A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Have you ever seen a stump? Of course you have! A stump is the useless remains of a former tree. A stump is an annoying obstacle that stands as proof of a once mighty tree. We have two large stumps in our backyard. My dog likes to stand or lay on them. When I need to chop wood, I use one of them as a flat surface to stand the logs on. My children sometimes play with toys on top of the stump. Beyond these trivial uses, though, these two stumps are eye sores, annoying obstacles to avoid when trimming the grass. Isaiah was likely familiar with the uselessness of stumps as well. And yet, a stump is what he chooses to use as a symbol of the hope of new life that the Messiah will bring. The likelihood of a shoot out of a stump growing into a mighty tree is about as high as the likelihood of a cow and bear living peacefully together, of a lion eating straw, or of a child playing with a poisonous snake. But these are precisely the images that Isaiah uses – unlikely though they be. Isaiah knows these things are all improbable, unlikely, and even “unnatural.” When the Messiah comes, as Isaiah points out here, He brings with Him the ways of God, the wisdom of God, the true order of creation. It would seem, then, that according to God’s abundant and overwhelming grace, stumps, like people, don’t stay dead! Bears and cows live in harmony with one another. And even the curse on snakes, humans, and their relationship with one another, is lifted to the point that a child would play with a highly poisonous snake. These things are all highly “unnatural” according to what we take to be nature. They are, though, perfectly natural according to the original ordering of God’s creation.
Are there stumps in your life? Is your faith a stump? How might God revive and restore these things? Today, in prayer, identify a stump or two in your life. Examples might be your faith, joy, hope, or your commitment and passion for serving others. Or, perhaps you’ve experienced significant loss and your stump is more along the lines of the hurt and loss of a spouse, child, parent, friend, etc . .. After identifying a stump or two, ask God to bring the restoration and new life that comes with God’s new creation into your life. Ask God for a glimpse of His coming Kingdom – the Kingdom of the Messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And finally, don’t forget this request. Keep praying for this glimpse, and, what’s more, look for it. Pay attention to how God will answer your prayer.