On the scorched and blackened ground are short hills of charred wood, the cold remnants of trees that once stood proud in the garden of God. In their midst is one that was once the tree called Jesse, from which each new branch was a king, now reduced to a small mound from which go roots into the now rich and darkened soil.
Isaiah 11:1 (ESVUK)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Jesse, a Bethlehemite, was a shepherd of the tribe of Judah. In the days of Israel's first rebel king, Saul, the prophet Samuel came secretly to Jesse's house. He told the humble shepherd that God had sent him with good news. From his family would come a new king. Samuel had come to anoint one of Jesse's sons as this next shepherd of the nation (1 Samuel 16).
David, Jesse's youngest and most humble son, was anointed king that day. Years later, after a miraculous deliverance from the oppressive Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17), and a time of exile in the wilderness (1 Samuel 20-30) in which his submission to God was tested and his character was forged, David did finally take the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 2, 5). He would be the first of Judah's tribe to fulfill the prophesy of kingship made to Judah by Jacob, his father, hundreds of years before.
David would go on to become Israel's ideal king, called precious to God's own heart in the Hebrew scripture (1 Sam. 13:14; also Acts 13:22). In his reign, the prophecy of Judah's line of kings would be renewed and expanded to David. God promised David that the kingdom established in him will never end, that an heir of David, of Judah's tribe, would always sit on the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 7). During the reign of David, Israel prospered, and experienced their first time of true rest from war or wandering since they had left Egypt .
However, though ideal in the eyes of the nation, even David failed to be the wise and just king God had called him to be. Once established in his power, David arrogantly claimed the authority God had graciously given him when he was a meek shepherd boy as his own, as though by his own strength he had earned it. For David's rebellious and foolish entitlement, God judged the nation. Before the judgment was complete, on the hill of Abraham's sacrifice of his son David repented, pleading with God to let the curse for his sin fall on him alone, and to spare the nation. For David's humility, the curse is lifted, and even David is spared (2 Samuel 24). Though he frequently failed, it is in this humble and willing repentance that David most pleased God.
The hand of God's judgment would not be held back forever. Each king after David would repeat his acts of arrogance, each generation building upon the hubris of their fathers (1 Kings). There would be times of repentance, but no king after David would ever come even as close to the heart of God as David had, though even David himself had been a failure. Isaiah preaches in a day of utter apostasy. The judgment that was stayed in the time of David will now return. The nation of Israel, God's garden of love and justice in the world, will be razed to the ground, leaving only a seed of a hope of renewal (Isaiah 10). Even the line of kings, God's precious promise to the people of God, will be cut down to the roots, to even before the time of the most precious King David. God is starting over.
Hundreds of years later a child was born to descendants of the tribe of Judah, in Bethlehem, the city of David. The child was named Jesus. News of his arrival was as humble as the quiet anointing of King David. The first to greet the new king were shepherds called in by angels telling the good news, as David had been called in from the sheep by Samuel the priest (Luke 2:8-20). Like Israel twice before him in both their wilderness wanderings and their exile, and like King David during his flight from Saul, Jesus would also be taken into the desert and tested (Luke 4:1-13). As Israel had been cut down by God and destroyed by the empires surrounding her, Jesus would also be killed at the hands of the empire of his day (Luke 23). Yet while Israel was punished for her rebellion, this king had never transgressed a single law (Luke 23:4, 14). And, like the nation Israel was before him, Jesus was also raised to new life by the hand of God (Luke 24).
By his willing fulfillment of all of Israel's law and history, Jesus became the substitution for any and all who would from then on be added to the family of God. Though we rebel as Israel did, we need not ever be cut down. Christ, into whose branch we may now all be grafted (John 15), has been cut down in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this was the full nature of God manifest. Our Just King did not forgive our corruption by looking over it, but by fully satisfying the debt incurred by our wrongdoing. The death of Israel because of the rebellion of the kings became his. At his resurrection he became the new and final King, the firstborn of a new humanity (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5), a merciful and loving God by whom all may be brought back to justice.
Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESVUK)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
The Kingship of Jesus was inaugurated by his death and resurrection, but his origin was from long before. Jesus was present in the beginning with God, and all things were made through him (John 1:1-4; Ephesians 1). His rule began after his payment for sin on the cross (Hebrews 1:3). His reign is eternal, the fulfillment of the eternal kingdom promised to David. All else is subject to change.
Revelation 5:5 (ESVUK)
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Jesus became the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and therefore also the root of David, the one from whom even David takes his source. By his intervention in human history, all debts owed by we, the rebel kings of earth, are now paid. Jesus becomes like David, the intercessor on the hill between the judgment of God and the people of God. Jesus becomes like us, the rebel nation deserving of destruction. In exchange, we become like him, grafted into his new life, drinking deep from divine roots.
Revelation 22:16 (ESVUK)
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
Jesus is both the root of David, his divine source from whom he receives his adoption into God's family, and the descendant of David, his human son, whom he willingly became so that the lineage of David may be redeemed (Matthew 22:41-46).
By his death and resurrection, Jesus becomes the final judge on whom all judgment may fall.
Isaiah 11:2-4 (ESVUK)
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Jesus came as the poor and received the judgment of the wicked upon himself. He judges with righteousness by his own death. His judgment is equal. By his death he set free both the oppressed and the oppressor. Every one saved by the death of Christ has been a king like David, arrogant rulers of our own world as though we made our own throne, and the oppressed of the land under the wicked kings after David. The true and final King has set us free from both.
Tomorrow, June 26, 2014: 1 Peter 2:11-12 - Aliens
Next Tuesday, July 1, 2014: Isaiah 11 - The New King and the New Kingdom
Next Tuesday, July 1, 2014: Isaiah 11 - The New King and the New Kingdom
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