Readings – Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3: 1-12
I truly enjoy greeting you all as you arrive for worship on Sunday, and greeting by wave to those traveling north and south along Market Street. But did you know that until about two years ago I enjoyed watching the birds and squirrels across the street? There once was a large sycamore tree on the corner of West Snyder and Market, at least 100 years old. Now just the stump remains, protruding about two feet above ground level. And this summer a shoot pushed upward, and it is now about three feet tall.
I guess that is why with many tree removal projects, the last phase is the grinding down of the old stump to below ground level and covering it with soil and grass seed. Where we live in Lewisburg, some small trees in our neighborhood have been recently cut down, and the stumps ground down. What a noise with the rotating circular saw blades grinding and grinding the stump to below ground level.
Focusing entirely this morning on the reading from the prophet Isaiah, he wrote–
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge of the Lord.
Here Isaiah described the qualities of the long, awaited Messiah.
So, who was this Jesse that Isaiah referenced? Jesse was the son of Obed and the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. You remember the story of Ruth and Naomi. Perhaps more importantly, Jesse was the father of David, the shepherd boy who used his slingshot to defeat Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, and he later became the King of a united Israel. King David reigned for about 40 years around 1,000 B.C.E. The prophet Isaiah wrote around 700 B.C.E., 300 years later, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse”.
We read this passage during the Advent season with the understanding that this shoot from the stump of Jesse was Jesus, born in Bethlehem, the city of David.
Isaiah anticipated a shoot would appear 700 years later. The time from Jesse’s death until Jesus’ birth was somewhere around 1,000 years! 1,000 years for a branch to grow out of the roots of Jesse, out of the stump of Jesse. I wonder if Isaiah envisioned it would take so long, a 1,000-year-old stump producing a shoot.
The last line of Isaiah’s prophetic vision was as follows –
…for the earth will be full of the knowledge [the glory] of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah’s faith told him that even when all that remained was the stump of Jesse, the father of King David, one day the stump would give birth because God’s purpose could not be denied. Perhaps delayed, but never denied.
Hymn #534 in the 1982 Hymnal declares the same.
v. 1 God is working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year… [refrain] the time shall be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. v. 2 From the utmost east to the utmost west, wherever foot hath trod… [refrain] that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. v. 3 March we forth in the strength of God, with the banner of Christ… [refrain] that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. v. 4 All we can do is nothing worth unless God blesses the deed… [refrain] when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
We, too, like Isaiah, await the day when the entire “earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the water covers the sea.”
And we know “the glory of God”, we know the “knowledge of God”.
In this interim time as God is surely working his purpose out, I want to do my part, and I am sure you want to do your part in filling the earth with love as “the waters cover the sea”.
So, we love; we love our neighbors, we love them as we love ourselves; and we love our enemies, too.
Love is all we need as we partner with God who is working his purpose out.