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Dec 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 8, 2013 – Isaiah 11:1-10

Second Sunday In Advent: Christmas Lights

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1-10

INTRO: The scriptures designated for Advent reading are surprising

I expect passages typically associated with Christmas scenes
– angels and shepherds, wise men and the star, Mary and the baby
• instead we are taken to the political concerns of ancient Israel
• we come to this message from one of God’s prophets that was delivered to a distressed people
○ their nation on the verge of collapse
– what makes this passage a Christmas reading?

We want to look at the way the New Testament used Isaiah–especially in the writings of Luke
– the Gospel of Luke: Jesus ,in his home town, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath
• the scroll of Isaiah was handed to him to read and to perhaps comment on the reading
• Jesus unrolled the scroll to Isaiah 61 — at this point, Luke heightens the drama of the moment

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
(Lk. 4:18-21)

○ the fulfillment of the Scripture was being fulfilled there and then
○ Isaiah’s words were coming to life in the person of Jesus
– the Book of Acts: when Christianity first began to spread
• Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:26-38)
• here is another scene told with dramatic intensity
○ again, the passage the official read was from the prophecy of Isaiah (53:7-8)

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” . . . Then Philp opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. (Acts 8:32-35)

– Christian disciples, like Luke, were looking back at Isaiah through the lens of their experience of Jesus
• their eyes were opened to insights that not even Isaiah would have been able to see
• that gave them a fuller idea of what was in the Christmas package
○ and that is what makes Isaiah 11 a Christmas reading
○ so let’s take a closer look

First we notice that we are reading poetry

Poetry speaks through word pictures, metaphors and analogies
– it’s a better vehicle for communicating mystery than prose
– for example, let’s compare the “spirits” on the Messiah in verse 2 with the “belts” on his lois and waist in verse 5
• spirit refers to the internal qualities that drive his mission
• belt refers to the external policies that shape the performance of his mission

Poetry uses language to evoke feelings
– its intent is not so much to communicate facts to our minds, as truth to our hearts
– we are meant to feel the message of the poem

By its nature, poetry tells us to read slowly and carefully
– the content deserves close and focused attention
– while you venture into it, allow it to enter into you

The poem begins with King David (the reference, however, is to his father, Jesse–vv. 1& 10)

David had a special relationship with Yahweh
– he was a man after God’s heart and God had made a covenant with David to uphold his dynasty
• but the covenant came with conditions (2 Samuel 7:12-16)
– “stem” is something that’s been cut down, a “stump” (Job 14:7-9)
• the dynasty of David had failed — the tree had rotted and was dying
– but the stump was still there and it still had roots
• Isaiah is talking about a descendant of David who will be like him in the best ways

When you get right down to the roots, this is good stock

If the Messiah is going to run the country, what are his qualifications?

Isaiah does not list his qualifications, but his “spiritual gifts”

Wisdom and understanding – as in the Proverbs, has more to do with intelligence than education
– a full grasp of the situation with the insight necessary to make the best decision

Counsel and strength – frequently in reference to military strategy and might
Knowledge and fear of Yahweh
– not knowledge about – for example, facts, statistics, or information
• but knowledge that comes from experience — as in knowing a person
– the same is true of fear – it is not being afraid of, but having reverence for
• a reverence that rises naturally from experience — our response when overwhelmed with wonder
• he not only has the spirit of reverence, but he “delights” in reverence
○ characteristic of Jesus who taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Your name,” or, “Let Your name be reverenced”

The form of his government

“And He will not judge by what his eyes see”
– at first this seems wrong – our courts give lots of weight to eye-witnesses
• but the Messiah cannot be swayed by factors that can be manipulated
• he is not susceptible to making mistakes, because his verdicts are rendered according to God’s decisions
– it is disturbing to learn that an innocent person has been imprisoned or a guilty person has been acquitted

He has a special concern for the “poor” and “afflicted”
– people who are powerless – who have no social leverage
• the examples God emphasizes the most often are widows, orphans, and strangers (foreigners, at a disadvantage not knowing the local language or culture)
– Walter Brueggmann says, “It is impossible to overstate the cruciality of this vision of justice for the coming ideal king, the importance of which is evident in a society like ours, wherein governmental power is largely in the hands of the wealthy and powerful and is operated almost exclusively to their own advantage and benefit. Such an arrangement of public power is a complete contradiction of the biblical vision of government.” He also observes that in a society where everyone is self-seeking and serving their own interests, the needy of society predictably disappear from the screen of public awareness. Widows and orphans are the litmus test of justice and righteousness.”

– this is especially relevant to me when I think of my poor Mom
• some of us have had to ask that awful question, “Should we put Mom in a nursing home?”
• it is intensely sad, that the fate of one who has always been self-directed and self-determined should at the end of her life be subject to the ideas of what others think is best for her–if, indeed, that is their motivation

Vindicating the afflicted of the earth means Messiah will also bring a rod to “strike the earth”
– this is not a theme I like to dwell on, especially because we have such a poor (even warped) idea of what it means
– yet, it’s reassuring to know that the perfectly righteous and just Messiah is empowered to rescue the poor and deal with the wicked
• a great frustration we have with our legal system is when a just ruling is handed down, but never carried out

In all of this, it is interesting how God’s spiritual concerns materialize in our world
• as they enter our everyday experience, they become social and relational, not purely legal, moral, or religious
• when the crowd asked John the Baptist, “What shall we do?” He did not say, “Pray, read your Bible, be pious”
○ but, “Share what you have, don’t rip people off, don’t abuse your authority” (Lk. 3:10-14)

This this last scene inspires every kind and sensitive heart

The peace Messiah brings is so complete, it extends to the animal kingdom
– our chaotic, violent, unjust society is one in which humans revert to animal behavior
• searching for our place in the food chain
– in God’s ideal universe, peace prevails even in the jungle
• this is what happens when the earth is “full of the knowledge of Yahweh” (cf. Jer. 31:31-34)
• the Messiah is God’s beacon light to call Israel’s dispersed exiles home
○ but that light also catches the eye of all the nations and draws them to God as well

CONC: Think, for a moment, of Isaiah’s prophecy like a directory (in an office complex or mall)

Looking at it, you see a star with the caption, “You are here”
– where do we find ourselves in Isaiah’s envisioned future?
• where do details of his picture and the facts of our lives place us?
– If we say, “This is about our sin and guilt,” we miss the point
• it may have to do with God ’s diagnosis of our condition
• but the message is about Jesus ridding us of sin and guilt
○ it is Jesus becoming the physician of our soul, relieving us of a chronic pain or resolving an anxiety disorder
○ it is Jesus, Spirit-empowered, making the way for us to live in his world of righteousness and peace

The Lord Jesus, who specializes in our condition, offers us a way back to the Father

Christmas comes when we see the Light that guides us home

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