November 29, 2016 - A Shoot Shall Sprout from the Stump of Jesse

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of reverence for the LORD,
and his delight shall be the reverence for the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10

Whether Isaiah predicted Jesus, or whether the Gospel writers massaged their text to fit the prediction doesn’t really matter.  Scripture is not about making us believe in Isaiah’s the magical ability to predict the future or make Jesus’s divinity more plausible by attaching magical properties to his life.

What matters here is the extraordinary image of God’s mercy.  Nearly three millennia since the Torah was written and two millennia since Jesus, the idea that God is loving, gentle and fair and that He inspires a vision of peace is so ubiquitous that we can hardly imagine an alternative.  But before God humanity imagined the divine to be brutal and capricious; the friend of the powerful and the enemy of the weak.  Ba’al, the image of the divine with which God competed directly in Canaan, demanded the immolation of first born children to bring fertility and rain.  In contrast, God is the protector of the widow and the orphan.  He is the friend of the poor, the sick and the weak. 

We may argue about whether God requires this or that, and how much, and for how long, but everyone of good faith agrees that God is loving, that He represents hope and inspires us to peace.   That is the innovation of Abrahamic faith.