A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
This is hope: that even when the forest has been decimated, every last living plant hacked to the ground, no birdsong in the trees—even then, when all seems lost, a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.
In today’s passage, we read about Israel, having endured slavery and wilderness, now in exile. The people of God are weary and battered, discouraged by their own sin and the wickedness of the world. They look around: No one lives honorably. Evil reigns. Orphans are preyed upon. Widows are neglected. People are puffed up, and institutions corrupt. And God, in his righteous judgment, intends to put a stop to it by bringing it all to the ground. He “will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down” (Isaiah 10:33). All that will be left is a barren landscape, the bald remains of a clear-cut forest.
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).
Imagine wandering through that post-apocalyptic landscape, seeing nothing but gray for miles, and suddenly coming across that shoot! The first green. The first bit of supple growth, signaling water beneath and, someday, a tree.
Who is this shoot, whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon?
Jesus. Jesus, descendant of Jesse. Jesus, descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus, the one promised centuries before his arrival. Jesus is the one we hope for this Advent.
When the forest is felled, Christ remains.
Prayer: God, I am amazed at your patience and your plan for redeeming all things. Give me the strength to keep hoping. Give me the faith to keep trusting. Jesus, would you show up this Advent? Amen.