Third Sunday in Advent December 12, 1999
68, 63, 645, 341
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, the Branch of the stem of Jesse, and the Offspring of David, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Did you know that there’s a wild plant in America whose root can perform miracles? …That’s what some people believe, anyway! The plant is called ginseng, and it grows wild in the wooded areas of several of our states. The ginseng plant must grow for five years under just the right conditions before it reaches maturity. When full-grown, the plant develops a tap root like a small, pale turnip. Wild ginseng is very rare, but if you can find a patch of them with fully-developed roots, each plant can bring you up to $500!
Why are these roots so valuable? Most of them are exported to the Orient; the Chinese insist that the root has medicinal value. According to them, ginseng can cure anything from warts to high blood pressure. Despite all the scientific data to the contrary, they really believe this root can perform miracles.
Today’s text describes another kind of Root…a Root that really does perform miracles! It’s called, “The Root of Jesse.” This Root is spoken of throughout the Old Testament; but especially familiar is the description of it that we find in today’s text in the Book of Isaiah. Let’s examine that “Root” through the eyes of the prophet. Our theme today is…
As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, the “Root of Jesse” isn’t something you’re going to find in a bottle on the shelves of a health food store. It has to do with the family tree of a man named Jesse. Jesse’s son was King David; David’s son was King Solomon; and so forth. In the Old Testament, the descendants of Jesse formed the royal line of the kings of Judah for many generations. For hundreds of years, this was the royal family tree of Israel. Isaiah knew that disaster would strike this tree. On account of their sin, the nation and its rulers would one day be crushed by the power of Babylonia and carried away into captivity. The monarchy would end right there. There would be nothing left of Jesse’s family tree but a stump. Can any life come from a dead stump?
On the south side of the previous church I served stands the stump of a tree that was evidently cut down long ago. No doubt that stump looked dead and lifeless when the tree was cut, but to our surprise new branches kept growing out of that stump—so much so, in fact, that we kept having to trim it back again every couple of years or so. Isaiah predicted that a living shoot would spring forth from the old stump of Jesse. That shoot would be the Savior, Jesus Christ, the descendant of Jesse and David. He’s called, “the Rod of Jesse,” and “the Branch of Jesse’s Line.” But more commonly in Scripture He’s referred to as “the Root of Jesse.” It’s the coming of the Root of Jesse that we’re here to celebrate tonight. Because this is one Root that really does work miracles!
What are some of the miracles that our Savior brings to us this Advent season? First of all, the Root of Jesse works the miracle of justice. Justice was something that was in notoriously short supply in Isaiah’s time. Judges could be bribed, witnesses could be bought, criminals often went free; the rich people won and the poor people lost. Does that sound familiar? Some of the same things could be said—and have been said—about our criminal justice system in America.
Sometimes justice seems far away, especially for a Christian. We look around our country…who are the people getting rich, leading comfortable lives, getting ahead in life? The unbelievers! People who laugh in God’s face and consider the Bible to be no more than a pack of fairy tales. While all the time, faithful Christians are struggling to make ends meet, and barely keeping their heads above water. We end up feeling the same kind of frustration the Psalmist did, when he wrote, “Behold…the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.” Ps 73:13-14.
But don’t be deceived—God is not mocked! The Root of Jesse comes to bring us the miracle of justice. Our Savior’s justice is a sword that cuts both ways. For those who turn away from God, who deny the Lord Jesus and go their own way, our text says that He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. Don’t let appearances fool you; after all, they don’t fool the Lord. The Lord’s perfect justice will be done, if not in this life, then in the next. You and I will witness the final, terrible sentence being passed on those who hate God: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Like I said, though, it’s a sword that cuts both ways. What about the Christians—those poor believers who are humbled by their sins and looking to Jesus as their only hope for salvation? They will not be disappointed. With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. Here’s a miraculous thing. We’re poor in spirit, because we realize we’ve broken God’s commandments. We can’t feel anything but humble and meek when we see how far we’ve fallen short of God’s demand of perfect righteousness. And yet, our Savior comes to us, as the prophet puts it, “with healing in His wings.” He takes our sinfulness away, and replaces it with His perfect righteousness! This Root of Jesse…is a root that really does work miracles!
One other gift our Savior brings us is the miracle of peace…another commodity that there doesn’t seem to be too much of in our world of today. Central America, Palestine, Algeria, Northern Ireland, the former Czech republics—look where you will, violence and bloodshed seem to be everywhere. That’s not likely to change, as long as the Prince of this world, Satan, continues to control the lives of the godless. But in our text, Isaiah says that the Root of Jesse will bring peace… Well what happened? Did Isaiah just get this prediction wrong, or what?
The description in our text of the peace that the Messiah would bring is a beautiful one. We need to understand, though, that it describes the peace that is connected with Christ’s kingdom. As you know, that’s not something we can look at with our eyes. Pilate asked Jesus where His kingdom was, and He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jn 18:36. The Pharisees tried to find out where Jesus’ kingdom was , and Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Lk 17:20-21. It’s Jesus’ gracious ruling in the hearts of believers by faith. It’s a kingdom that you and I are members of, and in that kingdom, the peace of God reigns.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. What could be more miraculous than these natural enemies living side by side in peace? How about the Jews and the Gentiles?! From the time of Abraham, the Jews were taught to despise all non-Jewish people, and keep as far away from them as they could. But when the Root of Jesse came to earth and established His kingdom, that enmity was over. In Christ, Paul says, “…There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Rom 10:13.
And throughout the Savior’s kingdom, peace and security reigns. You know, I hope you don’t take that peace for granted—it’s something that nine-tenths of the people in this world will never know. It’s the peace of knowing that you are part of God’s great, invisible Church of all believers. Here, in the security of this kingdom, your Savior provides for all your wants and needs: free forgiveness for your sins; the right to speak to the Almighty God in prayer just as dear children would speak to their dear father; and the promise, in Christ, of an everlasting home at His side. That humble Christ-child, the Root of Jesse, says to you again this Advent season, “Put all your trust in Me. This peace will be yours!”
None of us here are old enough to recall the age of the “patent medicines.” Hucksters would travel around the country hawking those black bottles with fancy labels, supposedly containing the “miracle tonic” that would cure every sickness. They were fakers, of course. We Christians, however, do have a miracle cure for every ill. It’s the life-giving tonic of salvation, and it’s distilled from a very potent root: the promised Root of Jesse, Jesus Christ. This is one Root that really does work miracles! AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.