The Second Sunday in Advent
December 8, 2019
Isaiah’s Advent Gift of—
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You wake up one morning to the sudden realization that you hit the snooze button a couple of times too many. There is no time for breakfast. You start the car and remember that you meant to get gas last night. The traffic is horrible and so now you are late for work. The boss is not happy. After a very long and difficult day you finally get home— only to find a fistful of bills in the mail. Are you feeling a great deal of hope right about now?
Does that scenario sound even remotely possible, my friends? If not, then think about this: What about a child who is struggling in school because they are being bullied and they don’t know what to do about it? What about the parent who can’t afford their rent increase and they do not know where they and their family will live? What about the elderly person who is feeling alone and all but useless? Do you think they are feeling a great deal of hope in their heart?
There are any number of people, my friends, who are in desperate need of hope. Some of those people might be right here in our worship service this morning. Some of those people you may know personally by name. Whether you are the person who needs hope or whether you know someone who does our sermon text for today is very timely. As we continue our sermon series from the book of Isaiah let’s look at: Isaiah’s Advent Gift of— Hope!
You may recall from last Sunday that the people of God in the days of Isaiah were facing a very real threat from the mighty Assyrian Empire perched on their northern border. Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord had revealed that the Assyrians would indeed defeat and destroy the northern Kingdom of Israel. Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord revealed that while the Assyrian army would oppress the southern Kingdom of Judah they would not be allowed to capture and destroy the beloved city of Jerusalem. Using yet another powerful picture God describes how He is going to save Jerusalem from the mighty Assyrian army. In the closing two verses of Isaiah chapter ten we find these words, “See, the LORD, the LORD Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low. He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax; Lebanon will fall before the Mighty One.” (See 2 Kings chapters 18-19)
Against the backdrop of that picture— the picture of the mighty Assyrian army felled like a forest of trees— the good Lord goes on to give to His faithful children a precious gift— the gift of hope! Look at the opening verse of our text for today. Isaiah writes, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Humanly speaking, the nation over which great King David and wise King Solomon once ruled was now just a “stump” of what it once was. When the faithful among God’s people saw how far their nation had fallen and how insignificant their nation had become on the world stage it was probably very easy for them to lose hope. What about the promises the Lord had made to David? What about the promises of the Messiah who was to come from the house and line of David, sit on the throne of David and rule over God’s people forever and ever? Here the Lord reveals to His children that those promises would indeed be fulfilled— each and every last one of them— but not in the way that God’s people were anticipating.
The Promised Messiah would be like a tender “shoot” that “will spring up from the stump of Jesse.” From the perspective of this world the Messiah would appear insignificant when compared to the power and the might of the kings of this world. And yet, through that insignificant “shoot” God would provide His people and the entire world with the gift of— hope!
How could this be? How could this “Branch,” this tender “shoot,” provide the gift of hope for all the people of this world? There are two points emphasized here in our text. First, the Messiah would be able to provide this world with the gift of hope because of Who He is! Look at what Isaiah says here in our text, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”
From our perspective as New Testament children of God it is very easy for us to see how these words describe our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus was “anointed with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38) at the time of His baptism. (See Matthew 3:16-17) And as we look at the description that Isaiah records for us here we see why Jesus is able to give us the gift of hope!
First, Jesus possesses a “wisdom” and an “understanding” that go far beyond mere human abilities. Jesus not only has the practical “wisdom” to know how to deal with the problems of our daily life, but He also has the “understanding” that enables Him to always see how the specific details of a particular situation fit into the bigger picture of our eternity. Think of the hope which this gives to you, my friends. When something happens in your life that you simply do not understand— remember that Jesus does! When you don’t know why this happened or why that doesn’t happen— remember that Jesus does! Jesus has both the “wisdom” and the “understanding” to see how everything will work together for our eternal spiritual good. That’s what gives us hope— especially during the darkest and most difficult days of our life.
That hope ties in very nicely with the second part of the description that Isaiah gives of the Messiah— He will have “the Spirit of counsel and of power.” Not only does Jesus have the ability to plan things out, but He has the power to carry out those plans! The application here is simple. Have you ever been at a point in your life when things seem so confusing and so chaotic that you don’t know what to do next? Where do you find an anchor of hope at times such as this? You find your anchor of hope in Jesus! As your Savior-God Jesus not only has a specific detailed plan for you and for your life, but He also has the power to bring that plan to completion! That’s what gives us hope— even during the most chaotic days of our life.
Finally, Isaiah describes the King who would come from the “stump” of Jesse as One who will have “the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.” As the eternal Son of God Jesus not only had perfect “knowledge” of His heavenly Father’s will, He not only had perfect “fear” or “respect” for His heavenly Father’s will, but Jesus “delighted” in perfectly carrying out His heavenly Father’s will! How does this bring you the gift of hope? It brings you hope, my friends, because from all of eternity the heavenly Father’s will centered on doing absolutely everything that was necessary to save you from your sins and give you the confident hope of a glorious life in His eternal heavenly Home! (See John 6:40; Matthew 26:39; John 19:30) No matter what happens on your journey through this world you have the hope— that confident hope— that just as Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will by suffering and dying on the cross for your sins, (Pointing to the cross) so also Jesus will fulfill His heavenly Father’s will and come back one day to take you Home to heaven!
The second way in which Isaiah brings us the gift of hope this morning is emphasized in verses 3-5 of our text. Here Isaiah reveals to us that our King is also our Judge— the One who will judge the entire earth with perfect righteousness. Why does that truth fill us with hope and not fear? Because we know, my friends! By the grace of God we know that we have nothing to worry about! We know that through faith in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord’s Messiah all of our sins are completely forgiven, God Himself has already declared us: Not Guilty! (See Romans 4:25) We know that through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism our King has washed us clean of all of our sins and dressed us in a robe of perfect righteousness— the robe which guarantees us entrance into our heavenly Father’s Home. (See Revelation 7:13-17) We know that through the Sacrament of Holy Communion our King gives to us His true body and His true blood as visible tangible assurance that we are the saved, redeemed and forgiven children of God. We know that through the powerful message of the Gospel we are given the guarantee of God’s unbounded and unconditional love for each and every one of us!
I don’t even have to go into detail as to how that brings us hope, do I. When we look back over the course of our own life and see what we have done, when we look into our own heart and see what we are capable of doing we have every reason to lose all hope! Like the apostle Paul we too confess, “What a wretched man I am!” (Romans 7:24) Then we stop to remember that our Judge is also our King. Then we lift up our eyes and remember what our King has already done for us simply because He loves us. (Pointing to the cross) Then we have— hope! Then we are able to say with the apostle Peter, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). That’s the gift of hope that Isaiah proclaims to us! That’s the gift of hope that your King has given to you!
My prayer then this morning, my friends, is that you will indeed treasure Isaiah’s Advent Gift of Hope. When you lay your head down on your pillow each night and think back over the course of your day let the last thing that you remember before you close your eyes be the gift of hope that your King Jesus gave to you that day. When you wake up in the morning before you even start to think about all the things that you need to do that day think about all the things that your King has already done for you so that you can always have— hope!
To God be the glory!