So, I mentioned this morning that what I want to do today and the Sunday after Christmas is to study four passages from the Bible which help us to understand why the Son of God came into the world; and what will happen when he comes again.
So, this morning we studied Genesis 3 which tells us about the fall in the Garden of Eden. This evening, we’ll study Isaiah 11 which foretells the coming of a great King who will be descended from King David. Then on the Sunday after Christmas we’ll study Luke 1 verses 26 to 38 where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she’ll give birth to the great King which Isaiah foretold. And then on on that Sunday evening, we’ll turn our attention to Revelation 21 and 22 at the end of the Bible where John the Apostle received a vision from the Lord about the new heaven and earth where God’s people will dwell with the Lord for ever and ever.
And since these four passages span the whole of the Bible — from Genesis at the start to Revelation at the end — it underlines for us that the whole of the Bible is about the one story of how the Lord God Almighty will gather his people into his presence by his Son, our Great Redeemer, so that we will be with him for ever and ever in glory. The whole of the Bible — from beginning to end — is about that.
And so, this morning we thought about how God made Adam to be a priest-king to rule over the earth and to guard the temple-garden of Eden from all evil. And the Tree of Life in the garden held out to Adam the promise of enjoying everlasting life in the presence of the Lord forever. But Adam failed in his calling and he let the wicked, crafty serpent enter the garden. And the wicked, crafty serpent — who was the Devil in disguise — called God’s word into question; and then he contradicted God’s word. And instead of submitting herself to God’s word, Eve decided she knew best; and she didn’t need to rely on God and his word to make sense of the world around her. And she took the forbidden fruit and she ate it; and she gave some to Adam who ate it too. And when God appeared in the garden, they hid from him, because they had sinned against him. And the Lord announced that from that time on our lives here on earth will be spoiled by pain and conflict and frustration and death. Nevertheless the Lord God also promised that the time would come when one of Eve’s descendants would crush the Devil. He was announcing in the Garden of Eden the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, who came to save us from our sin and misery by his death and resurrection; and who promises everlasting life to all who trust in him as the only Saviour of the world; and he will one day destroy the Devil and all his demons and all who belong to the Devil.
So, that’s what we were thinking about this morning. This evening, we’re turning our attention to Isaiah 11. Isaiah lived hundreds of years before the coming of Christ and yet the Lord enabled him to foretell the coming of Christ into the world.
Now, the book of Isaiah can be divided into two parts: chapters 1 to 39 and chapters 40 to 66. Now, it’s a very rough summary, but the main theme of the first half is condemnation; and the main theme in the second half is consolation. In the first half, the Lord describes the sins of his people and the judgment he will bring on them and on the nations because of their rebellion and unbelief. However, in the midst of the condemnation, there are flashes of hope when the Lord announces better days to come and the coming of the Saviour. And that message of hope becomes clearer in the second half the book which begins with the words:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
But as I’ve said, there are flashes of hope in the first half of the book. For instance, in chapter 1 we have these familiar words:
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
In chapter 2, many peoples will say:
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.
In chapter 7, there’s the announcement that a virgin will give birth to a son who will be called Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. And in chapter 9, there’s the promise that a child will be born who will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom and there will be no end to his government. By these prophecies, the Lord was announcing the coming of Christ the King whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
And chapter 11 also contains a message of hope, because in this chapter, the Lord foretold the coming of a great king; his kingdom will be one of peace; and people from the nations will be gathered into it. And so, that’s what we’ll be thinking about this evening.
The Great King
And so, let’s turn to verses 1 to 5 where Isaiah describes this great king. And in verse 1 he tells us that a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; and from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Jesse, you might recall from biblical history, was the father of David. And David was the great king in the Old Testament; and from him came all the other kings of Judah. Some of these kings were very great; others were not so great. But by referring to the stump of Jesse, Isaiah is speaking of a time when that kingdom will be laid very low and will be very weak. Think of the kingdom as a great tree, with a mighty, strong trunk and lots and lots of branches, all bearing leaves and fruit, with birds of the air nesting in its branches. It’s a magnificent tree. But then the woodcutter comes along with a great big axe and he chops that tree down. Nothing is left but a stump. And the stump is so small, you can hardly see it. Well, Isaiah was saying that’s what will happen to the kingdom of Judah. In the days of David and Solomon and in the days of the kings that followed them, it was a magnificent kingdom. David defeated all his enemies so that his people lived in safety. Solomon was fabulously wealthy and wise and people like the Queen of Sheba came from all over the world to see his wealth and to test his wisdom. For generations the kingdom was strong and powerful and prosperous. But Isaiah was foretelling a time when it would no longer be magnificent. It would be small and weak and obscure. But at that time, when the kingdom is like a stump, a shoot will come up and begin to grow; a branch will appear. Though the kingdom had become small and weak, a new king will come from it; a new king will emerge. And this new king is the Lord Jesus, because just think about his birth. The land of Judah — once ruled over by David and Solomon and all those other mighty kings — was now part of the Roman Empire; and the Roman Emperor ruled over the land of Judah by means of his governors, men like Pontius Pilate. The land of Judah had no importance at all in the world. But in those days — when the kingdom of Judah had become so very small and weak so that it was only a stump compared to what it once was — the Lord Jesus was born. And do you remember? He was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, because that’s where his family was from; and, according to his human nature, he was from the line of David. And the angel announced to Mary that her son would be a king.
