A Shoot and a Stump

Isaiah 11

During the month of July, we will take a few opportunities to focus on the prophet Isaiah and some of his most well-remembered and influential chapters in his book. We continue this week with Isaiah 11. 

One of the prophet Isaiah’s most famous oracle is concerning a shoot that shall come out of the stump of Jesse (11:1). Shoots and stumps are not commonplace objects or items of conversation in our daily life, and yet we immediately understand what Isaiah is trying to communicate with these simple images. 

Take a moment and read Isaiah 11.

Isaiah envisions a future for God’s people that is two-fold:

  1. There will be a person on whom God’s spirit will rest. This person will re-teach the people what God’s desire for them is.
  2. The people of Israel will be remade. They will be drawn together from every part of the world and they will live in righteousness. The other nations will be judged by their actions, and they will become an instrument for God’s purposes in reforming the world through this remnant of the people of Israel. 

While we can summarize Isaiah 11 into these two relatively brief items, they are by no means simple. Essentially, Isaiah is prophesying a complete re-ordering of the world! All nations, including Israel (both kingdoms of Israel and Judah), will be taught God’s ways. The world will have a chance to once again be good as God saw it in that creation story in Genesis 1. 

And this is one of the reasons that Isaiah is such an important prophet. Jesus and the New Testament writers understand the power of what Isaiah is prophesying here. Isaiah is trying to tell us that God’s future will not be defeated or ignored. God’s future will come! God will use the people of Israel to remake this world into a place of justice and righteousness, of equity for the meek, of judgment upon the ways of the wicked. Even the creatures of the earth will learn to live in harmony and peace with each other! 

God is going to bring the world to shalom

And it will happen through a shoot coming up from a stump that bears a branch. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him. Without even knowing it, Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. Jesus is the one who will bring just judgment, righteousness, condemnation of wickedness, faithfulness, and shalom. Jesus is the one who will cause the nations to learn God’s ways. Jesus is the one who will help new life to come from that old, battered, and dead stump. Jesus will remake us and remake this world. 

The church father Augustine wrote that we are creatures who regularly and routinely disorder our loves. We improperly order what we love in our lives. And Augustine went on to famously say that, “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you, O God.” And this is what Jesus is teaching us to do. To reorder our lives so that we can find rest in God.  This is the vision that Isaiah had for God’s people then. And it is the vision that we can have for God’s people now too. A day is coming when this work of remaking the world for God’s future will be complete. Until then, we endeavor to help bring it bit by bit and step by step. May we be like that shoot from the stump that bears a branch. And may our branch bear fruit.