Isaiah has been prophesying about the end of Israel as a cautionary tale for Judah. We've seen that Assyria will be the instrument to crush Israel and then come for Jerusalem, sending Judah's villagers fleeing in fear. But the Lord will deal with Assyria and raise up a remnant of his people.
And Now For Some Good News
The news has been grim for awhile with all of the prophets begging Israel and Judah to get their act together and get right with God. And even the good news so far has been about a remnant and the story of a few.
But today, we star Chapter 11 with THE Good News.
Verse 1 tells us
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his root will bear fruit.Isaiah 11:1
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.Isaiah 11:2
JESUS. IS. COMING!
Jesse was King David's father. So the person being prophesied of is a human from that family line.
And it will bear fruit. We know that David has children and Solomon carries on the family line; but that was way before Isaiah's time. Isaiah is saying that line will bear fruit in the future.
Both in these verses and in Isaiah 6:13 the image is of a felled tree; but a root grows up in the stump. Holy seed. Life from death!
The MacArthur Bible Commentary states that Branch is a title for the Messiah.
A little sidebar
I have a Jewish friend who told me about a co-worker who used to constantly proselytize her at work. And her friend would use these type of verses and the famous passage of Isaiah 53 as incontrovertible proof of Jesus as the Messiah. I have friends that think the same way and say that Jews refuse to read these passage anymore. When I asked my Jewish friend her response to the co-worker she said that it was the Christian who was blind to these passages. We can only see Jesus. Our perspective is skewed to place Him into these messiah prophesies because that's what we already believe. In other words, confirmation bias.
I think she's right. These precious passages are folded in among the grim and inevitable grinding of man's story. And to us, as Christians, they stand out as clear as the red letters in the New Testament. You can say that the New Testament writers intentionally wrote from the Old Testament, and that's true too. That was their frame of reference. But with so many connections across authors, time, and circumstance we're back to the analogy of a tornado tearing through a junkyard and making a spaceship. The odds are just not likely.
All of this to say:
- I believe. My whole heart and every cell in me believes that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Son of God and came as the only path back to God from condemnation. And because of that, these passages do, indeed, stand out as bright and clear as the red letters of the New Testament. It's like when Aslan appears in a Chronicles of Narnia story- everything changes- and winter thaws when Aslan is on the move.
- Because I know I carry that bias, that preconceived conclusion, I try to stop and read these passage with a skeptical eye. I want to find Jesus in the Old Testament and learn as much as I can about Him. I want to learn and love Him more and I can't do that if I just drop new information into pre-prepared slots in my brain.
- It sounds contradictory- I am skeptical so that I can believe more; but it's really just metacognition- knowing HOW I learn, knowing HOW I think, I can be more confident in what I know.
- If I imagine that I am reading these passages with my Jewish friend, maybe there is more to understand. More about the culture. More about the time. More about Jesus.
One reason I can confidently and safely be skeptical about the Old Testament prophesies is the same reason I can be curious about science. I know that nothing is going to be uncovered that disproves God or disproves Jesus as The Messiah. You just can't disprove truth.
I'm not sure why I would stop to explain that. Maybe somebody needed to know that their skepticism is normal. We are told that we should be able to give a defense of our faith and a big part of that is thinking through what you read with an open mind. Looking to learn new things from the Lord. Jesus did not come as the people imagined. But His followers recognized Him all the same. I want that to be true of me. I want to recognize my Savior, even if He's not saving me the way I imagined.
Back to the Branch of Jesse
And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what He sees, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear...Isaiah 11:3
Who He Is
Philippians tells us that Jesus came to do the will of the Father, going so far as to say that describes Himself as a slave (doulos) to the Father. That's the same word we're supposed to be to Jesus. He is the Master; we are His slaves.
Because He came to do the will of His Father, He can delight in the fear of the Lord.
Verse 4 tells us more about what believe about Jesus and His ultimate kingdom, and what He already previewed in His First earthly ministry:
- He will judge the poor with righteousness, unlike the men of the age who judged the poor with corruption- showing favor to the rich. He can judge with righteousness because He IS Righteousness. He is Holy and cannot be unrighteous. Bringing that righteousness for us all.
- He will decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth. He can be truly fair because He knows it all. He knows our hearts. he knows everyone's pasts, motivations, and intentions.
- And he will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth. We see this in Revelations (and Old Testament prophets). Jesus opens His mouth and it is a sword. Striking down the unrighteous and reclaiming His earth, His creation.
- With the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Verse 5 adds that righteousness is a belt around His loins and faithfulness the belt around His waist.
