This week Pastor Mark dives into Isaiah to illustrate our third Christmas Word: “HOPE” by encouraging us to Put our hope in the root of Jesse because 1. He is a better King
and 2. He has a better Kingdom

Citylight Manayunk | December 19, 2021 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.


Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 273

The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction Commentary by Alec Motyer

Sermon Transcript


I’ve been getting into gardening ever since I bought a house a few months back. This house I bought has this thing called a pergola – it’s a wooden trellis thing with vines draped around it. Looks kind of like a grape arbor and it’s really cool. Anyway, a few months ago I noticed that some of the vines from this trellis were creeping up into a nearby tree and starting to take it over. I figured that couldn’t be a good thing, so in a fit of zeal I furiously hacked off all the offending vines. It was only when I stood back to survey my handiwork that I realized I had literally cut every living vine off of the main trunk. Every one. All I was left with was like a trunk of vines about 6 feet tall. Zero green. Zero leaves. I thought I killed it. This was back in October. There was nothing to do about it at that point, so I left it and figured I’d deal with it next year. Well, lo and behold, wouldn’t you know it, about 6 weeks after this hack job – 6 weeks with literally no visible life on those trunks – new shoots started growing from the stumps. I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was dead. I apparently underestimated Wisteria, which I now understand is pretty much impossible to kill. I don’t have a before picture, but here’s what it looks like now [picture].The vine looked dead, but there was life in the vine. I couldn’t see it, but there was life there. 2:00

Our text today from the Prophet Isaiah opens on a similar note. Isaiah wrote these words about 700 years before the birth of Jesus. He was writing to Israel, a nation in utter turmoil, a nation that was suffering under terrible, corrupt leaders, and seriously threatened by outside aggressors. And in the runup to our text today, God, speaking through the prophet, is basically putting all these terrible leaders on blast. All these corrupt kings and officials, from Israel, Judah, and all the surrounding nations, who were worshiping idols, their own power, or both. And just before chapter 11, just before our text today, God says he’s gonna cut them all down: 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. Isaiah 10:33–34

Just like my poor Wisteria vine, except it’s not an accident, God is going to cut them all down. Clearcutting the forest of the wicked. But then, in chapter 11, we sort of zoom in to one little stump in this ash-gray forest, and we see a sign of life. A little sprig of green in the midst of the gray: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1 In other words, everything may look dead, but there’s life in the vine. And from this stump there’s going to emerge something new, something green, something beautiful, something to give God’s people hope. A new shoot. A new root. A new tree. And if all those other trees were kings, this means: a new king. And the rest of the verses go on to describe this king and his kingdom.

These verses give us a beautiful picture of our Christmas word for today: hope. Each week this Advent season we’re focusing on a different Christmas word that we hear this time of year: Peace, love, hope, joy. This week is HOPE. Let’s talk about hope for a minute.

We use the word hope quite a bit, don’t we? We use it for everyday things, like, “I hope the traffic on I-76 isn’t too bad”, or “I hope the Eagles don’t totally embarrass themselves this year.” But we also use hope for far more serious things: I hope my kids will turn out OK. I hope we can have kids. I hope I get married before I’m 30. I hope it’s not cancer. What do all these things have in common? Well, they’re all about the future. Right? Hope is about the future. When we say we “hope” that something will happen, what we mean is, we have an burning desire that the future will look better than today, or better than it otherwise could be. In a world that seems more broken than ever, we need hope. 5:30

And our text from Isaiah today is going to teach us about hope. Because for the people of Israel, when they needed hope in the midst of hopelessness, Isaiah pointed them to the answer: the root of Jesse, that is, a new king and a new kingdom he would bring. We know that this is the Messiah, Jesus, and his glorious kingdom. And so this text is very much a picture of what Christmas means: Christmas means hope. And the rest of Isaiah ch. 11 give us one of the most beautiful pictures of biblical hope in the whole Bible. Based on this new king, the root of Jesse, and his glorious kingdom. The Big Idea today is, Put your hope in the root of Jesse. Not just at Christmas, but all the time: Put your hope in the root of Jesse-that is, Jesus. And we’re going to see two reasons from our text why we can do that. 1. He is a better king. 2. He has a better kingdom. Let’s get into it. 6:30

1. He is a better king

First, he is a better king. Let me explain about “root of Jesse” or the “shoot from the stump of Jesse.” You see, Jesse was King David’s father. You may remember that at one time Israel had no king, but they begged God for a king, and so God gave them one. First King Saul, who didn’t turn out too great, but then David, the son of Jesse. Now, David was a pretty great king, a man after God’s own heart. But after David and his son Solomon, things went downhill fast. You can read about it in the OT books of Kings and 2 Chronicles, but basically they had one king after another, and they’re all for the most part terrible. They are terrible kings. That’s why God’s going to cut them down, along with all the pagan kings from the surrounding nations who are definitely no better.

