“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1
A stump – a lifeless, often ugly and dark thing, is the result of a diseased or fruitless tree cut down. Isaiah depicts the children of Israel as such a stump. Once the beautiful crown of God’s Creation, his chosen people had to be “cut down” because of disobedience and rebellion. Life for Israel was headed toward darkness and exile.
But God, in His vast mercy promises a rebirth; a green shoot would grow from the cut-down remnant. The Green shoot, would bring light, hope and salvation for all. The Green Shoot was the promised Messiah.
Handel’s Messiah has a beautiful solo which speaks of this life/ light-giver. The words echo another prophesy of Isaiah found in Chapter 9. Speaking to Israel (and looking ahead to us today) Isaiah says: “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned……..for unto us a child is born, unto to us a son is given.” The light is the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus.
The people of Kenya have experienced life as a kind of a stump. When their crops become lifeless because of drought they too suffer. They grow hungry, unable to care for their families, desolate, hopeless.
Through our Advent Conspiracy we will join others in bringing new hope to the Kenyans. By supplying them with new information and tools, they will be able to conquer their problems with drought and experience a new life. We pray that this new life also includes the light of Christ which will shine on them and bring them hope and salvation.
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2-3
Stumps are sad things. When a tree is cut down all you see is … well… a stump. There seems no hope for the future, only faint memories of the tree that once was. When our own hopes or the hopes of the ones we love are cut down, all that remains is a stump. In Kenya, drought reduces crops to withered stumps of failed plants. Perhaps the saddest stump of all was described this way. “As many were astonished at you – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.” Isaiah 52:14. The hopes of a people to restore their nation, reduced to an unrecognizable stump – hanging on a cross.
But here’s the thing. Stumps have roots. Even on the cross, our Savior was rooted in His Father, in the knowledge that He was doing His Father’s will, in the understanding and delight that He was paying for your sins and mine. Even in times of drought, our brothers and sisters in Kenya will know that the help they have received is in the Name of Jesus Christ and by His power alone. As their bodily needs are met, the roots of their faith will grow for eternity!
The image for this verse is a stump, which can be a metaphor for death. However, a stump can offer comfort, rest, and a place of peace as seen in the last pages of the children’s book “The Giving Tree”. It can also be the “seed” for life renewed. My family experienced a death, which left me cut off from my family, myself, and from God. During those dark days, I relied on my own strength to get through life; there was no hope, no life just existence. It was the news that I was pregnant with my son brought about a “shoot” from my stump.
The fight to live a life differently was birthed with this news. I no longer wanted to be cut off from the world, from others, from myself, and most importantly, from God. I had renewed purpose and focus. I no longer wanted to live a life of darkness with fear and anxiety my sole companions. The battle to live and be a person who could offer comfort and rest to others began the day he was born. This battle continues today and instead of relying on my own strength, I rely on and take comfort in the peace God promises. He also promises that painful experiences will be put to good use for Him. “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.” Genesis 50:20-21 MSG. I ask you to please pray that whatever your stump may be; that God would grow a shoot not only for yourself but for others as well.
Have you heard of the Jesse tree? This ancient symbol has been used extensively in Christian art since at least 1000 AD. Many famous European cathedrals have beautiful Jesse tree stained glass windows. At a time when the majority of the populace could not read, the Jesse tree was an effective way to teach the lineage of Jesus. Jesse, the father of King David, is often pictured reclining with a green shoot growing from his side. From this shoot come the members of Jesus’ family, from King David to Jesus Christ at the top of the tree.
Pictorial representations of the Jesse tree always stop with Jesus at the top, yet we Christians also are sprung from the tree of Jesse. Because of Jesus we have been grafted on to this tree of life. And this tree is fruit bearing, which is the natural result of a healthy, living tree. We flower. We bear fruit. This is what we do.
This Advent take time to reflect on the Jesse tree using this passage. “On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.” Revelation 22:2 NLT Imagine a stained glass window that includes every branch, leaf and flower that has blossomed because of Christ. You are there, as are those who have nurtured your faith. Can you envision the branch extends from you? Is it a neighbor? A little Kenyan child? Look closely. It is beautiful, is it not?
Green life coming from death is always a hopeful sign, but look further into Isaiah’s image and find the details of the promised Hope.
“A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch.
The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God.
Fear-of-God will be all his joy and delight.
He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. He’ll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth’s poor with justice. His words will bring everyone to awed attention. A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked. Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.” Isaiah 11:1-5 MSG
Take time to look at those details and find how each brings hope to the hopeless message currently being spun out in our media.
Now find which detail inspires you to
- Worship Fully
- Spend Less
- Give More
- Love All
In prayer give God thanks for the specific hope Jesus brings to you. Commit to being His agent of hope to the people you encounter this week. Ask for guidance for your participation in the Isaiah 58:10 – Kenya Project.
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