Second Sunday in Advent
December 4, 2022
We’ve been hearing quite a bit the last two services about a promise of a branch. Last Wednesday, we heard Jeremiah prophesy of a branch. Today, it’s Isaiah.
THE BRANCH OF SALVATION HAS COME FROM JESSE
The Lord promises, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” As you may know, a shoot can rise from a stump or a branch can grow from a tree root and both of these can develop into full grown trees, from what had previously been cut down. Thus, God uses this excellent illustration to outline what He was going to bring into fruition. The Lord promises a branch from Jesse—a Messiah—to fulfill what the Israelite kings couldn’t—the salvation of the world.
The kings of Israel were never perfect kings. Even David, who is described as the king after God’s own heart, committed heinous sins. The kings of Israel sinned against the Lord, led the people into sin, and abused their power and authority. Most of the kings wickedly rebelled against God, refusing to trust Him. So, the Lord prophesied judgement.
Judgment came upon the people, and the kingdom was cut down. The kings lost their power and authority. God reduced His nation—His chosen people—to a stump. Many were driven into a foreign land. The Lord removed His protective hand, and terror fell upon them.
Even in the midst of punishment, God offers cherishing words of comfort. A tiny little shoot will rise from the stump of Jesse. A tiny little branch will come from its roots. The Branch comes from Jesse—who was king David’s father—because Christ Jesus is to be a new David, fulfilling that which not even the greatest king of Israel could fulfill in perfect love toward God and God’s people. Jesus comes from the line of David, and He succeeds where David and all the kings of Israel after Him failed so miserably.
Whereas the tree of the kingdom of Israel bore no fruit and was cut down to a stump, the Lord declares that Christ shall become a mighty tree and bear lots of fruit. Indeed, Jesus has fully branched out into a mighty tree. The fruit of Christ Jesus are all who come to faith in His blood bought redemption. You—who believe Jesus to be your Savior—you are the fruit of Christ.
Gifts of great power and authority belong to the Branch rising from the stump of Jesse. Isaiah prophesied, “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.” Our Triune God is quite active in this passage. The Father promises that the Holy Spirit will rest upon His Son. The fulfillment took place during the Baptism of Jesus. When Christ Jesus received baptism, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove to rest upon Him. The heavenly Father declared, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”
Isaiah speaks of special gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. The sinful nature doesn’t find the gifts mentioned to be worth all that much. We sinners are tempted to gain wisdom and understanding in our own ways—we do what we want (often sinfully) and suffer the consequences. You ever hear the phrase “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” We sinners want counsel and might to be beneficial to us above all. We sinners often desire knowledge that betters our own lives. We sinners can stray from a proper fear of the Lord. We may lack faith, act irreverently, neglect His Word, improperly use His holy name. These precious gifts of the Spirit that Christ received, we too often treat as useless throwaways.
Even so, the beauty of Christ’s redemptive work for our forgiveness, life, and salvation is that everything belonging to Him now belongs to us, too. The new person in us renewed by the Holy Spirit, the new creation we are by the Spirit’s life-giving power, receives these gifts with joy. The Lord our God grants the wisdom, understanding, counsel and might of His Word so that by His grace we may live our lives in the fear of the Lord—that is—faith which receives the salvation of God and behaves accordingly in love toward God and our neighbors.
Also belonging to the Branch of salvation, authority in heaven and on earth by which He uses His wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might for our good. Isaiah prophesied, “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.”
Jesus governs unlike any other king. Unlike anyone else, He purely delights in the fear of the Lord. The faithfulness He has shown to His heavenly Father He also shows to you. Through the blood bought redemption of the cross and His third day resurrection, Christ the Lord shows you a love and faithfulness no one else can. The Lord who delights in the fear of the Lord, shares this delight with you. You delight in the fear of the Lord—trusting His precious, saving name—as you delight in His Word. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Jesus doesn’t govern selfishly. He doesn’t play favorites the way we often do. He invites the poor, the sick, and the sinners to find a new life in Him. Those during His earthly ministry, whom others looked at with contempt, Jesus showed mercy and compassion. We sinners are recipients of the very same mercy and compassion. Christ our Lord declares, “Dear children, I have forgiven your sins, and I am preparing your place at the great banquet.”
Christ rules with mercy and compassion as He governs justly. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and the way of salvation has been revealed—faith, trust, belief in the atoning death and resurrection of Christ Jesus as revealed in God’s blessed Word. But those who turn away from the Lord of life and continue in their own sin and wickedness will receive a different message—a word of judgement. Those who do not belong to Christ will enter the death they have embraced. The Lord our God desires that all sinners cling to Christ through faith and be saved by the grace of His cross, rather than face death apart from Him. As John the Baptizer proclaims—the time to repent, to turn from sin and unbelief and turn to the Lord, is now!
As hard as it may be to see right now, the Branch of salvation grants a perfect peace that ends all violence, disharmony, and disunity. Isaiah prophesies, “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.”
We are all quite aware of the world’s violence. To illustrate how far-reaching Christ’s peace will be the Lord doesn’t tune us to a cable news network. He turns the channel to Animal Planet. God doesn’t just point out the disharmony that exists between people, but He points to the disharmony that has infected all of creation. The animal world is a terribly violent place. The lion chasing the terrified antelope. The boa squeezing its prey. Even as entertaining as people may find it to see bucks or giraffes fight for their honor, all of these events of the wild are examples of the disharmony of fallen creation. The violence also spreads human to animal and animal to human. It’s a dangerously violent world out there—ever since the fall.
Dear children of God, once sin, death, and hell are done away with and all of the consequences of these are gone, there will only be the peace of Christ in all of creation. This fulfills a great promise of return to paradise. This is a very real peace, and you have the opportunity to receive a foretaste of this peace at the altar when we partake of Christ’s Supper. For in that moment, heaven and earth are joined together because Christ is bodily present with us. So we sing together with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.
In Christ Jesus, all is being restored to the way God intended. Christ reconciles us to our God which brings peace. The peace we have with God means that we—as children of God redeemed by Christ—can be at peace with one another. This reconciliation will pervade all creation as we join Christ in the paradise of the new heavens and new earth on the last day.
Just as the paradise of Eden didn’t have the violence, turmoil, and suffering that we all see and face, so neither shall the heavenly kingdom to come. Animals are described as living peacefully with one another, and we shall live in peace and harmony with all God’s creation. As a sidenote, those of us who are carnivores perhaps need not fear. If Jesus can change water into wine, I still have hope to enjoy a juicy steak even in the peace of paradise to come.
Most importantly, through Christ Jesus we are promised to live in union and peace with our God. We have been joined to Christ so that we are under the peace of our Lord—a peace that comforts us through the temptations and sufferings of this fallen world. We enjoy His union and peace right now amid suffering, and one day we will experience it apart from suffering. Amen.