The Friday after Thanksgiving has been about leftovers – stuffing leftovers; mashed potato leftovers; gravy leftovers; and turkey leftovers. But in order for my family to enjoy those leftovers one thing must be accomplished. We must find the perfect Sperry family Christmas tree. And to find the perfect Sperry family Christmas tree we travel to Fred’s Christmas Tree Farm. When at Fred’s, it must be a spruce. It can be a white spruce, a blue spruce or a Norway spruce. And to find that spruce, we walk and walk and walk. It is good exercise in preparation for those leftovers. It takes time to find the perfect Sperry family Christmas tree. Some trees are too tall or too short or too bare or too full, with a lot of sap. Then we find it. We always find it. The one tree that is just right.
Once we find the tree that is just right, we take our picture with it, we just always do. And then I cut it down. We drag it back to the car as a family. We watch Lisa tie the tree down to the roof of the car as a family. At home we decorate the tree as a family. We enjoy evenings relaxing in the light of that tree. And on Christmas there will be presents under that tree. But soon thereafter, it will rest bear at the end of the driveway on trash pick-up day.
The only reminder of our perfect family Christmas tree will be a stump back at Fred’s Christmas Tree farm.
The Stump of Jesse
This is the picture of Isaiah 11. But to begin Isaiah 11 and to get the picture of Isaiah 11, it does not begin with verse one, but with Isaiah 10:33-34. These verses read right into Isaiah 11:1. “Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic One.” And immediately then Isaiah 11:1. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
The picture is that of a Christmas tree farm! There are just rows and rows and rows of reminders of what once was – trees. There once were abundant, full-grown trees. Some were too tall or too short. Some were too bare or too full, with a lot of sap. And now all that remains are reminders – stumps.
Notice the word stump. This particular word is used only three times in the Old Testament. The first time this word occurs is in Job 14:8. Listen carefully for it beginning with verse seven. “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.” And just mark this down: there is hope for a tree. Now read verses eight and nine. “Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant.” And just mark this down: there is hope for a tree when all that remains is a stump. What is that hope? It is hope from a stump.
And now get ready for the very next time the word stump occurs. It is Isaiah 11:1 (the third occurrence is Isaiah 40:24). “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
The Tree of Jesse
Notice the words “stump of Jesse.” What is a stump? It is a reminder of a tree. Therefore, the stump of Jesse is a reminder of the tree of Jesse. And what do trees have? Trees have branches. And we want to ask two questions. What is the tree of Jesse? And what are the branches of Jesse?
For this I want us to turn to the Gospel of Matthew. And just notice that the Gospel of Matthew opens with a tree, a family tree. Then notice that this family tree is divided into three sections. Then notice that this first section begins with a man named Abraham (Matthew 1:2). But what is really noteworthy is how the first section of this family tree concludes. It is Matthew 1:6. “and Jesse the father of David the king.”
This family tree continues with the remainder of verse six. “And David was the father of Solomon.” Who was Solomon? He was a king. Then the family tree continues with verse seven. “And Solomon the father of Rehoboam.” If you do not know who Rehoboam was, he was a king. “And Rehoboam the father of Abijah.” If you do not know who Abijah was, he was a king. “And Abijah the father of Asaph.” If you do not know who Asaph was, he was a king. Then the family tree continues. It continues with verse eight and verse nine and verse ten and verse eleven.
There is one verse in particular to point out. It is Matthew 1:9. “And Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz.” If you do not know who Ahaz was, he was a king. He was a king at the time of the writing of Isaiah 11.
The whole point is that Matthew 1:6-11 is the tree of Jesse. And the tree of Jesse had branches and each of those branches were kings. But then something happened. It is included in Matthew 1:11. It is called the deportation to Babylon. Let’s call this deportation to Babylon the cutting down of the tree. And when there is a cutting down of a tree what remains? A reminder; the only reminder is a stump.
