Series: Advent 2020: What Are You Waiting For?
- Dec 13, 2020
- Mark Vroegop
- Isaiah 11:1-16
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 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. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious (Isa. 11:1–10).
One of my most vivid memories of a family vacation is connected to the statement: “I want to go on our trip!”
The twins were about three years old, and we rented a cabin in the northern part of the Upper Peninsula, which meant a fourteen-hour car ride from our home in Holland, Michigan. We planned accordingly with a portable TV/VCR combo, a ton of snacks, and coloring books. Additionally, we tried to prep our very energetic boys that we were going on a “big trip.” We were attempting to get them ready for a long ride.
However, something about the word “trip” lodged in one of the twin’s head. And early in the journey, he said, “I want to go on our trip!” He said it repeatedly. We tried to convince him that we were on the trip. But it didn’t work. We thought maybe it was McDonald’s. Nope. Maybe a gas station. Nope. Maybe the Mackinaw Bridge. Nope. The more we tried, the more we all became frustrated. It was the longest trip of our lives.
When we finally arrived at the Christian camp, we tried again. Nope. Before we checked in, we drove down to the beach to see Lake Superior. And suddenly we heard, “Look, it’s my trip!” Water! That’s what he meant. And how we wished we could have gotten inside his head thirteen hours earlier.
The little mind of our three-year-old had a vision of his “trip.” And it defined everything for his journey.
Let me give you another word and invite you to consider how it affects you and defines you: home.
When I say that word, what comes to mind? Perhaps a place of rest, contentment, joy, and familiarity. Maybe a place of acceptance, love, and togetherness. I also know that home can be complicated, I get that. But at its best, home is a place where everything seems as right as it can be.
That may be part of the grief of 2020 because you are not able to go “home.” Or you have a sense that home is not going to be the same. You’ll be home but it won’t feel like home.
From a spiritual perspective, it’s interesting how the Bible not only talks about our future home but also uses the vision of home to motivate us right now. This longing for our future home is a vital part of God’s message in the Bible and one of the ways God’s people endure hard times.
This is our third week in Advent. Today we’re in Isaiah 11, which details the hope of a future home for God’s people. In case you’ve not joined us before, we’re looking at important truths from Isaiah during this Advent season. This section of Isaiah was written to the people of Israel as they wrestled with an imminent invasion by Assyria. Things were bleak. But God offered hope to his people.
There are three promises in this text, given to motivate the people in their time of difficulty. God promises:
- A ruler who is righteousness
- A place to live in peace
- A deliverance from displacement
Each of these promises made centuries ago not only served as comfort in the eighth century, but they also are helpful today as we consider their fulfillment or how they parallel thoughts in the New Testament.
Promise #1 – A Ruler Who Is Righteous
The first promise is not so much about the location as it is related to who is involved. In the first five verses, we see the hope connected to a future ruler who will be marked with divine righteousness. He will govern in a way that fits with God’s holiness.
As we look at these verses, remember that these verses have been fulfilled in the sense that we know who Isaiah is referring to. This text points to Jesus. But there’s a part of this promise that is yet to be fully realized.
There’s a lot in these verses.
First, take note of the way in which Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s previous promises. In verse one he’s identified as the shoot from the stump of Jesse. By referring to “Jesse,” this text is connecting their future deliverer to the promise God made to David about his decedent ruling over Israel forever (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16). But this also relates to the promise of a future “David-like” king that would rule over Israel.
Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days (Hos. 3:5).
But also note the imagery of a shoot from a stump. The metaphor is meant to capture both destruction and hope. A stump, after all, remains after a tree is cut down. If you go back to Isaiah 10:32-34, you’d see that it is God himself who has chopped down the nation of Israel. Assyria is a tool of divine judgment in the hand of God (vs. 5) in order to turn his people back to himself.
God ordained the chastisement of his people in order to fulfill his loving plans for them. Discipline never destroys promises. Even though things looked bleak, God was still committed to his people. A small shoot will come from this providential stump.
If we fast forward three hundred years, we hear these words: “…you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
God was at work in surprising ways. The root system of God’s purposes was under the surface, but it was still there. And eventually, it produced a fruitful branch.
Stop right here. Some of you may need to be reminded again today that underneath the surface of your life is the root system of God’s purposes. Last week I said sovereignty is safer than certainty. Let me push that a little further. God’s sovereignty is more certain than my certainty.
Secondly, Isaiah records that the Spirit will rest upon this ruler from David’s line (v. 2). This divine empowerment will give him the ability to possess wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will be the “anointed one” – the Messiah, the Christ.
Perhaps this helps you to understand the baptism of Jesus which inaugurated his earthly ministry. This was the moment when the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Jesus, and a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Third, notice how he will rule. It’s a beautiful portrait:
- His delight (primary passion) is the fear of the Lord (v. 3a)
- His wisdom will go beyond what he sees with his eyes or hears with his ears (v. 3b)
- He will bring justice for those who are often mistreated, including the poor and the meek—those whose access to money or power makes them more vulnerable to exploitation (v. 4a)
Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! (Isa. 10:1–2).
- He will rule with divine power. His mere words will be the weapon he uses to subdue the world
- He will be characterized by righteousness and faithfulness—the very character of God
The hope for God’s people is in the right kind of ruler. The Messiah will be anointed with God’s spirit such that his rule will reflect God’s rule.
When we look in the book of Revelation, we see similar language in the second coming of Jesus:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Rev. 19:11–15).