The belt around His loins is what they used to gather the loose material of their garment when they went to war, so nothing would trip them up. MacArthur Commentary points out that the Messiah is ready for conflict. Not a fading, gentle man who loves everyone just the way they are...
Life Under His Reign
Because Jesus returns and redeems the deed on His creation, we will all live in a world without death and sin.
- Verse 6 tells us the wolf will dwell with the lamb
- The leopard will lie down with the kid- with a calf, a young lion, and a fatling
- "And a little boy will lead them"
That last one may be some sort of prophesy I am missing; because this obviously happens long after Jesus has been risen. I think it means that even a young boy can handle the animal husbandry under Jesus reign. There won't be scarcity and sin driving everything to seek to devour everything else.
Verse 7 continues the theme. The cow and the bear will graze and their young will lie down together. The Lion will eat straw, like the ox.
I think this verse really shows the redemption of all of creation. I think bears forage; but need meat to bulk up for winter and cats (lions) are outright carnivores. Meat eaters have been adapted overtime to need meat.
Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.Genesis 1:29-30, NASB
This passage in Genesis shows that in the completed creation, everything with life ate the vegetation that came from seeds. But now there are animals that will die if they don't eat meat.
But in verse 7, back in Isaiah, we see that the bear and lion will be able to grace vegetation just like the cow and the ox.
I find such relief in that one description of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The one founding principle of human society, scarcity, is seemingly washed away by the redemption of His Creation. No more contending with one another to survive. No more prospering by the loss of another. No more sustaining life through the death of others. Oh Glorious Day! I genuinely feel like weeping.
I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights. I always rooted for the deer when the lion was chasing it; but then hurt for the lion when they showed one starving. Why are we so sympathetic towards these wild animals? I think there's a big hint in that Genesis passage above: "...every thing that moves on the earth which has life..." Yes, we are made in God's image and we are set apart from the animal kingdom; but we all share the attribute of life. And we know the Jesus IS life. (John 1:1-5)
Knowing that the day is coming when we will be redeemed and transformed at the very level of design to function as we were designed fills me with a hope and joy like nothing else can.
The next verse is a continuation of this theme, but even more personal for us as humans. A nursing child can play by a cobra hole and tottler can put his hand into a viper den. This is similar to verse 7, nature playing nice and not needing to be afraid of one another. But this has infinitely more significance. The humans, women in particular, had a bad history with the snake and we entered into the same curse with different consequences. But in Genesis 3:15 we learn that one of those consequences for both of us is, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. And he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." Now, having the whole world redeemed by Jesus, the small, helpless offspring of humans can play near the home of the snakes and be safe.
A world in which there is no terror at the sight of the lion or the viper...Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
Summing it up in verse 9
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.Isaiah 11:9
Look at that. It's an amazing blessing to hope for the day without any of us hurting or destroying one another; but look at the cause of this new peace: The knowledge of the Lord. I'm co-leading a women's bible study right now by Kay Arthur titled, Lord I Want to Know You. The KNOWLEDGE of the Lord brings peace. It takes away our enmity for one another and the world around us. It saves.
His promises are yes and AMEN!
Verse 10 continues with the description and events of the Lord's Millennial Kingdom. This time the good news is for His Chosen people- the root of Jesse. They will stand as a signal for the people. Verse 11 continues on to explain that He will once again (for a second time) gather His Remnant.
Verse 12 continues that this remnant will be a standard. He will assemble the banished ones. He will gather the dispersed from all over the world.
This aligns will what we recently learned in Revelations. After the Christians are gone (raptured), God still needs a royal priesthood to lift up His name. Those that we refer to as the Lost Tribes of Israel are not lost; but dispersed. God knows where they are and will gather His 144,000 to start the work of bringing the lost to Him.
I am so very glad and grateful that our church study of Revelations came before I started into these prophets or I would have skimmed over all of this without really understanding. He is a good teacher. Once again, I admit that I was fearful of Revelations; but it makes it all make so much more sense.
Verse 13 seems to indicate that the, previous rebellious, Northern Tribes will now get along with Judah.
Verse 14 promises that this combined, gathered tribe will sweep the east and west of them victoriously, claiming their lost land. Verse 15 sounds like the Lord will make Egypt and its land unlivably dry.
Verse 16 seems to promise a highway for the remnant that will return from Assyria when that massive captivity ends. I'm not sure how this part would translate to the Millennial Kingdom. I'll be curious what the commentaries have to add about this verse outside of the context of the remnant of Israelite coming back after the Assyrian captivity.
Wiersbe calls it the "second exodus". I like that.
So much promise for the future. No wonder Isaiah breaks into a hymn of praise on the next chapter.
Hold tight to Hope, people. The Lord never fails us.