Rev Erik Veerman
The Fruit of the Root of Jesse: Righteousness and Peace
Part of the allure of Christmas is a hope for peace. Think of all the Christmas cards that you send and receive each year. Peace. Love. Joy. Often with serene scenes of calm and tranquility. Or Coca-cola commercials with everyone holding hands and singing. At Christmas, we read in Luke 2, “on earth peace, good will toward men.” We long for peace. And perhaps at one point in each of our lives, we’ve thought… “maybe there can be peace here and now?”
In the well-known Charlie Brown Christmas special, Lucy said to Charlie Brown. “At this time of the year, I think we should put aside all our differences and try to be kind.” To which Charlie Brown responded. “Why does it have to be for just this time of the year? Can’t it be all year round?” Lucy retorted “What are you, some kind of fanatic or something?”
You see, although peace is something we long for, we desire with all our heart… peace is elusive. When it comes to peace, certainly we can understand what peace looks like around us. An absence of conflict, struggle, and hostility. But the peace that the Bible describes… it necessarily includes peace with God. You can’t have true peace on the outside if you and those around you don’t have peace with God. Deep down in our souls… I think we know that or feel that. An unsettled or troubled feeling, maybe fearful at times or even a bitterness or anger. We long to have that peace within and peace around us. But it only truly comes, if there’s peace with God. That’s why peace is so elusive.
Well through this prophecy in Isaiah 11, God reveals to us… how he will bring peace.
He shows us what we need in order to have peace. He tells us what it will take and who can bring peace.
Peace was also very elusive in the early days of Isaiah… especially the chapters we’ve been studying this advent. Chapters 7 through 11. Nation against nation. Blood and exile. Threats and attacks. If you remember, the region began with four nations… But rather quickly, the nation of Syria was destroyed. Then the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered. Judah, in the south, was still there, but only by the grace of God. Really, there was only 1 powerful nation remaining. The nation of Assyria. And it was growing stronger by the minute.
We didn’t read chapter 10, but it describes the Lord directing his attention to Assyria. Last week we briefly considered that even though Assyria surrounded Jerusalem… Judah’s godly king, Hezekiah, turned to the Lord. And the Lord struck down the Assyrian army.
Well, that wasn’t the end of Assyria… but in the last few verses of chapter 10, Isaiah prophesied that God would destroy Assyria. Assyria is described as a forest of mighty trees. Lofty and great in height. Yet the Lord, with his might will lop off it’s boughs… will hew down the trees to the ground. With “terrifying power” it says. He will cut down the thickets of the forest that is Assyria. “Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.” Assyria will not escape the Lord’s wrath.
A few years ago, we took a road trip out west. One of the places we visited was Kings Canyon National Park. Kings Canyon has several Sequoia tree groves. On our way there, I thought, “oh, we’re gonna go see some big trees.” And I pictured in my mind tree trunks maybe 4-5 feet in diameter. Well, we got there and my jaw dropped. These trees were massive. One of these mighty Sequoias had been cut down. We climbed up on its stump. All four kids and I were able to stand hand in hand from one side to the other, while Amy took a picture. A sequoia tree trunk can grow up to 30 feet in diameter, wider than this room.
This is the picture we’re given of Assyria. Of what would become of Assyria. A forest of giant trees. All felled. All destroyed with the axe of the mighty one.
And that brings us to verse 1 of chapter 11… but look what it says. It speaks of the stump of Jesse. Now, you may not remember, Jesse. But, Jesse was the father of King David. In fact, King Ahaz and his son, King Hezekiah were descendants of Jesse and David. So, Isaiah is speaking of Judah. That Judah itself will become a stump.
So here we are in Isaiah 11. Two nations actually remained, Assyria and Judah. But Isaiah prophesied that both would be cut down. And sure enough, that’s exactly what would happened. Babylon would rise up and destroy Assyria and conquer Judah.
There’s no peace in the land. No king that would last, good or bad. And no hope. They had hoped for a promised king in Judah. But Isaiah just told them that Judah itself would fall. So if you want to mentally enter in to situation. Think of what someone who lived in Jerusalem must have felt. All hope for peace was lost… for them, for their children, and their children’s children and so on.
We feel that despair today. Our world, as you well know, is fallen, devastated by sin. It’s everywhere. Power hungry dictators oppress, false religions kill, seduction destroys. Hatred is everywhere, vengeance is common, prejudice lives. As the proverbs and psalms say, the wicked lie in wait for innocent blood. Enemies fight. Our own sinful hearts lead us astray. There’s blood on our hands and on the streets. There’s no peace in this world because there’s no peace with God. And we feel that lack of peace in our hearts. Sometimes our hearts are full of unsettled fear from all of the conflict and evil on the outside. Sometimes our hearts are broken by our own sin on the inside, or the sin of others against us.