The central hope of our future home is directly connected to one who will be ruling. Our hope is based on trust and confidence in the person of Jesus. Our longing for a “better day” and eternal rest is directly connected to who we are placing our trust in. Salvation is only possible because of Jesus, and our future home is special because Jesus is present and ruling. Isaiah promises a ruler who is righteous.
Promise #2 – A Place to Live in Peace
The second promise is connected to God’s plan to return the world to the peace, tranquility, and intimacy of the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve’s sin. The vision is of a place where all hostility, killing, and death are gone. It’s a time for the entire created order to experience the kind of “shalom” which characterized the world before everything.
Gary Smith, in his commentary on Isaiah, says:
Natural enemies in the animal kingdom will live together, feed together, and play together, but the strong or poisonous beasts will not harm anyone. Fear and danger will disappear, and they will be replaced with harmony and peaceful relationships. Formerly dangerous animals (like the wolf, lion, or cobra) will not even harm the most vulnerable children.
Look at the description in verse 6. A wolf will dwell with a lamb. A leopard will lie down with a young goat. A calf and a lion will do the same. A child shall lead them. In verses 7-8 we see a cow and a bear grazing together, a lion eating straw, a nursing child playing by the home of a cobra, and an older child will put his hand on an adder’s den. Nothing about this is normal. It’s otherworldly. This is completely foreign to us because danger and aggression are a part of the world in which we live.
This is what will characterize the rule and reign of Christ. Some people think this text is referring to the environment of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Others, including myself, think this refers to the one-thousand-year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20. That’s an interesting debate, but not the central point of our text. Good Christians can see the issue differently. But we all agree that this is the kind of peace that Jesus brings. And it is the peace that we long for when you’ve tasted the grace of God through Jesus.
Notice the compelling vision of verse 9! No more hurt. No more destruction. And the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth like the water covers the sea! Wow. “Everywhere the Lord is present in his holiness; everywhere the knowledge of him is enjoyed, knowing both the truth and the Lord of truth.” This sounds remarkably similar to the words of John in Revelation 21:22-24:
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.
But Revelation also tells us that there is coming a day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
This is the place we long for. A place where Satan is banished. Sin is defeated. And every part of every day is spent basking in the light of God’s good grace. This is what every Christian—every true Christian— is longing for.
In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn says:
Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us.
This what God’s grace is meant to accomplish in us—a deep longing for life to be at peace. For the person who knows Christ, it is our home. It’s where we belong. It’s our destiny in Jesus.
Promise #3 – A Deliverance from Displacement
This third promise brings us back into reality. The promise of global and personal peace is not yet realized. In fact, the more Christians understand about the grace and mercy of God, the more tension we feel. This is a world filled with all kinds of brokenness because of sin.
As a result, we feel the weight of our exile. Sometimes it’s merely a philosophical idea—our thinking is out-of-step with the world. At other times it’s personal–our friends or family are on very a different path. Sometimes it’s a group of people—the church feels its alien status. Sometimes it’s an entire culture. Most of church history would demonstrate that Christians lived in some kind of exile.
Israel knew this exile status but looked for a future day when their displacement would be over. Verse 10 describes the day when this root of Jesse will, “…stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire…” The light from the ruler of Israel will extend to all people.
Paul used this verse as part of his rationale for reaching the Gentiles in Romans 15:12. But Isaiah 11 imagines something even more. The promise here is of a regathering of God’s people from all over the known world—from the North, South, East, and West. All those who are “dispersed” or “banished” shall be called home. Their regathering will put an end to internal conflicts that marked the people of Israel (1:13).
The result is that his people join together in opposition to those who oppose God (v. 14). And nothing will be able to stand in God’s way. The Red Sea will be destroyed (v. 15a). The Euphrates River will be made into seven channels (v. 15b)—little streams that are no longer a barrier. From Assyria, there will be a highway for the remnant to return (v. 16). God is going to use the mighty nation of Assyria for his purposes.
The situation may seem bleak. Displacement and exile might feel overwhelming and hopeless. But God promises to bring his people back. Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
This is the promise of Jesus and it’s central to why we celebrate Advent. It reminds us of his first coming into the world as we wait for his return.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
How to Long for Home
As we consider this text and the various needs in our lives, let me draw your attention to three applications for you to consider about how to long for your true home.
- Set your mind on things above
Christian, use this text to remind your heart where your true affection and allegiance should be. Find ways during this season to elevate your affections for Jesus. Consider him. Think about him. Worship him. Read the Bible to know him. Find ways by yourself or with others to consider how glorious and wonderful he is.
If you are not yet a Christian, would you consider turning from your sin even today and trusting in Jesus?
- Allow good gifts to point you homeward
When you experience moments of “grace” in this lifetime, don’t merely enjoy them. Give thanks and let them remind you of the goodness yet to come. You think this is amazing? Just wait until we get home!
- Temper your sorrows with hope about home
The reason the Bible tells us about the future is to help us now. It presses us to endure and persevere with our future home in glory in mind. It reminds us that one day, Jesus is going to make everything right. And in this sense, we can be the freest people on earth. C.S. Lewis tells us why:
In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds. We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.
As a result, we can have hope as we long for home.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Ó College Park Church
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce this material in any format provided that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: by Mark Vroegop. Ó College Park Church - Indianapolis, Indiana. www.yourchurch.com
 Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 273.
 J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 119.