So, when it says there’s going to come a shoot from the stump of Jesse, or a branch from his roots, or in v. 10 a root of Jesse, what it’s saying is, there’s going to be another king. A new king. A better king. And he’s related to the other ones b/c they are from common stock, but like a shoot popping up in a different place there’s going to be something unusual about him, something different about him. And he’s going to be unlike all the other kings. In fact we know he is not just going to be the son of David, but the divine Son of God. The first reason we can hope in the root of Jesse is that he – that is, Jesus – is a better king. Better than all the rest, way better than you or me at being kings of our own lives.

I’ve learned something new about biblical hope by studying this passage the past couple of weeks. You see, I’ve always thought of Christian hope as being entirely about the future, about having an expectation that things will be better in the future that somehow makes me feel better now. But while that’s definitely true, studying this passage has helped me to see that there’s more going on when it comes to Christian hope. You see, hope is definitely about how things will be better in the future – he’s got a better kingdom – but true hope, biblical hope, also has to do with the fact that right now we’ve got a better king. I mean maybe this king was in the future for ancient Israel, but for us, who know Jesus, who is present with us right now by His Holy Spirit, we have something right now in the present that can change how we experience our world. We have the presence of Jesus. We have a better king. 10:00

And so what I want to do for the next few minutes is just to go through all the things mentioned in vv. 2-5 about the root of Jesse, and show you how we have these things right now in Jesus. If you’re taking notes you can jot them down as we go. You can put the word “Jesus” at the top and we’ll fill in all the things. Let’s take a look.

Let’s start right with v. 2. It says And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding… (Isaiah 11:2) The first thing we see about Jesus, the root of Jesse, is that 1. Jesus has the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. The Gospels tell us that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit, all throughout Scripture, is especially associated with wisdom and understanding. As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 30, And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (1 Cor. 1:30 ESV). Paul is saying that Jesus fully displays the wisdom of God – in fact he became God’s wisdom. When we’re facing difficulties and all sorts of situations we’d never imagined, don’t we crave wisdom? Don’t we want to know what to do? The fact that Jesus has the Spirit of wisdom and understanding means that Jesus’ ideas are better than ours. When it comes to how we should live our lives, what we should prioritize, etc., Jesus’ ideas are better than ours. We should read his ideas and live by them. For example, when a lustful fantasy, a cutting word, or a stingy financial decision seems like a really good idea, we choose to believe that Jesus knows better. His wisdom might not look like the world’s – it might cause you to lay down your life or do something the world thinks is totally foolish – but his word guides us in His cross-shaped wisdom.

Next, it says he has … the Spirit of counsel and might (Isaiah 11:2). Here’s the second thing about King Jesus that gives us hope in the present: 2. Jesus has the Spirit of counsel and might. In another place in Isaiah Jesus is called “Wonderful Counselor.” Friends, when we have Jesus, we have a wonderful counselor who know us better than we know ourselves, and can help us help us to know what God wants us to do. Isn’t it great to know that Jesus is our wonderful counselor? But notice it also says the spirit of might. The Apostle Peter writes, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Pet. 1:3 ESV). We don’t just have a wonderful counselor, but we have a savior who is powerful, Who is mighty. Mighty to save, mighty to give us new hope, mighty to work in our lives and our situations. This is who Jesus is. What a great king we have! 13:00

Next, it says His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:3). This gives us the third thing we see about Jesus: 3. Jesus delights in the fear of the LORD What this means is that Jesus absolutely delights in honoring God with everything. And that means he’s present here and now to help you and me to honor God in everything. Is there a situation that you’re not sure what to do? What about calling on Jesus, and telling him you want to make his attitude your own: to fear and honor God above all things? Doesn’t that fill you with hope?

