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Sermon for December 8, 2019, Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10 (Second Sunday in Advent—Series A)

“Shoots from Stumps”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

December 8, 2019

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text is the Old Testament reading, recorded in Isaiah 11:

1And a shoot will come forth from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2And the Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh. 3And his delight will be in the fear of Yahweh and he will not judge by what his eyes see, and he will not decide by what his ears hear. 4And he will judge the poor with righteousness, and he will decide with uprightness for the meek of the earth and he will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5And righteousness will be the belt of his waist and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together. And a small boy shall lead them. 7And the bear and the cow will graze. Their young will lie down together. And the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8And the nursing infant will play over the hole of the cobra and over the den of the viper the weaned child will stretch out his hand. 9They will not hurt nor destroy on all my holy mountain because the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh like the waters cover the sea. 10And it will be on that day that root of Jesse, which is standing for a signal to the peoples, of him the nations will inquire, and his resting place will be glorious.

 

          We have a short, stout tree in our backyard down by our garden spot that we call “the burning bush.” It wasn’t the loveliest of trees, so a couple years ago, we asked that it be cut down. Dana took the chainsaw to it, down to the stump! Awesome!

          We still have a short, stout tree in our backyard down by our garden spot that we named “the burning bush.” It’s full of branches and leaves and keeps growing. What happened? The stump was still connected to the roots. The stump, even though it had all its trunk and branches removed, sprouted a shoot, a twig, a little green branch. And it grew. It sprouted another shoot and then another twig emerged from that stump. From that stump of a tree, a new, full plant has grown with its boughs full of leaves in its season. That’s the picture behind Isaiah’s words, “And a shoot will come forth from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”

          Jesse, who was from Bethlehem, was the father of King David. Following the death of David’s son, Solomon, his kingdom became divided. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel. The Southern Kingdom, ruled by David’s descendants, was called Judah. As we read in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles, most of the kings of both Israel and Judah “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” As punishment for the sins of the people of Israel who followed their kings in idolatry, God allowed the nation of Assyria to conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. King Sennacherib of Assyria would threaten the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 701 B.C., but God intervened, and allowed Judah to continue until 587 B.C., when the Babylonians would lead the people into exile. During this time, using His prophets like Isaiah, God spoke to His people, warning them of the judgment and the captivity that was coming. Isaiah preached the law to the people of Israel, showing them their sins of idolatry. He called God’s people to repentance, urging them to prepare their hearts for the coming Savior.

          But when your people and king and nation are cut down to the status of “tree stump,” things look pretty bleak. I wanted that tree cut down and I thought it was done for. After all, only the stem was left—just a stump. Dead, right? Hardly! In the roots of that tree, there was still life. In the rootstock of Jesus, there was yet life. From that stump, a twig was to come forth, and from the roots which furnish the stump with life, a branch would grow. King David’s line, reduced to the status of “tree stump” by the idolatry and sins of the kings and people of Israel and Judah, would again bear fruit because of the shoot and branch which would come from Jesse’s stump.

          This shoot and branch is Immanuel, the true Messiah, who would be the Hope of His people. In the Targum, a commentary on the Old Testament, the Jewish commentators apply Isaiah 11 to the Messiah. We know that they got it right because we have the Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments that reveal to us that the Messiah, THE descendant of David according the flesh, has come forth. His name is Jesus who will save His people from their sins. He comes forth from the cut off stump of Jesse in order to bring salvation, new life, and peace to Israel and to all the nations.

          Israel needed new life. They had failed to heed the prophets’ calls to repentance and faith in the promises of God. Throughout history, God continued to send His messengers to show the people their sins and to prepare their hearts to receive God-with-Us, Immanuel. He sent Isaiah. He sent John, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. . . . Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. . . . I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matt. 3:2, 8-12 ESV)

          The people needed new life. They needed to be revived from their spiritual “deadness” so that they might once again bear fruits of faithfulness and love. So do we. St. Paul laid it out for the Ephesian believers and for us, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3 ESV).