This is what the people of Judah were feeling, too. A most desperate situation. When all seems lost. When peace seemed impossible… Well, it’s then. in the lowest of places, that God gives them hope.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse” A shoot. A tender green stem from the dead stump. A glimmer of hope. A living seedling that would become a tree, a fruit bearing tree.
I did a word search on the name Jesse. Out of the 44 times in the whole Bible that Jesse is mentioned, 41 of them speak of Jesse being the father of David. These 2 references to Jesse here in verses 1 and 10… along with a direct quote of verse 10 in Romans 15. These are the only places where King David is not directly referenced or alluded to. This shoot from the stump of Jesse is not referring to King David. He was 250 years earlier. Yet, in the Scriptures, Jesse is inseparable from his son David. What this prophecy is revealing… is that this sapling, this Branch… will be a greater king David. David’s greater son, Jesus himself… in the line of David. And he will do something amazing. He will bring peace.
The reason we’re studying this prophecy in Advent, is that this king, Jesus, would come in weakness… would be born in weakness, as the tender stem. when all seemed lost, when hope and peace were gone. But he would bring a new kind of peace – peace with God.
Now, you may have noticed, the word peace is not actually in these verses! But I think you would agree, instead of using the word peace, verses 6-9 describe an amazing peace.
And this greater king david, the one described in the first 5 verses… would be a King like no other. One who would “bear fruit.” That’s the phrase used. Tangible fruit, bearing results, ruling and protecting His people in wisdom and bringing lasting peace like no other. That the summary.
To put it in a different way. Isaiah prophesied, first, the characteristics of the king. That’s verses 2 through 5. The righteousness that they and we need to have peace. And then second, verses 6 through 9. The results of His righteous reign. Perfect peace.
The Character of the King - Righteousness
So first, the character of the King. Godly righteousness and discernment. That’s the overwhelming sense of verses 2 through 5. This king will be filled with the Spirit of the Lord… The Holy Spirit. We see that in verse 2. A righteousness from the Spirit that’s full of wisdom to discern what is right. To discern good versus evil, that understands and knows truth from error, with knowledge that grasps the full breadth and depth of the heavens and earth. With the Spirit, he’ll have great counsel to advise in the right path to follow. Add to that, his judgments, verses 3 and 4, meaning his ability to judge a situation… are perfectly impartial and perfectly just. And with that perfect Spirit-filled wisdom, this king with enact what is right and just and good, knowing who his enemies are and defeating them. This complete knowledge and discernment and action… this is what it means to be righteous.
This is a stark contrast to any earthly ruler. It’s a direct contrast to the Assyrian king who boasted of his own will and power. That’s in chapter 10. It’s a clear contrast to King Ahaz, who trusted his own wisdom. In fact, no earthly king, including Hezekiah and King David… no earthly ruler has ever fulfilled the depth of divine wisdom and justice that this promised King would fulfill.
This tender shoot from Jesse would come into the world with the full endowment of the Father and Spirit... to govern with perfect righteousness.
We long for this kind of king, don’t we? No president, no governor, no body of legislature. No earthy institution. None of them can come close to the wisdom and righteousness of this promised king – Christ the Lord.
That’s because He is God. He has all the divine counsel and ability to judge rightly. He is a perfectly just King. If you look at verses 3-5… you’ll see an escalating completeness of His divine righteousness. It begins with a righteousness to free the poor, but it builds to a righteousness that the convicts and defeats the wicked.
He will not lead through or by winds of public sentiment, nor hearsay, nor will he declare kingly judgements based on external appearances… what “eyes see” or “ears hear,” verse 3. Rather, he will rule “equitably,” as it says. justly. He will be a completely righteous ruler with full objective judgment. Knowing what is right and true and good.
This is the true fruit and character of this promised king. Verse 5, “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
Beloved, this is the only way that you can have peace. A king who has intimate knowledge of your life. Who can speak to you with perfectly wise counsel. Who can minister through his perfect faithfulness when peace is elusive and the burdens in your life are overwhelming.
This Jesus, who was born in weakness, is now reigning in righteousness. He cares for the meek and the poor, verse 4. He’s a king who provides for and knows his people. We need a righteous king like this in our life, wise, and just, and faithful.
This was a radical promise for Judah. They were the oppressed, the weak, the poor. And unlike any other king, this king, this prophesied king… is promised to be completely full of God’s Spirit… to lead and judge with perfect wisdom and righteousness.
That’s who he is! His character is perfect righteousness.
