Please read Isaiah 11: 1-10 and Matthew 1: 1-17, and then pray; Almighty God, Sovereign over all creation, open my eyes to see something of the wonder of your masterplan for the salvation of the world through the precious and priceless gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen!
I begin this look at the astonishing prophecy in Isaiah 11 by quoting the lovely words from the song “Forever” written by Dave Bilbrough;

Who can ever say they understand all the wonders of His masterplan?
Christ came down and gave himself to man – forever more.
He was Lord before all time began, yet made himself the sacrificial lamb,
Perfect love now reconciled to man – forever more.

Forever more we’ll sing the story of love come down.
Forever more the King of glory we will crown.

He is coming back to earth again, every knee shall bow before His throne,
“Christ the Lord,” let thankful hearts proclaim – forever more.

We will never be able to understand the full weight of the glory, and magnificent wonder of God’s masterplan of salvation revealed and offered to the world through the gift of Jesus. However, the bible does clearly give us some of the most essential details (centred around the two advents of Jesus) which are enough to blow anyone’s mind – and the OT prophets were given revelation by God, which according to the apostle Peter, they themselves were never permitted to see or comprehend during their earthly lifetimes and ministries. Their insights were for us. Peter writes:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest of care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1 :10-12)

Notice that last comment by Peter. Even angels cannot understand this supernatural eternal master plan of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It fascinates the angels but also confounds them! The most inspired prophets could not understand God’s salvation plans, but they could be used by the Holy Spirit to communicate important facets and aspects of these grand and glorious plans which had at their centre – “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (1 Peter 1:11)

Of all the mighty prophetical figures of the OT, Isaiah stands out as possibly the greatest. You only need to read Isaiah 53 and his revelations about “the suffering servant” – and then see with amazement how that prophecy is fulfilled down to the last detail in the New Testament through the sufferings and death of Jesus, to be convinced of the extraordinary inspiration, inerrancy, and power of the Holy Scriptures. Isaiah is the most quoted and referred to prophet in the NT, and for good reason. He is a prophet who was given extraordinary insight into the coming, birth, life, Spirit-filled ministry, sufferings, death, resurrection and second coming of Jesus. Just take prophecies in chapter 7 and 9 as superb examples; you will be familiar with them and their relevance to advent and Christmas:

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.  Isaiah 9: 6-7 

We are back again with the “forever” masterplan of the Lord God Almighty. Remember, Isaiah was speaking seven centuries before this “son” was born, but again, like so many of his prophecies, we have the intermingling of details relating to the two advents of the Christ. And so, we can now take a brief look at the extraordinary prophecy in Isaiah 11.

Here Isaiah has just spoken of the complete humbling of the Assyrian Empire who were responsible for the devastation of Israel (the northern Kingdom) and were now threatening Judah (the Southern Kingdom) with an “upraised fist.” (10:32) Assyria will be completely “felled.” Their forest will be cut down and brought low. (34) In their arrogance and pride, they will be humbled.

Then using identical imagery Isaiah continues (into chapter 11) and speaks about a time when it will also feel like the Davidic line (from Judah) will appear to be like only “a stump” of a tree. But from this stump, a Branch will suddenly appear and bear fruit. This is messianic language as chapter 4: 2-6 reveals and confirms. So, we are suddenly faced with a messianic prophecy relating to the (distant) future, a future filled with glorious and fruitful hope. And now from verses 1-10, we are blessed by revelation regarding;

  • The origins and identity of this “Branch” – the Messiah figure.
  • The characteristics of his rule which will be incomparably just and righteous.
  • A time when (under his rule) there will a total renewal and transformation of all creation.

Firstly, this Messiah and Saviour figure will come out of or be descended from Jesse’s line. As the OT so often asserts, the Messiah will be descended directly from King David whose father was Jesse. This is the reason why we read that important genealogy in Matthew which includes details of King David and his father Jesse (Matthew 1:7 and 17) – Jesus, the Christ was descended from this very line. This is the reason why the story of Ruth the Moabitess is highlighted in the OT. (Ruth 4: 16-22) That little book concludes with the vital bit of information; Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David.

