God promised that palm tree and reed, (probably referring to king and people), will be cut down. God’s judgment will fall on the people of Israel and their “tree” will be cut down.
God warned that He would bring judgment against Israel through the Assyrians. But God also warned that He would judge the Assyrians. In Isaiah 10:33, 34 God warned, "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. He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax; Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One."
So in Isaiah 9 & 10 we have images of judgment illustrated by trees being cut down. That is what happened in history. The Assyrians destroyed the northern tribes of Israel. But then the Babylonians destroyed the Assyrians. As Judah, the southern tribes continued to disobey God, He warned them that He would also judge them. That also came to pass when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. After that for many years there was no king in Israel. Where was God’s promise to David that he would always have a son on the throne?
It is in this context of destruction that we read Isaiah in 11:1, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Remember that in the chapters just previous to this, Isaiah had predicted the cutting down of the tree of Israel and the cutting down of the tree of Assyria. Yet here he promises that a shoot would come out of the tree of Jesse, who was David’s father and a branch would come up from his roots. For so many years, the tree of Israel looked dead. It was not like the picture of the cross or the rose bushes that look dead in spring but grow again. It was more like the stump of the tree that has died. The stump certainly looked dry and cracked and beginning to rot.
For Assyria there was no such promise of restoration, but for Israel there was. The text promised that a little shoot would appear in the stump, a branch would began to grow from the root of Jesse. The promise is that someone from David’s family would appear and be king. Who was that shoot, that branch of Jesse?
Matthew 1 records the genealogy of Jesus and we find that He was a descendant of Jesse. The apostles recognized that the promise of Isaiah 11:1 was fulfilled in Jesus when we read the history of Israel in Acts 13:22, 23, "After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised." In Revelation 22:16 Jesus speaks about Himself and says, “I, Jesus…am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
Grogan writes, “The reduction of the Davidic dynasty to a mere stump is a true metaphor for its condition when Christ was born; for, though still in existence, that dynasty had been without royal power for nearly six hundred years. The reference to Jesse—who was of course never king—rather than to David—who was—may point to the total absence of royal dignity in the house of David when the Messiah would come.”
I love Jesus because He is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. After sin entered the world, God promised a way of relief from it effects. Jesus fulfills all the promises and when we read the Old Testament in light of Jesus it is amazing to see how He fulfills all those promises in great detail. In the whole history of the world, Jesus is big. Even though many people don’t accept Him, those who do can see just how great He is in the grand scheme of things. I love Jesus because He is so big in historical terms and so amazing.
II. His Spirit Empowerment - Isaiah 11:2
Wherever the Spirit of God is stuff happens. The Hebrew word for the Spirit is “ruach” which means wind. The Greek word for spirit is “pneuma” which also means wind. You can’t see the wind, but it is powerful in what it does. Just consider all the things which happen by the power of wind. If you have ever tried to carry a piece of plywood on a windy day, you discover very quickly that even though you cannot see the wind, it can move that piece of plywood and rip it out of your hands rather easily. Wind is unseen, but powerful.
Whenever the Spirit of God moves, stuff happens. Just like the wind, we can’t see the Spirit of God, but whenever God’s Spirit moves stuff happens. Genesis 1:2 tells us that creation happened when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
It is with that background of understanding the unseen power of the Spirit that Isaiah tells us something very important about this shoot from Jesse. We read in Isaiah 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…"
When Jesus was about to begin his ministry we read in Matthew 3:16, "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him."
What did the power of the Spirit of God do in Jesus? Acts 10:38 tells us the story of Jesus from a post-resurrection perspective revealing, "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." The presence of the Spirit is the presence of God, as this verse tells us and it is because of the presence of God that things happen when the Spirit is present. Jesus had God present with Him. The verse tells us about how the Spirit was with Jesus to give him wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
When Jesus ministered, He ministered with wisdom and understanding. I like to read about the interactions which Jesus had with different people. When He interacted with the woman at the well He knew that she had been married five times, He knew what was going on in her heart and how to draw her into a conversation that would lead her to life. When He interacted with the Jewish religious leaders who opposed Him, he spoke with wisdom, knowing their evil motives and how to avoid the traps they set for him and still use it as a teaching occasion. I love Jesus because He is filled with knowledge and wisdom.
The Spirit was with Jesus to give him counsel and power. As we read about the life and ministry of Jesus, we see the presence of this power. When the blind came to Jesus, they were healed. When the sinners came to Jesus, they were forgiven. When Jesus was in the presence of those who were spiritually or physically dead, life came to them. I love Jesus because God’s Spirit filled Him with power.
