Dear brothers and sisters of our Advent King. Since we’ll be spending the next several weeks with Isaiah, let’s talk about prophecy. Obviously, I’m not talking about Jane Dickson or Nostradamus. However accurate, or inaccurate they may be, they are not prophets of God. God’s prophets were sent to call for the repentance of God’s people and for preparation for events to come, whether they be disasters or triumphs, judgments or blessings. Unlike modern-day prophets, who seek admiration and attention, glory, for themselves, God’s prophets did their work to the glory of him who sent them. They spoke of Israel’s fall and exile, and eventual restoration. But always Old Testament prophecy had as its focus the coming Messiah, the Advent King who would save mankind. Isaiah speaks of that king in our lesson for today; he speaks of his human roots, of his qualifications, and of the kingdom he will establish. And, no matter the number of centuries that must pass before his Coming, or his Second Coming, the blessings he brings will be worth the wait. Promises Made: God’s Kingdom is Worth Waiting For!
Isaiah spoke the words of our lesson at a time when wars threatened the security of God’s people. He warned of the Assyrians, who came as conquerors, but were in truth sent by God to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel for its rebellion against him. Judah itself was facing an onslaught it could not hope to withstand. But in the preceding chapter the Lord, through his prophet, told the people of the southern kingdom that they need not fear the Assyrians.
Yet Isaiah peered farther into the future and saw God’s judgment against Judah. The Lord had warned his people that when they sinned, they would experience judgment and that when they experienced judgment, they were to return to him in repentance, and he would forgive them. He had warned them against clever substitute salvations sought through alliances with other peoples. Yet his people ignored his warnings, and his promise of forgiveness. So the royal house of Judah would be cut down like the Assyrians. The glorious tree of David’s line would be reduced to a stump.
So Isaiah calls the people of Judah to trust the God who in love had chosen them to be his people. God, he insists, will not forget the promises he made. His faithfulness doesn’t end when human faithfulness has collapsed. By assuring the people of God’s faithfulness to them in their unworthiness, he calls them once again to turn to their faithful God, where they can find salvation from the troubles they have brought on themselves.
This salvation will come from an unlikely source: the “stump of Jesse.”
Yes, God can chop down mighty woods; yet he can also generate renewed life in dying wood. The royal line of Judah is called the stump of Jesse. ?Job speaks of a tree that has been cut down: “Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” This is God’s work and God’s way. He brings life out of death. God works his salvation out of the lowly rather than the mighty. But why does he say “the stump of Jesse,” rather than David? He wants to remind us that David’s line had humble origins, as does our Advent King, Jesus.
The shoot that God will raise up from the house of David will bear fruit. He will not seek so much to inspire awe, as earthly kings; rather, his chief work will be to nurture peace. But to be effective as the agent of God in a wicked world, this shoot also must exercise power to curb the wicked, and for that work he is admirably equipped:
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him… just as the Spirit had come with power upon Saul and then upon David, so the Spirit of the Lord would descend upon Isaiah’s announced deliverer, Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding…important gifts for anyone who seeks to rule. The Spirit of wisdom is practical wisdom, knowing how to deal with the problems of daily living – our King Jesus knows our troubles and can help us endure them. The Spirit of understanding is intellectual ability, allowing a person to see beyond the details of a particular situation and to make an assessment that fits the big picture – he knows how each event, whether trouble or triumph, fits into his good plan for our lives.
Counsel and power… counsel is the gift of being able to make plans and to come to decisions that will support the plans. Power is the ability to implement those plans. Now, we’re not talking about planning and implementing military strategy, here, because counsel and power have peaceful applications, too, and God’s deliverer is, after all, the Prince of Peace. Sending his Son is part of God’s strategy to win the war against the devil – not by military means, but through a single sacrifice.
Knowledge and fear of the Lord….our Coming King not only will know the will of his God and Father but will have a holy awe for the Father’s will and person. How does Jesus demonstrate this? He says of himself, “I always do what pleases the Father.”
He will not judge by what he sees or decide by what he hears. Jesus demonstrates time and again that he can see into the heart, and is not fooled by mere appearances or contrived testimonies. His rule and his decisions are just.
The Advent King will restore justice with righteousness. Our God always demonstrates a father’s style of justice which is in line with the best interests of his children. He punishes the children who disobey but remains true to his fatherly love by showing mercy and providing salvation to bring his disobedient children back to him. The “righteousness of God” is not a cold term that expresses only a demand for conformity to fixed standards; rather it suggests a God who is himself the standard and who provides all that his people need to meet his standard. His righteousness is absolute. All who are not righteous, that is, perfect, will be judged and destroyed. Yet God has provided the world with the only perfect righteousness he will accept. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, has achieved it and offers it to all. Those who believe receive the perfect righteousness God demands – and provides. Those who believe are worthy, in God’s sight, to be members of his family and subjects of his kingdom.
Isaiah pairs righteousness with faithfulness: together, they are like a belt or sash. They are what a man wears closest to his skin. He never appears in public without them. So our heavenly King never allows himself to be presented to his people without righteousness and faithfulness. They define his character
What a King he will be…and is! He is well-equipped for his tasks…and his rule. And what are the consequences of his coming?
Isaiah describes the coming kingdom: predator and prey living together, children playing unafraid near snakes, and so on. The King’s advent will usher in a kingdom in which peace prevails as it once did in Eden. The Prince of peace will introduce a rule that will generate a society in which none are eaters and none are eaten. None will take advantage of another’s weakness; none will lash out in fear against a perceived threat. The self-seeking laws of men under the rule of the world's prince, Satan, will be replaced by the law of love.
Has this kingdom come already? Clearly not. Are we to expect it in the future? Not in this world. Yes, our King already has established a kingdom of peace, but for now his rule is conducted under the cross and is hidden in our hearts. The core condition for peace, however, has been established. The most violent tension in fallen creation has been removed: Jesus, our Advent King has made peace between God and sinners. He has created a covenant of peace through the shedding of his blood on the Cross, the triumphant act of obedience to his Father – the reason he came, and the means by which he became our King. But seeking a kingdom of peace here on earth is chasing an illusion – as long as sin remains in the world we cannot legislate or otherwise make such a kingdom. Christ will reign in complete peace when he returns—that is certainly a thought to keep in mind this Advent. When that happens, you will see that Isaiah’s description is no exaggeration.
The length and breadth of the Messiah’s rule and the impact of his peace will not be limited to the people of the little kingdom of Israel. The Messiah’s lordship will transcend national boundaries. The consequence of our King’s advent will be a universal kingdom in which peace prevails.
That kingdom has begun to come into existence. Its borders expand whenever the gospel is preached and people are called to repentance. On the basis of this Isaiah text, Paul pleads for Jew and Gentile to accept each other in peaceable love: and we can extend that plea to include black and white, citizen and immigrant, Republican and Democrat. Our peaceful attitudes toward one another in one holy Christian church will proclaim to the nations what can happen when Christ becomes King and Savior of all. And as we strive to bring that peace, that kingdom, to others, we look forward to the promised establishment of an eternal peace and an eternal kingdom.
Friends, God’s Kingdom is Worth Waiting For! Our Coming King came once already, and he established peace between God and Man, as he promised. He set up his rule in your hearts, so you live in that promised kingdom even now. Share the love of your King with each other, and with those outside of his kingdom rule, that they may wait with us for the Kingdom that is to come. He promised that kingdom, too, and if Isaiah’s description is accurate, and it is, we can be sure it will be glorious.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.