And in his righteousness, he will bring peace.
Results of His Reign - Peace
Righteousness and peace go hand-in-hand in several places in Scripture. For example, Isaiah 32:17 “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Or Romans 14... “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Why? Because righteousness leads to peace. Perfect righteousness brings perfect Peace! So, what are the results of this righteous King’s reign… peace all around and peace with him.
Verses 6-9 are quite amazing. Aren’t they!? I mean, it’s an unimaginable peace… isn’t it! It goes against all the instincts of nature. At least of nature as we know it. After all, the lion is king of the jungle. The wolf, the fierce predator of the sheep. The bear… the ferocious avenger. All the animals, they all carry the instinct of self-preservation. When cornered they fight. When hungry they kill… when fearful, they run.
Even snakes. I do not like snakes. Some people here have had pet snakes living in their homes. Others here have had snakes living in their attic, on purpose. Both of those are true! After the service, you can try to figure out who those are.
We even read that a child can be by a nest of cobras! Without fear.
This world of harmony is upside-down. What lamb would live with a wolf? Or what bear or lion would graze on grass or eat straw? What child can safely put his hand in a nest of venomous snakes? Which enemies in the animal kingdom would lie down together? It does not make sense. We can’t picture it. It doesn’t even happen in a zoo! Even animals of the same kind fight.
This scene displays a shocking kind of peace. That’s the point. It’s not something we can understand. It’s not the world we live in. It’s most certainly not the world Isaiah lived in. No, quite the opposite. It’s shocking but it’s precisely the kind of peace that this righteous king will bring us.
On one level, God through Isaiah is demonstrating a restoration back to the Garden of Eden. A return to peace and tranquility. What I mean is that the fall affected everything. Sin and death entered the world. Even beyond the curse on man… all creation groans. We studied that in Romans 8 this last summer.
Yes, the heart of man failed, but even the animals were affected. Before the fall, Adam named the animals, they lived together, grazed together. It was only after the fall that death and enmity entered the world.
This restoration to the peace of Eden is a future promise. God will bring it about. And he’ll do it through the righteous king, the messiah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse. How will he do it? In his righteousness and infinite wisdom, he will judge what is good and right, and as righteous king, he will bring to an end, all the evil, and hatred, and sin, and enemies. He will prevail, triumphantly. And what will remain is a glorious peace. To use the language of verse 10. His resting place will be glorious.
And His restoration will not be just the saving of man, but the whole world will be renewed. There will be a new heavens and new earth.
Now, if you ask me, is this image of bears and wolves, lambs and calves at peace… will it literally come to pass? Will the new heavens and the new earth, will they resemble this vision with animals… resting together? Perhaps. But I think we miss the point if we just look at this vision as a return to Eden for the animal kingdom.
What I’d like to say, instead, is that this vision of peace and tranquility. It represents the peace in eternity with the King of Righteousness. With Christ. It’s a prophecy of the restoration of peace to those on whom his favor rests! Peace with God.
Christ, the greater King David, with the Spirit of Truth, will reign with equity, will defeat evil. He will bring to an end all the evil, all the lies, the enmity, death, even Satan himself will be defeated.
This is amazing. And God has already begun to bring this peace. Christ has come! He has redeemed us from sin. In the end, He will usher in this peace. And the vision Isaiah portrays will come to pass.
As Isaiah prophesied in verse 9… the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. An all encompassing peace… And it starts by having peace with Him. Realizing that what the world needs and what you need is peace with God.
And let me tell you how this king of righteousness achieved peace for you. He bought it. He paid the price to give you peace. He reconciled you to God, through his perfect righteousness. He did this through the cross.
The only way that peace with God could be achieved, is for the righteous king to endure the consequences of sin for you. We were the enemies of God, you and me, but he brought us near, gave us peace and forgiveness through the blood of the cross.
And he offers this unimaginable peace to you and calls you to believe.
Peace can only come through the one who can bring peace… the prince of peace, the king of Righteousness. The promised root of Jesse. Christ the Lord… And one day, all the blood and war, the vengeance and hatred will be no more… You can have this peace with him. He can bring peace to you. Can give you that promise of eternal peace with him…. If you see and believe him as your righteous king.
So is this Christmas hope for peace real? Yes! Isaiah promised the greater king david, and he’s come, and he’s reigning in righteousness, and he will come again and bring His beautiful, glorious resting place of peace for his people for ever.
After picking the most meager looking Christmas tree, Charlie Brown cried out “I guess I don’t really know what Christmas is all about.” In despair, he shouted “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus responded. “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” And in the middle of the stage, with a single light on him, Linus quoted Luke 2… “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom his favor rests!” Amen.