And according to Isaiah, this root, this branch will not be dry and lifeless, but it will be fruitful. Do you see that at the end of verse 1? This new king will bear fruit, which means he will accomplish all that the Lord has planned for him to do. His work will be fruitful and effective. And so, the prophet was foretelling that he will accomplish our salvation and deliver his people from our sin and misery and give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom.
And Isaiah goes on to describe how the Spirit of the Lord will rest on this new king. Well, we know that the Spirit of the Lord was given to King Saul and King David in the Old Testament. However, the Lord’s Spirit departed from Saul; and after David sinned with Bathsheba, he prayed in Psalm 51 for the Lord not to take his Spirit from him. However, here in verse 2 of Isaiah 11, the Lord promised that his Spirit would rest on this new king, which suggests that he will never take his Spirit away from this new king, but his Spirit will remain on him always. And, we know, of course, that after the Lord’s baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus and rested on him. And by being anointed with God’s Spirit, he was equipped with the Spirit to be our great King.
According to verses 2 and 3, this new king who was coming will receive seven gifts from the Spirit. Seven in the Bible signifies perfection and completion. So, Isaiah is saying that this new king will be perfectly equipped by the Spirit to be our king. In particular, he will receive the gifts of wisdom and understanding. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom and the Lord gave it to him, so that the peoples marvelled at him. Well, Christ the King is perfect in wisdom and understanding, so that he always knows what is best for his people.
And he will be perfect in counsel and power, so that whatever he decides, he is able to do. Earthly kings and leaders are often frustrated because they don’t have the power or authority or might to do what they want to do. But there’s nothing that is too hard for the Lord Jesus our King; and when he was on the earth, he used his great power to still the storms and heal the sick and to cast our demons. And when he comes again, he will use his great power to raise our bodies from the dead; and he will crush the Devil forever.
And this new king will be perfect in knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Well, the Lord Jesus is the one who knows the Father and makes him known to us. And when he was on the earth, he obeyed his Father in all things, which is how we demonstrate our fear and reverence to God.
And according to verse 3, this new king will delight in the fear of the Lord. In other words, he delights and rejoices when he sees that his people are devoted to the Lord God Almighty.
According to Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord will rest on this new king. He was foretelling the coming of Christ the King who was perfect equipped with all he needed to be our King and to deliver us from our sin and misery. And look at what else Isaiah says about him. Unlike earthly kings and rulers, who must judge by what they see and by what they hear, and who are therefore misled by appearances and deceived by lies, Christ the King will judge with righteousness and justice. In other words, his judgments will be right and fair. Whereas earthly kings of rulers are tempted to disregard the poor and the needy, Christ the King will be fair to all. Striking the earth with the rod of his mouth conveys the power and authority of his word. And his word is so powerful that he’s able to slay the wicked by the breath of his lips. And yet, he is not a tyrant, because righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness will be his sash. In other words, he is always righteous and faithful in all he says and does.
Hundreds of years before the birth of the Saviour, Isaiah foretold how he would come. He would come when the kingdom of Judah was but a stump, weak and small and obscure. But from that stump, there would come this magnificent King, Christ the Lord, who is filled with the Spirit and perfectly equipped to deliver us from our sin and misery and to give us everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And what is his kingdom like? Well, that’s what verses 6 to 9 are about.
His Great Kingdom
Well, this is a kingdom that is like no other, because Isaiah is describing a renewed earth, a transformed world, a world like the Garden of Eden before the fall, when there was no sorrow or sadness or trouble or pain. And so, Isaiah says that the wolf will live with the lamb. Right now, in the world as we know it, the lamb will try to flee from the wolf, and the wolf will try to eat the lamb; but the day is coming when they will live together in peace. And the day is coming when the leopard will not catch and devour the goat, because they too will lie down together in peace and harmony. The same goes for the calf and the lion. In fact, things will be so transformed and peaceful, that even a little child will be able to lead the calf and the lion. The cow will feed with the bear, because they’ll live peacefully side by side with their young. And the lion will no longer hunt and kill, but will eat straw like an ox does. And whereas now, in the world as we know it, snakes are to be feared — because they can bite with their poisonous fangs and swallow small animals whole — Isaiah foresees a time when an infant will be able to play beside the hole of a snake and no harm will come to the child.
They will neither harm no destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord through Isaiah. He’s not talking about animals now, but people. The time is coming when men and women will not harm one another or destroy. All enmity will be gone; all conflict and strife; all suffering and sorrow. It will be done away with. And the reason we will no longer cause harm to one another is because the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Just as the seas are completely filled with water, so the earth will one day be filled completely with the knowledge of the Lord. Everyone will know the Lord and will love and worship him.
