By: Pastor Matt Walton
Every great tree begins as a small seed. The great tree that became the nation of Israel began the same way. God chose a shepherd boy and raised him up to become the most powerful King in Israel’s history. David, the son of Jesse, had a heart after God’s and as a result, the Lord empowered him to conquer his every enemy. By the time David died, the nation of Israel was the most powerful nation on the face of the planet….a great spreading tree that overshadowed the whole world.
In David’s son, Solomon that tree bore fruit and blooms as the wealth of those conquered nations poured in from every direction. Israel was truly the envy of the entire world.
But beginning with Solomon, the rulers of Israel and then Judah slowly led their people away from the God who had made them great. They allowed other gods to rule in their hearts and taught the people to worship them instead. With only a few exceptions, the rulers of Israel and Judah became more and more wicked and the people followed their kings. Until finally the Lord could stand no more. In order to get their attention, God did the unthinkable. He destroyed His own nation. Using the Assyria and then Babylon as the axe of His judgment He chopped the great tree of Israel and Judah to the ground, scattering His people to the four corners of the earth, leaving only a stump behind to rot. And here is where Isaiah finds himself and his people when he writes chapter 11 of his book.
Isaiah 11:1-3a - “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 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 knowledge and fear of the Lord-and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
Isaiah stood firm in his faith even in the midst of ruin and destruction. He served the Lord faithfully though the people rejected both he and their God. He stood firm in his faith that day and he looked forward in faith to tomorrow.
Isaiah saw hope in the felled tree of Israel. His faith saw a tiny shoot growing up out of the dead stump. A Branch that sprung from the house and line of Jesse and from the same roots as the Great King David. And in the power of the Holy Spirit Isaiah poured out his vision of what was to come.
Luke 2:6-7-“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
More than 600 years had passed when Mary gave birth to Jesus. More than 600 years without a king of the throne of Israel. All that time waiting on the Branch of Jesse to appear. And now the time had come.
The virgin gives birth to a son and they name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. The Branch shoots up and hope is renewed. From the stump of Jesse new life springs. This is the story of Christmas.
And we need to hear this story again. We need it because our lives are full of stumps. Perhaps that marriage that you thought would last forever is just a rotted stump before you now. Or the body that had always been healthy and vibrant has felt the ax of pain and suffering. The job you loved that has supported you for years has been chopped out from under you and now you sit on its stump wondering what’s next.
We need to hear the story of the stump of Jesse because it reminds us that branches often shoot up from stumps. New life springs up from old death. And God is the god of new things.
But remember this, the greatest work of the Messiah was not being born on Christmas; it was being resurrected from the dead at Easter! God always does His best work on dead things! Why? Because only dead things need resurrection power!
I want to tell you that every stump in your life will spring to life again on this side of heaven but I can’t promise you that. But what I can promise you is this: if you make the Branch of Jesse the Lord of your life; the new life that springs from Him will sustain you for all eternity.
Jesus is the Branch of Jesse. May we worship Him in reverence and awe this Christmas. Amen.