This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on December 15, 2013. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Is 11.
In this third week in Advent we are celebrating the coming of the Messiah. But let’s stop here and ask, why? Why are we celebrating the coming of one who has already come when we have already read his story? What spiritual good does it do to spend this time anticipating that which we have already seen fulfilled? Does the church calendar just want us to discuss something which is mostly irrelevant?
The fact is that in our modern, western Christianity, we have reduced the gospel and its significance to be only about our personal, individual salvation. When we talk about Christ the King – if we talk about him as the King at all, we only mean that we should probably listen to him. But the expectation of the coming of the Messiah was about much more than personal, individual salvation. This morning we want to look at a concept in Scripture and a passage that can help us to think about the significance of the coming of Jesus in a way that should change our way of thinking and hoping.
The Expectation of the Messiah was an Expectation of World Peace.
The Coming of the Branch: “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” This familiar verse says something amazing: a live shoot – a branch – will spring up from a dead stump. Ok, if you’ve been in the woods, you’ve seen that happen, but the shoot is usually not very healthy – nothing to be excited about. But here, Isaiah says that shoot will be “The Branch”! What is the branch? The branch is the Messiah. Zech.6:12 promised that the branch was going to build the Temple of the Lord – that he was going to rule on the throne of Judah as both a priest and a king. Zech.3:8 promises that through “…my servant the branch”, God was going to “remove the sin of this land in a single day.” In other words the branch was the servant of the Lord who was going to restore the people of God and the worship of God – and to rule God’s people. Now Isaiah says that out of a an unimpressive looking shoot, the branch – the Messiah – is going to come.
The Branch Will Be a Unique and Righteous King! “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist.”
Kings were not a great system of government. As Samuel warned the Israelites, if you want a king he will take your daughters into his harem and your sons into his army – and he will tax you for his palaces and wars.
But this king – The Branch – was going to be very different – unlike any king that ever was. He was going to be full of God’s Spirit, wise, understanding, strong and knowledgeable.
- In His Decision Making: He was going to be a king who would judge based not on what people presented to him (what he could see or hear), but on what was right.
- In His Policy: He was going to help the poor and the afflicted – care about his people and be fair – rather than catering to the powerful and rich as most kings would.
- In His Means of Change: He was going to rule the earth and strike the earth – not with weapons but with his words – which would actually change people through conviction rather than through armies and weapons, (real change, not enforced change).
- In His Character: He was going to be righteous and faithful and not say one thing but do another.
The Branch Will Begin a World Movement! “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb… And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,”
The rule of the Branch was going to be more than just the rule of a really good king. His rule was going to be supernatural – it was going to heal the world! That’s what this scene is about – the wolf and the lamb lying down together. This is a scene of God’s peace invading the world – changing the nature of even the animals so that they want to be at peace. The expectation of the rule of the Branch was that the world would be taken over by God’s righteous, peace-creating kingship. There would no longer be hurt, harm or destruction.
The Branch Will Gather the Nations in Peace: “For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.”
Finally the expectation of the coming of the Messiah – The Branch – was that he would gather all people – break down every division of race – of culture – bring peace to every hatred – and heal the people of the earth so that even the nations would come to the Branch. And the resting place that he offered to them would be glorious, wonderful.
What Should We Do with This Expectation?
We Have to See How Christ Has Fulfilled This Vision: Several things from this vision jump out. First Jesus Christ (the Word) has struck the earth. All over the earth, today, there are churches celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ – in every language, culture and race. Why? Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ has struck the earth by his death and resurrection – by his words of teaching. And those who have heard and who have believed – the nations – have become the new community of God’s people – the church. We are the fulfillment of this prophecy. We are the Temple that was built by Jesus (Eph.2:14-22).
Through Jesus, the Branch, the sin of the world has been removed in a single day – on the cross – and God is reconciling people to himself based on his forgiving grace and not on any devotion or true understanding or better living that we might try to offer up to him. We are his possession because he died for us – and he loved and loves us – and that is what we trust in.
We Have to See How We are Still Waiting: We also have to be honest about the fact that there is not justice in the earth. As God’s people, who have been struck by the cross and by the word, and healed, we can do justice to some extent. We can have peace on earth – in the new community of God’s people – the church – only there. But we are still waiting for the King to come. And what we know now is that Jesus, the King of Peace, has come – but he is coming again. And there will be peace – and the knowledge of God will cover the earth like the water covers the sea – which is to say that all people will be saturated not just with knowledge (our English word doesn’t do credit), but the idea is more one of union with God in which we are remade to be like him. But for now, today, we celebrate our waiting.
We Have to Embrace and Share this VIsion: Can you see now how much bigger the vision of the coming of Jesus is than just our reduced, personal – (just God and me) salvation. God does save individuals – be he saves us out of our individual, self-centered, divisive way of life, and he calls us into a new community of his people. He does not call us into this new community so that we can be safe and comfortable, or congratulate ourselves that we are not like those people outside (other men), but so that we can be a light and a sign to the world that the Messiah is coming. People have an expectation of this world that is false, impoverished. But as the church we can offer the world a vision of the future – an expectation of peace and a joyful hope that is for all people. We can offer people this expectation through Jesus the Branch – the healer of the world – of every person who comes to him in faith. We can invite people into a new community of peace.