David was promised that his line would never cease. His throne would last forever. God’s covenant promises to King David cannot be stressed too much in terms of God’s masterplan:

Your Kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:16)

 The Messiah, the greatest of all Kings, had to be descended from David. Returning to Isaiah 9:7 and “the child is born prophecy,” Isaiah declares this; Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over is kingdom.

And now, most significantly, especially bearing in mind this advent season, when it comes to the promise of the birth of Jesus to his mother Mary, the words of the angel Gabriel are remarkable;

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and you will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”  (Luke 1:30-33)

At the point when Jesus was born, it is a historical fact that that the line of the great David had been reduced to a mere stump. It had barely survived. It was at rock-bottom. But then the Branch was born in Bethlehem (David’s town) and grew up in Galilee – and the NT again and again emphasises that in line with God’s masterplan promises, Jesus was a descendant of King David. St Paul loved to stress this in his letters;

The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets (like Isaiah) in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:3-4

With regards to human descent – Jesus fits the bill! He is of David and therefore Jesse’s line. He is David’s “greater Son.” He is in fact David’s Lord as Jesus himself revealed to the Pharisees who he bamboozled with his insights and answers. (Matthew 22: 41-46). Isaiah prophesied about a Branch coming from the stump of Jesse. Jesus is this Branch destined to bear eternal fruit!

But there is something else about this Branch that will mark him out from all others. Not only will he be of David’s line, he will also be unusually and exceptionally endowed with the Spirit of the Lord. (11:2-3) The Branch who will also be a glorious Banner unfurled for all nations to see (v10) and drawn towards, will possess a most distinct endowment of the Holy Spirit. This “resting of the Holy Spirit” upon him will make him stand out above all others.

Now this is the Spirit that came upon Jesus at his baptism in the river Jordon. The Spirit descended like a dove from heaven and lighted on him. (Matthew 3:16) John the Baptist who was there would never forget this powerful phenomenon. (John 1: 32-34) And John, the gospel writer and close friend and disciple of Jesus wrote:

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. (John 3:34)

No long after his baptism, what happens to Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth is truly amazing, for it is in this context where Jesus reads from – guess where – the prophet Isaiah. And which ancient prophecy does he read and then claim he has personally fulfilled in their meeting that very day? It is Isaiah 61: 1-2 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….     (see Luke 4: 17-21)

The Spirit who came upon Jesus in fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1 at his baptism, is the Spirit who rests and remains upon Jesus so that he might bring in the Kingdom of God in fulfilment of Isaiah 61: 1-2. Jesus’s ministry is marked consistently by the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) for which the devil has no answers.

This leads us to the next point in this awesome prophecy in Isaiah 11 – which is this. It is by this Holy Spirit, and in the light and power of the Spirit, that Jesus Christ will lead, judge and reign. The Spirit will enable and empower the Messiah to govern in three ways:

  • With wisdom and understanding (even greater that Solomon’s)
  • With counsel and power (from the Father and the Spirit)
  • With a unique knowledge and fear of the Lord

The Messiah will reign in the delight and the fear of the Lord. He will seek only to do the will of God, honouring God in every way. His decision making will be perfectly just and righteous. He will not be swayed in any way. He will judge impartially – and not be affected by anything or anyone – save the voice of his Father. His leadership and reign will be marked by justice, righteousness, and faithfulness to God. (read again v 3b-5). Righteousness will be his belt, faithfulness to God – his royal sash.

