The person and work of the Lord Jesus/Isaiah 11:1-9
When you think of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Biblical passages brought to mind may not include Isaiah chapter 11, but the first 9 verses are a glorious summary of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. It will bless you to become familiar with them.
Verse one reads, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” When Isaiah wrote these words, they were in the context of devastation. The scene in chapter 10 is a forest wiped away under the judgment of God with only stumps remaining.
You have perhaps seen the effects of a tornado on a forest, or a forest fire, or the harvesting of pine trees. A once flourishing wood is now gone. Isaiah has prophesied the fall of powerful Assyria, as well as Israel, and even Judah eventually being judged by God. There are depicted people once flourishing, now shattered.
Isaiah says in this devastation a shoot or sprout will appear on a stump. It seems vulnerable, but its roots are founded upon the promise of God. Jesse was the father of David, and the Lord had promised David that one of his descendants would be an everlasting king over God’s people. Isaiah pushes us into the future when this will be fulfilled; the birth of Christ.
Christ is born into a world that is under the judgment of God. A child born in humble circumstances doesn’t appear to be a remedy to sin and death, but this child is not ordinary. Heaven opened at his birth and announced the glory of God and peace on earth. Isaiah says the child will bear fruit. He will glorify God and give life to all who look upon him in faith.
We learn here the right way to view the nativity scene. Christ is beautiful to those who look upon him in faith. He is the only way to have life. He represents the grace of God in a dark, death-filled world. There is not peace on earth apart from him. There is the reign of evil, demonic power, and the earth full of sinful men. Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. And he appeared in fulfillment of the promise of God, whose word cannot be broken.
The scene in verses 6-9 is (among other things) a sight of future perfection reminiscent of Eden before sin and death entered the world. The small child can play in perfect safety around the cobra or adder. There is no evil that can enter the environment. The devil has been permanently removed, along with all other beings that reject the glory and blessedness of God. This is the new heavens and earth.
This is what the future holds for all those who belong to Christ. I heard a story of a man who carried his young child to the zoo. That night when he was being put to bed, the child said, “I can’t wait for the new heaven and earth.” “Why,” his father asked. “Because I will get to hug a tiger,” the boy replied. The child had the right idea. There will be peace and blessedness in the land of the Lord, and he will dwell with his people.
We are familiar with the words in Luke 2 from the angel to the shepherds: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news for a 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.”
When we hear those wonderful words in the light of Isaiah 11, see the fulfillment of God’s word in the appearing of the sprout of Jesse, and then look ahead to all the promises of God Christ accomplished by his atoning death and resurrection, we drink deeply of the beauty of Christ. Who cannot rejoice when the King of Kings is your Savior?
The Shepherds, upon seeing Christ in the manger and the words of the angel fulfilled, returned glorifying and praising God. We know much more than they did. We know the wonders of his love in the death he died, and grace he bestowed upon us. We have great reason to praise and glorify God.
The glory to come is now present with Christ. If you belong to him you are in heaven with him even now. We have grace, the deposit of glory, and the rest of the sum is being added to us even now. The Spirit of God in us is the beginning of heaven. So in the midst of all the devastation and trouble in the present world, look to Christ and be thankful. Thankfulness for Christ generates joy.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is the pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Union.