But as of Isaiah 11, there was still a tree. But this tree will be cut down and what did Job 14:7-8 tell us? There is hope for a tree when all that remains is a stump. Listen again to Isaiah 11:1. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Where is the hope? It is a branch.
What is this Branch?
The big question is, what is this branch? Keep in mind that the stump of Jesse was once the tree of Jesse. And the tree of Jesse had branches and the branches were kings. Jesse was the father of kings. What possibly then is the branch that comes from the stump of Jesse? A king.
It is interesting that this branch is a branch of the stump and not necessarily just another branch of the former tree. Meaning, this king is not just another king. He will be different. How will he be different? Listen again to Isaiah 11:1. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” How will this branch, this king be different? He will bear fruit. This is what Isaiah 11:2-10 is all about. It is all about a different king from Jesse who bears fruit. And the next big question is, what is the fruit?
And the Spirit of the Lord Shall Rest Upon Him
I want us to notice the very first few words of verse two. “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” This identical wording is used again in Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Why is this important? Jesus read these very words in a synagogue on the Sabbath day. When he was finished reading these words “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” Then Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21). Again, why is this important? Isaiah 61 is talking about the same person as Isaiah 11. It is the king from the stump. A different king from Jesse who bears fruit.
And notice who Isaiah 61:1 affects. It affects people. The poor are people. The brokenhearted are people. The captives are people. The bound are people. And Jesus said in his first coming that he fulfilled those words. The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him. And how did this affect people? He brought good news.
Now back to Isaiah 11:2. “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Notice that verse two is given in pairs – wisdom and understanding; counsel and might; knowledge and the fear of the Lord. The last pair is the only pair that gets broken up in these ten verses.
It happens in the very next verse, Isaiah 11:3. “And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” I really like this verse. I find it fascinating and it is because of the word delight. Delight here means to smell with pleasure. The fear of the Lord is not something to run and hide from, instead this king, Jesus, savors it, smells it with pleasure. But it is a lot simpler just to say that his delight is in the fear of the Lord, or his joy is the awe of God, or he trembles at the thought of displeasing God. Just a fascinating statement.
But again, the pair gets broken up. The second half of the pair is in Isaiah 11:9. “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Just interesting that it is the only pair that is broken up and in a sense bookends the passage.
His joy was not to displease God. This was Jesus’ first coming. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). And Isaiah 11:9, this is more about Jesus’ second coming. The first half of Isaiah 11:9 is repeated in Isaiah 65:25. And the context there begins with Isaiah 65:17 which is about God creating new heavens and a new earth.
The point is that Isaiah 11:1-10 has in view both the first coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus with no time lapse. Why is that? Notice that the verses in between are the effects of this king. There is wording there that reflects Isaiah 61 (see 11:4, poor and meek). This king, his presence, his work, his purpose affects even nature (Isaiah 11:6-8). But most importantly this king affects people.
And His Resting Place Shall Be Glory
And this is how it ends. “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” This answers the question, what is his fruit? It is that his resting place shall be glory. His resting place shall be of infinite wonder and infinite beauty and infinite goodness and infinite worth. And this is all in view of his coming. His coming begins with his birth!
On Christmas night, some shepherds were out in some field watching their flocks. They did not know it was Christmas night, not until an angel of the Lord appeared and said, “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.’” And what is the good news? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The birth of Jesus the Christ is good news of great joy for all people. It is also good news that causes great joy for all people. The good news is the branch from this stump. And he preached good news.
He died. He was crucified for our sins. He was buried. And he rose again. He is alive. Death and the grave could not contain him. He is a different kind of king. And he left, but he will return. He is coming again. While we wait for him there are people who have not seen him, but love him and believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. Why is that? It is because the good news has been preached to them (1 Peter 1:8, 12). And by the way, these are poor, brokenhearted, captivated, bound people. See too Romans 15:12-13.
Why do we rejoice now? Because his rest is glory. The invitation to start this advent season is to you. Come to him. He is the branch from the stump of Jesse. He is the king, a different kind of king. He is the Messiah, the Savior, Christ the Lord.