The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord also were upon Jesus. We see this as we remember that Jesus knew what God wanted of Him and He had the kind of relationship with God, because of the presence of the Spirit, that allowed him to embrace the plan of God and be moved in His spirit to be totally committed to that plan. That is why He could say, as He does in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” I love Jesus because He is so intimately connected with the Father.
Jesus was so awesome when He was on earth, but He is still so awesome. All the power which came with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is still with Him today. He is still filled with wisdom and knowledge and still lives in an intimate relationship with His Father. I love Jesus because we have the blessing and privilege not only to know about Him in all this greatness, but to actually know Him in all His greatness, wisdom and power. It is wonderful to know who He is, but also wonderful to know Him.
III. His Faithful Righteousness - Isaiah 11:3-5
It is interesting that the phrase, “fear of the Lord” is repeated once again in verse 3, but what an interesting idea to say that Jesus “delights in the fear of the Lord.”
The word “delight” actually refers to smelling a pleasing aroma. It is the pleasant sensation we experience when we smell food cooking or a flower or something like that. What does it mean that Jesus experiences the fear of the Lord as something delightful?
To understand that we need to first of all understand what “the fear of the Lord” is. When applied to Jesus, we understand that it does not mean fear in the sense of terror. What it means is that Jesus was in such a close relationship with the Father that He understood God’s ways, understood God’s plan and was completely committed to God’s ways. The implications of that absolute communion with the Father are spelled out in the rest of these verses. The two primary implications are that He is filled with righteousness and faithfulness.
On earth, judgments are so hard to make and sometimes it happens that innocent people are seen as guilty or guilty people get away with their wrongdoings. We only see part of the story and because we do we form judgments that are incorrect. We hear things and we believe them and base opinions on those rumors, which may not be accurate. So in our relationships with each other, in judgments that happen in the courts and in the way we treat each other, our best efforts may not bring about what is right.
None of that sort of thing happens with Jesus. He is absolutely just. Because Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord, he made accurate judgments about people. He knew what was in their hearts and he knew who was just playing religious games. He knows who is being fair and who is being unjust.
Another aspect of the righteousness of Jesus is that “with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” On earth poor people are not always treated fairly. We often enter into faulty judgments about poor people. They don’t have the means to protect themselves legally or people have prejudicial opinions about them. Jesus had compassion on them and when He fed the 5000 we see a practical example of how Jesus had compassion for those who are weak and needy.
The other side is that Jesus is also decidedly against those who are wicked. It is always difficult to know how to understand this. So often we read in the Psalms about the hatred of wicked people. Psalm 26:5 says, "I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked." In the New Testament, we have a powerful presentation of God’s love for sinners. How are we to understand this apparent Biblical discrepancy and how do we see it in Jesus. One answer is that we are now in a time of invitation. This is a time of patience in which all people are given opportunity to repent and turn to God. But that does not take away from the justice of God. He still hates what is evil and in the end, as we read in Revelation, we see that all evil will be destroyed and there is no place in heaven for the wicked. We would not want it any other way. We appreciate that God is a just God and that Jesus upholds that same righteousness, with absolute justice. It is part of what makes God good. It is also what assures us, contrary to what we sometimes see now when God’s patience seems to be allowing wickedness to go unchecked, that this is not the whole picture and will not be the picture that emerges in the end.
The other image which comes out in these verses is that Jesus is faithful. You know how some people make promises, but don’t keep them? Jesus is not like that. We can count on Him. All the promises He has made will be fulfilled.
These are the things we understand when the Bible says that “He delights in the fear of the Lord.” To delight in the fear of the Lord means that Jesus is righteous and fair and just and faithful. In Revelation 19:6 we have a picture of Jesus in the end. It provides a bookend to the promise given in Isaiah 11 and revealed in the gospel. It says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.”
I love Jesus because He is righteous and faithful. That means I can rest in Him with complete confidence and walk with Him, knowing He will never leave me or forsake me.
Do you love Jesus? I can’t tell you to love Jesus more. But I can invite all of us during this coming week, indeed, during this coming year, to look for both Scripture passages and personal experiences which show us what Jesus is like. This morning as we have looked at this one passage which talks about Jesus, we have just barely scratched the surface. There are so many more. Read the promises about Jesus in the Old Testament. Read the gospels. Do an inventory at the end of every day to think about how you have been blessed.
As we focus on Jesus, I believe our love for Him will grow and as our love for Jesus grows, something else will happen. We will trust Him more, we will obey Him with satisfaction, we will tell others about him with joy and we will look forward to His coming with longing.
I invite you to look at Jesus.