All these things shone out in the life of Jesus Christ – and yet he was born in poverty, and did not live like an extravagant earthly King. He possessed a faultless Spirit of wisdom and understanding. He followed the counsel of the Lord and did powerful deeds to release the captives. He stood by and with the poorest and neediest. He loved justice and never feared powerful men but instead spoke prophetically to them and sometimes against them and their evil deeds. He feared neither Herod nor Pilate; His only “fear” was the fear of displeasing his Father. Justice, righteousness, faithfulness, and compassions are the traits and characteristics of his liberating Kingdom. This is splayed all over the pages of the NT. This is the King Israel longed for and dreamed about. (see Psalm 72 – the ideal King)

And yet to finish analysing our passage today and particularly v 6-9, we are then taken by Isaiah to another level; we are transported to another dimension – to the fullness of the Kingdom of God, and to all that will occur after the second advent (arrival, coming) of the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Isaiah, like so many of the prophets often speaks of Christ’s first and second coming within a hair’s breadth of each other. With his first advent, the Kingdom comes near; this is seen in the radical transformation of lives, the thousands of healings, the powerful expulsion of evil, the raising of the dead, the cleansing of lepers, the calming of violent storms (spiritual or physical). Yes – even the winds and waves obey him. The Kingdom has arrived.

But he had come primarily this first time to “offer his life as a ransom of many.” He came to be “pierced for our transgressions” and to be “crushed for our iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:5). He came also to defeat death and be raised to new life – and to start a resurrection process and the renewal of all things. He solemnly promised he would return and bring in the fullness of his reign and kingdom. This is what we highlight during advent. Through his glorious second coming, He will appear as King of all Kings like a Banner being displayed across the entire world. People from all nations will rally to Him. Quite astonishingly, in the very last chapter of the bible (Revelation 22) – Jesus says the following;

Behold, I am coming soon. (v12)

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (v13)

I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. (v16)

Here, quite remarkably, Jesus promises to return to set up the new heavens and earth, but also confirms the puzzling prophecy of ISAIAH 11. In Isaiah 11, the prophet describes the future Spirit-filled King as both the “shoot” of Jesse (v1) and the “root” of Jesse (v10). Can someone, the same person, be both a shoot and a root? The answer is – yes! But only JESUS. For only he is before Jesse and David and after Jesse and David! They are rooted in Him; He springs forth from their line.

Jesus declares to the world – I am the Offspring (the shoot) of David – but I am also the Root of David. I created David! I was before David. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.

When he returns with power and awesome glory, He will establish something that is entirely new and that we have never seen before. Isaiah speaks of the creation of “new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17). The former things (the things we know and which are our experience) WILL NOT BE REMEMBERED, nor will they come to mind. (see also I Corinthians 2: 9-10)

Everything will be different and brand new. All the pain, the hurt, the disharmony, the disease, and death itself will be gone forever. The Kingdom of God will come and God’s purposes of love and peace and righteousness will prevail. You will see things that you never imagined could be possible; but with God and with Jesus, all things are possible. (Luke 1:37) Here is what you will see and experience. Isaiah was given a window into the far future to see it and to marvel at it; Read Isaiah 11 v 6-9

This is what happens when the knowledge and the glory of God covers the whole earth. This is the radical nature of the transformation of all things which is yet to come. More could be said, but that will have to suffice for now. This is the reason why we passionately pray (especially during advent) – “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done – on earth as in heaven.” This is the reason why we cry: “Come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20). We want to see what Jesus accomplished 2000 years ago come to its glorious conclusion and completion. We want to see Jesus Christ blaze like a Banner across the world. (Isaiah 11:10). We want to see the full harvest of Jew and Gentile safely gathered in. (v12) We want to see the reign of the Prince of Peace. We want to see justice fully established and executed!

Thank God for the faithful ministry of the Isaiah! Listen to his words again from the ninth chapter.

Read Isaiah 9 v 6-7

The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this masterplan!  The Son of David came the first time as prophesied and promised by Isaiah and others. He will come again as He himself has prophesied and promised. Will we be among those who are ready and waiting, actively serving the Master, and praying for the Kingdom to come? Do we live joyfully and gratefully under His Banner right now? Do we live in such a way as to hasten the Day of His return? (2 Peter 3:1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit!  Amen!

Revd Peter J Clarkson (11.12.22)