Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Introduction to the Jesse Tree

Isaiah 11:1–10

The Bible says, “God chose [Jesus] as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last day” (1 Pet 1:20 NLT). In fact, God says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Eph 1:4 NLT). God was working his plan of salvation long before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Jesse had seven sons. Some of them may have seemed impressive sorts to Samuel, whom God had sent to anoint one as king. But God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by [their] appearance or height…. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7 NLT). In fact, God had chosen Jesse’s youngest son to become Israel’s greatest king. David was the first royal branch from “the Jesse tree.”

This family tree held great messianic promise, through thick and thin. The promise of an eternal Davidic dynasty stood true whether Israel and the Davidic dynasty measured up to God’s expectations or not. Even when the Davidic kings broke covenant with God, God’s promise to David and his descendants still stood. So Isaiah could promise, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit…. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isa 11:1, 10 ESV).

This figurative language about stumps, shoots, and branches promised renewal of the Davidic dynasty. Out of the apparently dead “stump of Jesse” there would sprout a new shoot (Isa 11:1). This new branch would bear “fruit from the old root,” that is the promise to David’s family would yet come to fruition in a “Son of David” (e.g., Matt 1:1). He would rule well because God’s Spirit would rest on him, enduing him with all the attributes of a righteous king: “the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:2 NLT). Much later, the apostle Paul looked on that promise and found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Rom 15:12).

Just as God would not look on outward appearances when appointing his chosen king (1 Sam 16:7), this Davidic king would “not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay” (Isa 11:3). Rather, the Spirit’s anointing would enable him to “make fair decisions” (v. 4). He would rule like God himself rules over his people (vv. 3–6). A righteous king should “Fear the Lord and judge with integrity, for the Lord our God does not tolerate perverted justice, partiality, or the taking of bribes” (2 Chr 19:7).

And that just rule will establish a kingdom of perfect peace—indeed heavenly peace (Isa 11:7–9). Animals that now fight or fear each other will live in peace (v. 7), babies will be safe even “near the hole of a cobra” (v. 8). “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain” (v. 9a), which was the site of the ancient Davidic throne.

More importantly, it was God’s own throne, upon which God’s anointed king would rule over God’s people. Under the Old Testament arrangement, that meant divine rule over Israel. But even then, it included others who joined Israel in worshiping the one true God. That might be David’s own great-grandmother Ruth the Moabitess, or a resident alien who came to be a disciple of the Lord God. The ultimate goal of this kingdom was not just to bless Israel alone with peace and righteous rule. No, God’s goal was to bless all nations. That was why he called Abraham in the first place (Gen 12:1–3), and it was why he raised up the Davidic dynasty. So the days of fulfillment for the Davidic promise are described this way: “In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place” (Isa 11:10 NLT).

From now until Christmas, the Jesse tree lessons will keep reminding us that God keeps his promises, especially his greatest promise. The Bible stories in the Jesse tree book show how God kept on reminding his people that a “Son of David” would come and fulfill every promise God ever made. When we celebrate Christmas, it ought to be with this note: “All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means ‘Yes’) ascends to God for his glory” (2 Cor 1:20 NLT). That should be the underlying motivation for our Christmas shouts, “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • Meditate on the linkage between the Jesse “tree” and our contemporary notion of a “family tree.” We tend to look backwards when we’re talking about the family tree; however, the family tree of Jesse was very much a forward-looking genealogy.
  • As you read the description of the messianic kingdom that Isaiah gave us (Isa 11:1–11), refresh your contribution to the prayers of saints in all the ages: “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).


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