But it goes on from there: He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:3–4). Here’s our fourth reason Jesus is a better king: 4. Jesus judges the poor with righteousness. More good news! Jesus is the only one who calls all the shots completely right. He gets the calls right, 100% of the time. What about you? Where are you called to make decisions that affect other people? Maybe your kids, or other employees at your company, or just among friends and family? It’s so easy for us to make snap judgments based on appearances or biases, but King Jesus isn’t like that. He alone sees the heart, and he doesn’t show favoritism. Wherever we might “rule,” as we rule in the name of Jesus we too can rule justly and mercifully, not based on outward appearances or hunches or biases, but based on what God has said and what he is up to. Or, maybe you’re the one whom others have judged unjustly, and you’ve suffered for it. Isn’t it encouraging that Jesus is actually seeing the situation as it really is, and knows the heart? This also means that those whom the world would call weak and marginalized actually have a place of honor in the church (WGM tie-in).

Next, it says He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked (Isaiah 11:4). This sounds super violent, but look at what it’s really saying: it’s about the power of his mouth and the breath of his lips. In other words, This is about the words of Jesus. That’s our 5th thing: 5. Jesus has the most powerful words. There’s a scene in the gospel of John when they come to arrest Jesus, and Jesus just says “I am he,” and the guards fall down to the ground. Friends, the words of Jesus Christ are supremely powerful. His Word can slay the wicked. It can also slay the sin in our hearts and turn the hardest heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Know and love and declare the words of Jesus, for yourself and for others, and see your hope renewed.

Finally, Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. (Isaiah 11:5). That means 6. Jesus is perfectly righteous and faithful. Writing about this passage, one commentator says “The righteous character of the Messiah will enable him to do the right thing in all circumstances while his faithfulness will ensure his consistent dependability. He will display perfectly the character of God because the divine Spirit’s gifts will hang like clothes (a belt or sash) around him.” (Gary V. Smith). Isn’t this amazing? Jesus does the right thing in all circumstances. What’s more, he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever – he’s consistently dependable.

(sum up)
Friends, in running through these verses I’ve tried to show you what Jesus is like from Isaiah ch. 11. He’s a better king. And it’s all because of Christmas. He has been this king, ever since he was born in a dirty feeding trough some 2000 years ago. He’s better than any president, any mayor, and ruler, any king there ever was. He’s a better king of our own hearts, too. You see, when we put ourselves on the throne at the center of our lives, chaos ensues. But when Jesus reigns on the throne of our hearts, everything goes in its proper place. And what these verses mean is that hope is not just about the future, but it’s also about what we have right now in Jesus.. Friends, right now we have a better king. And this means that if you’re in Christ you have him right now to help, to show you mercy, and to make order out of chaos. And you have the power through him to rule rightly too.

But there’s more that we see in Isaiah 11. We don’t just have a better king, but he has a better kingdom. Let’s look at vv. 6–8. 17:15

2. He has a better kingdom

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
Isaiah 11:6–8

These verses describe a day that’s coming when the created order will be fundamentally and radically different than the way it is now. There’ll be no more predators – the wolf will lie down with the lamb. That means there will be no more crying, no more sighing, no more death. Everything sad will become untrue. And notice those verses about the snakes – a child will play over the hole of the cobra and so forth. Where, way back in the Bible do we remember something about snakes? That’s right, Genesis 3: The LORD God said to the serpent “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring….” (Genesis 3:14–15)

And this enmity – this hatred between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed that’s been playing out through all of human history – will come to an end in the kingdom of the Root of Jesse. Verse 9 sums it up:

They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:9

In other words, When the root of Jesse fully reigns, when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His eternal Kingdom, the war will be over. The created order will be fundamentally different. We will be fundamentally different. This passage doesn’t talk about it, but others in the Old & New Testament do: Those in Christ will rise again just like Jesus did. We’ll have new, resurrected bodies. Perfected in glory. The hope of the gospel is not hope in some disembodied state playing harps on clouds somewhere. No, in our flesh we will see God. We’ll be raised to new life along with the rest of the creation. In Christ, because of Christmas, we have a better kingdom. 19:45