Well, it hasn’t happened yet, has it? Although the Lord has sent his preachers into all the world, the earth is not yet full of the knowledge of the Lord, because people in every nation still do not know him or love him as they should. And wherever you go in the world, you’ll find trouble and strife. You can’t leave wolves and lambs together or leopards and goats or calves and lions or cows and bears or children and snakes. You can’t leave them alone, because one will attack the other. And wherever you go on the earth, men and women will fight with one another and hurt one another.
It’s been that way ever since the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve broke the Lord’s covenant and fell into that state of sin and misery which we’re all so familiar with. And the Lord foretold in the garden that our lives here on earth will be characterised by conflict and pain and frustration until we die. We all know by personal experience that this is the case. That is what our lives are like; and even at Christmastime, when we talk about peace and goodwill to all, we end up losing our temper and arguing with the members of our family.
And yet, here’s the Lord holding out to us through the prophet Isaiah a vision of a better world, when everyone knows the Lord and loves the Lord and lives with him on his holy mountain in peace. Is it only a dream that can’t come true; or is it a vision which will one day be fulfilled? Well, the Lord is describing the everlasting kingdom of Christ. This is the way things will be when Christ our King comes again to complete his work, because when he comes, all who have sided with the Devil and who refused to repent and believe in the Saviour will be sent away from the presence of the Lord to be punished forever. And so, the Devil and all who belong to him will no longer be able to tempt us to evil; and no one will be able harm the Lord’s people. But all those who did repent and believe will be brought into the new heaven and earth — a renewed and transformed creation — where we will dwell with the Lord forever. And there will be no more sorrow or sadness or death or mourning or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. And all of God’s people will live peacefully for ever and for ever on God’s holy mountain, enjoying the presence of the Lord and of the Lord Jesus Christ our King.
Well, don’t you wish you were there? Don’t you wish you lived there? Well, the way to enter Christ’s kingdom — so that you will be brought into the new heaven and earth when Christ comes again — is by turning from your old life of sin and unbelief; and turning to God, confessing your sins to him, and asking him to forgive you your sins for the sake of Christ who died for sinners and who was raised to give us life. Christ our King became one of us, and he took the blame for sinners, when he suffered and died on the cross, so that all who trust in him as the only Saviour of the world are pardoned by God and are brought into Christ’s kingdom where they receive the hope of everlasting life.
And while we wait for Christ to come again, and for the fulfilment of this vision, Christ our King gives us his Spirit, doesn’t he? And the Holy Spirit is at work in Christ’s people to transform us inwardly. Though outwardly, we’re wasting away and becoming weak and frail, inwardly we’re being renewed by the Spirit, so that we’re able more and more to love one another and to care for one another. The members of Christ’s kingdom are called to love one another now, in this life, while we wait for the life to come. So, instead of harming one another, and hurting one another, we’re to love one another and serve one another. And by doing so, our lives here on earth will reflect the glory of the life to come, which is where we all belong.
Now in the remaining verses — verses 10 to 16 — the words of Isaiah apply in the first instance to the return of the exiles from Babylon. Remember when we were studying Daniel together, we read that Daniel and his friends were among the Israelites who were taken from the Promised Land into the land of Babylon? And Daniel longed for the day when God’s exiled people would return to the Promised Land. And in these verses, Isaiah is talking about the return from exile. So, according to verse 11, the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people. The first time he did this was when he rescued them from Egypt. The second time will be when he rescues them from Babylon. And so, he will gather the exiles of Israel and he will assemble his scattered people. Their enemies will be beaten; and he will build a highway for them to return to the Promised Land.
All of that refers in the first instance to the return from exile. However, the return from exile points to something even greater. It’s points to the way the nations will be gathered to Christ the King. And so, in verse 10 Isaiah says that in that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. By the title ‘The Root of Jesse’, he’s referring to Christ the King, because he’s using the word ‘root’ to refer to that which grows out of and emerges from the stump of Jesse. And so, the prophet announces that the day is coming when Christ will come from the line of Jesse and he will become a banner to which the nations will come.
And after the Lord’s death and resurrection, and before he ascended to heaven, he commanded his apostles to go and preach the gospel in all the nations, so that men and women and boys and girls from every nation will hear of Christ the Saviour and believe in him and call out to him for salvation. And so, even now, he’s gathering a people for himself from every nation of the world; and people from every nation are rallying to Christ, the only Saviour of the world.
And so, in the book of Revelation — where we read that the Apostle John received a vision of heaven — he saw in his vision a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb of God. They were wearing white robes to signify how they had been purified by the blood of the Lamb, and together they praised the Lord.
John was able to see that the vision given to Isaiah was being fulfilled: the Lord God is calling people from every nation to come to Christ the King for salvation. Whoever comes to him receives the forgiveness of sins; and is added to his kingdom. And when Christ the King comes again, all who have believed in him will come into the new heavens and earth where they will live on God’s holy mountain in peace and safety forever. And in the meantime, he gives us his Spirit to renew us inwardly and to help to us love and serve one another, as we wait for him to come again.