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Isaiah 11:1-9 1

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but 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. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Background

God chose to raise up a king from the least likely son of an unlikely father. God did this so that when the king (it would be David) became great, people couldn’t say, “He comes from good stock!”—or “He has good genes.” God wanted to be clear, His hand of the Lord did this. The “shoot” is a symbol of hope and new life. It was a clear contrast to the hopelessness of the then king Ahaz, who’s policies, nearly destroyed the nation. Jesse was David’s father (1 Samuel 16). Jesse was a simple farmer and sheep owner who is remembered today for only one thing, that he was the father of the great king David. David became king, not because of his father’s strength, brilliance or wealth. David became king by the grace of God.

A quick review of the story: The prophet Samuel tells Jesse that God had decided to make one of his sons king, and asked Jesse to bring his sons to Samuel so he could see which one the Lord had chosen. Jesse brought them one by one but the Lord rejected each in turn. Finally, Samuel had to ask Jesse, “Are all your children here (1 Samuel 16:11), and Jesse scratched his head and remembered that his youngest (and least likely) son was out in the fields tending the sheep. Samuel told Jesse to bring this youngest son to him. This, of course, was David, his youngest son who God chose to be king.

The “shoot” that comes out of the root of Jesse (David) will not be dependent on his own strength or his own wisdom. He will be empowered to be and to do more than could be expected of a mere mortal man because he will be empowered by God Himself.  There are two contrasting examples the people would have.  Unlike Solomon, who was celebrated for his wisdom in his younger years (1 Kings 3, 10), but who fell into error as he grew older (1 Kings 11), the spirit of wisdom would rest on the “shoot” of Jesse. And unlike the king of Assyria, who said, “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I have understanding” (10:13), the “shoot” of Jesse will find his strength, wisdom, and understanding through the spirit of the Lord.

People typically judge  on what their eyes see or their ears hear. They seek evidence that can be verified scientifically (to be science it must be observable and repeatable). This scientific approach is good, and has led to improvements in human life. It has not, however, done much to improve the human heart. It has simply placed great power for good in the hands of good people and great power for treachery in the hands of bad people. As a result, one must conclude that science has its limitations. Isaiah tells us that the “shoot” that grows out of the stump of Jesse will not be bound by the limitations of science,  by the rules of evidence or by observation. Because the “shoot” will be able to see the hearts and know the innermost thoughts of men (because of God’s help), his judgments will be correct and justice will be served.

Isaiah reminds us that God has a special place in his heart for those in need. He requires rulers to “judge the people with righteous judgment” and not to distort justice, show partiality, or accept bribes (Deuteronomy 16:18-19; Psalm 83:3; Jeremiah 22:3). A good ruler promises to execute justice for widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 10:18) and to punish those who abuse widows or orphans (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 27:19). Jewish law contains a number of provisions to protect those in need (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 24:17-21; 25:5-8). Humanly speaking, mankind is a failure at these Godly commands. However, the “shoot” that grows out of the stump of Jesse will judge the poor and meek righteously and with equity.

Isaiah now gives us some unlikely examples of peace. The wolf and the lamb; the leopard and the goat; the lion and a calf . We should not take this literally. Isaiah, is using these animals in a poetic way, as symbols of natural enemies that represent the hostilities that exist among people and have existed from the very beginnings of time. Isaiah is drawing us a picture of a world where people live at peace with each other, a world where sin no longer creates hostilities that separate one person or a nation from another. Isaiah’s world is where people are able to acknowledge one another as friends, neighbors, brothers, and sisters without any such thing as labels, affiliations, color, etc..

Now Isaiah says, “and a little child will lead them” (v. 6). It is an obvious reference to God’s plan to work through the youngest and least likely son (David) of an unlikely farmer (Jesse). God is now choosing to work through a child to demonstrate that it is His power that counts, God’s power. Because David will be blessed by the spirit of the Lord (v. 2), this child will accomplish what strong, mature men only dream of accomplishing.

The cow and the bear will graze. Their young ones will lie down together. The lion shall eat straw like the ox” (v. 7). We now find more verses adds two more unlikely pairs, cow/bear and lion/ox. However the emphasis changes.  The bear will graze (eat grass) like a cow, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. This may be indicating how different the next “peaceful kingdom will be.”  And finally a scene that would clearly send shivers up any parents spine:  “The nursing child will play near a cobra’s hole, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den” (v. 8). To understand this last part, we need to go back to our Biblical roots, when a serpent contributed to the downfall of Adam and Eve that led to their expulsion from the garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Isaiah is telling us that when the “shoot” of Jesse establishes the peaceable kingdom, however, even this original fear and sin will be set aside in the coming kingdom. The curse of Genesis 3:14-15 will be reversed forever. 

“They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain“ (v. 9a). This is just another way of expressing the reality of the peaceable kingdom that is to come. There are two mountains that  bear the designation “my holy mountain” in the Old Testament. The first is Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb, (Exodus 3:1; 4:27; 18:5; Numbers 10:33; 1 Kings 19:8). The second is Mount Zion, the location of Jerusalem and the temple (Isaiah 2:3). Because of the reference to Zion in Isaiah 2:3, we can assume that Isaiah has Mount Zion in mind here. Because we know the entire story, we know that it would be through David’s lineage that Jesus would be born and die for us in Jerusalem. Isaiah’s verses contain a promise of a new Kingdom where “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.” This is worth hoping for. Amen.

Items for Discussion

  • God is choosing a leader for the nation of Israel – What do you see in David that God saw?
  • What were the advantages that David brought with him to the job? We know it wasn’t experience.
  • How would you describe Isaiah’s view of peace in the world by today’s contemporary standards?
  • All be it small, are there signs of Isaiah’s peace anywhere in the world?
  • What significance should we gain if we see elements of “Isaiah’s peace?”
  • What is the Christian’s role in Isaiah’s poetic and hopeful prophesy?
  • Do you think our society  tolerates “faith filled” leaders?
  • Why do you think that we no longer care about the “requirements of Deuteronomy such as not distorting justice,  not showing partiality, or not accepting bribes?
  • What signs would you consider significant that we are actually moving toward a world based on “God’s Holy Mountain?”

Discussion Challenge

  • God talks to us every week through Scriptures – What is He telling you this week?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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