This message was shared on Dec. 8, 2013 at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church.
Heck, I’ve been a pastor for almost four years now. So I will post my sermons here when I have opportunity. I have come to the realization that though I don’t consider myself a gifted preacher or speaker, it is important to share these sermons more publicly. After all, if we believe that God speaks to us through the preaching of His Word, then even the humblest homily must have something to feed God’s people. So here goes!
From Jesse’s Stump (Isaiah 11:1-10)
In the stump of Jesse, Isaiah anticipated the bitter disappointment that the people of Israel when conquered by the Assyrian Empire. Thus, one of the lessons for Christians is to expect and embrace disappointment rather than pretending that nothing is ever wrong. We will experience failure, boredom, and spiritual dryness throughout life. Being a Christian doesn’t inoculate us from life’s pains and sorrows.
But disappointment is not really a mystery, nor does it arrive without a cause. Isaiah and most of the other Hebrew prophets saw a connection between Israel’s sin and her eventual downfall. Indeed, the leaders (shepherds) of Israel were much more highly scrutinized. They were accountable to God to lead with justice and compassion for all, especially the poor and disempowered. Yet, they failed. Like termite-infested tree, these corrupt leaders were causing Israel to rot from the inside out. God had to chop down and burn the rotted tree to save the entire forrest.
We might then ask ourselves whether there are aspects of our lives that are so rotten that it would do us better to have them cut away. Even if only a stump remains, chopping down the tree is still a prescription for future health.
Today’s passage doesn’t spell out God’s judgment against Israel’s corrupt leaders. But Isaiah’s vision of the shoot that grows out of the stump suggests that God will raise up a new leader who is completely opposite. He sees a leader who is like a fruit-bearing branch. One on whom the spirit of God rests. One who exhibits wisdom and understanding, counsel and might. One who is filled with the knowledge and fear of the Lord. Who is this new leader? He is the Messiah. The one who will judge with righteousness and cannot be tempted by sight and sound. This one will also judge on behalf of the needy and the poor. Yes, the righteous and faithful one will do away with evil.
And so, that tender little shoot will become the mightiest tree of all. The messiah will rule Israel and all the earth with righteousness and justice.
Is it any wonder why Christians identified the baby Jesus with this little shoot?
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, whom we confess to be Israel’s Messiah and the world’s Savior, let us open our lives to his purpose for all humanity. Just as Mary and Joseph protected the infant Jesus from harm, let us guard Jesus so that he can grow within our hearts and reign over us. We will then find our purpose for living – namely, to proclaim and make manifest the Messiah’s rule of righteousness, peace, and grace. Amen.