Now, I want to help us take this personally, but first there’s an objection. If you’re not a Christian, you might be thinking, “Here it is, I knew it. The opiate of the masses on full display. Heaven, how nice. So you’re telling people to be happy with their miserable existence now because it’ll all be better in the great by-and-by. How quaint. Hasn’t this message been used to keep people docile? Didn’t the slave masters tell the slaves all about this to keep them down? Isn’t the message of heaven a message of earthly repression?” Historian Albert J. Raboteaux, in his magisterial book “Slave Religion,” addresses this claim head on:

Slave religion has been stereotyped as otherworldly and compensatory. It was otherworldly in the sense that it held that this world and this life were not the end…. To conclude, however, that religion distracted slaves from concern with this life and dissuaded them from action in the present is to distort the full story and to simplify the complex role of religious motivation and human behavior. It does not always follow that belief in a future state of happiness leads to acceptance of suffering in this world. It does not necessarily follow that a hope in a future when all wrongs will be righted leads to acquiescence to injustice in the present. He goes on to say, Slave religion had a this-worldly impact, not only in leading some slaves to acts of external rebellion, but also in helping slaves to assert and maintain a sense of personal value–even of ultimate worth.

What’s he saying? He’s saying it just doesn’t work the way the critics of religion say. In the case of slavery it was precisely belief in heaven that impelled some enslaved people to fight against injustice in the present. And it was precisely the gospel that gave them a sense of dignity and worth that no human institution however cruel and degrading could ever erase.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. C. S. Lewis

Friends, hope in the coming kingdom of God can change the way you experience life now. It can propel you to action to fight against injustice now, as a sign of that coming kingdom. And as a way of showing the world how good and great God is. What’s more, hope in the coming kingdom, I’d like to show you, can also actually change the way we experience the trials of life now, big and small. Let me give you an example of how you could take this personally.

I have a friend who has a godly Christian mom. And apparently she had crooked teeth. And one day my friend suggested to his mom that she get her crooked teeth fixed. And this great woman of God, you know what she said? “Why should I waste my money on that? I’ll get new teeth in the kingdom.” And she meant it, and she didn’t get her teeth fixed.

Now, am I saying that it’s a sin to get cosmetic dentistry? No. But what I am saying is, if the coming kingdom of God never affects you in the present, never changes the way you think or feel about anything, you’re missing out on something big that the gospel has to offer. If there’s no part of your life about which you’re saying “You know what, in eternity that’s not really going to matter,” or “in the kingdom that’s going to be all right” then you’re missing out on one of the greatest blessings of the Christian life, you’re missing out on true Christian hope. I know it’s not easy. It takes practice. Believe me, I know. Here’s my preacherly advice: this week, what is one thing about your life or about the world, one thing that you’re pretty sure is not going to change this side of heaven or is headed downhill fast, about which you could say “You know what? In the coming kingdom of God it’s going to be OK.” Let hope infect you.

Now, there’s just one more thing to see before we close, v. 10: 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. Isaiah 11:10

What’s this mean? Here’s what it means: It means that Jesus—the root of Jesse—is a “signal for the peoples”—he’s the one who actually calls the nations in. What are the nations? They are the thousands of people groups, about 3 billion people, who do not yet have full access to the gospel or have gospel-preaching churches among them. And he’s going to call them in. How will he do this? The last part of the verse alludes to it: “his resting place shall be glorious.” Now that sounds mysterious, but basically that’s temple language. It means the nations will stream to the temple, like it says back in Isaiah ch. 2. But you know where that temple is now? Right here. You and me. We, the people of God, are the new temple, and it’s as we go out and bring the message of this King to the nations that they will stream to him and find rest in him.

Jesus is the root of Jesse. He’s the king who was a son of David, but different from all the rest because he was also the Son of God. Completely spotless and without sin. Later on Isaiah writes about what would happen to the root of Jesse: He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him…. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2, 4–5).

Jesus the root of Jesse went to the cross to bear the penalty for sin, to bear the punishment for all the ways we make ourselves to be king or build our own little kingdoms. And on the cross he did battle with the ancient serpent, triumphing over him and crushing him under foot once and for all.

Look to the root of Jesse. Trust in his victory over the serpent. And live in hope that he is living in us, working out all things for our good, and bringing a glorious kingdom. “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.” Let’s pray.