You and I and all people are born “dead.” That is, we are physically alive, but spiritual dead without true fear of God and trust in God. We are born alive but spiritually deceased, without eternal life and having only a sentence of death—physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal. Conceived and born with sin, we had no root to receive spiritual life. We were clean cut off without the possibility of hope and life. A stump without root will never live again. That’s why the Father caused a branch from Jesse’s stump to grow, His One-of-a-Kind Son, Jesus, Immanuel. You and I and all people needed life, we needed a root system, and God our Father provided Him who is the true Vine so that we might be truly living, fruit-of-repentance producing branches (John 15:5).

And just look what God has provided for us in our Messiah-Savior. “The Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.” God the Holy Spirit rests upon God’s Son who has taken to Himself human flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin Mary. John the Baptist proclaimed, “I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:33-34 ESV). It is Jesus in His earthly ministry who fulfills the promise of Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. (Isa. 61:1 ESV). And so, “when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’” (Matt. 11:2-6 ESV).

The Messiah-Savior brings new life. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead. Yes, Jesus has raised the physically dead and the spiritually dead. He, the Righteous Branch, allowed Himself to be “cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people” (Is. 53:8b). Jesus, the God-Man, “ has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; . . . 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” (Isa. 53:4-5 ESV). The Shoot from the stump of Jesse was nailed to a tree where He bled and died your physical and spiritual death. He died in your place to give you new, spiritual life. He rose again on the third day guaranteeing that eternal life is yours and that not even physical death has any power over you.

Through His Gospel Word and by Holy Baptism, you have received saving faith in Jesus, the Messiah-Savior. You now, by grace through faith, delight in the fear of the Lord. You know the Savior who died and rose for you, making you a new creation. The Apostle writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Cor. 5:17-18 ESV). New life—not death! Forgiveness of sins—not condemnation and punishment! The Righteous and Faithful Son of God has purchased and won this salvation and life for you in abundance. Christ gives it to you freely by grace through His Holy Spirit whom He has poured out upon you in Baptism. Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39 ESV). As promised, the Spirit of Yahweh rests upon you. You are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you! (1 Cor. 6:19). By grace, as you receive Christ’s Word and Sacrament, you are filled with the knowledge of the Lord and His love and grace and mercy in His Son.

It is this new life won for you by Jesus the Savior that assures you that you have life in abundance, eternal life in the Savior’s new creation to come. Remember, we are “in between” the first and second advents of our Lord. We are looking forward in hope to the fulfillment of all God’s promises which are YES in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). So we look forward with trust that we now possess eternal life which we will enjoy fully in an everlasting new creation of peace.

This new creation to come is a gift to us from the very Shoot and Branch of Jesse’s stem, Jesus Christ. When He comes again in glory, “He will smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” Jesus told His disciples in Mark 13, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mk. 13:24-31 ESV).

His Word of Promise is sure and certain. The Day of the Lord will come. He will judge the living and dead. As the Church confesses in the Athanasian Creed, “At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds. And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.” For those with faith and trust, the Savior and King will bring us all into a new creation of peace, without sin and death. We will be with the Lord forever.

Isaiah today looks deep into the picture that the Lord provided Him and sees this new creation depicted like this: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together. And a small boy shall lead them. And the bear and the cow will graze. Their young will lie down together. And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing infant will play over the hole of the cobra and over the den of the viper the weaned child will stretch out his hand. They will not hurt nor destroy on all my holy mountain because the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh like the waters cover the sea. And it will be on that day that root of Jesse, which is standing for a signal to the peoples, of him the nations will inquire, and his resting place will be glorious.”

What an image! What a picture! What a hope and a future! On that Day, Jesus will stand as a signal flag to the peoples. Every eye will see Him. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! (Phil. 2:10-11 ESV). You and I and the whole Church Triumphant will be ushered into this new creation and we will live with God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in peace and joy forevermore. This will happen all because a shoot came forth from Jesse’s stump, our Savior, Jesus Christ, Immanuel. Amen.


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