Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
I started watching a new series on Netflix a while back and it wasn’t long before I got bored with it and started to look for something else to watch. It was such a good show I can’t even remember what the name of it was! Has that ever happened to you? You start reading a book or watching a show and you find yourself bored or frustrated with it and you never finish it – you look for something different, something new? I feel like life gets like that, we find ourselves living in this story that is not going the way we want. We might even find ourselves wishing for a new story. Do you want a new story?
That’s one of the things Jesus Christ offers us in salvation. He offers us a new story. Isaiah tells Judah that our of the old root will come a new branch. Consider that old root your life, our tired world. Out of that old will come something new. Out of that tired will come something exciting. Out of that old root will come a new branch and with that new branch will come fresh fruit. It’s time for a new story! Jesus has brought that story for us and invited us to be a part of it.
Read Isaiah 11 carefully and check out the story we are invited to be a part of. It is a story with all kinds of characters – lions, lambs, children, wolves, bears, ox, and even snakes. All of them living together in peace and safety. All of them being welcomed despite the reputations they bring. This story Jesus brings with him is one of inclusive diversity. You don’t have to become someone you are not to join this story. The lion can still be a lion and the lamb can still be a lamb. You get to be you in this story!
Things in this story are different though. While the lion can still be a lion and the lamb can still be a lamb – their relationship has changed. The lion is no longer trying to kill and eat the lamb, they are living together. The lion, instead, is eating grass like the cow. Somewhere along the way the lion was changed. This story is one of transformation. In this story God makes us fully us, the us we were intended to be – the good us. The kind of us that can live in a story of peace and safety. It is a pretty amazing story – I really hope you will join.
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.
Peace is a wonderful and much needed thing. A lack of peace can often keep us from seeing the good (and the hope) God has for us. When we live our lives without much peace we will grow tried and weary. The more tired we get, the less peace we experience, the more hopeless we become. Isaiah was talking to a pretty tired Judah when he spoke these words. This message was to instill in them hope and to help them see the good God had for them. The best is yet to come!
We are living in a time when many people find themselves absolutely exhausted and longing for peace. We need just a moment of fresh air, just a minute to get our heads above water so we can catch our breath and find hope. It is good to hope for a peaceful eternity but we cannot forget that Jesus has also made it possible for us to have a peaceful present and live in a peaceful community. He challenges us all throughout His teachings to be a people of peace, to seek reconciliation, to love, and to forgive. This peace He is talking about isn’t just for individuals, it is for all of society.
John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” In those moments when you are feeling tired and weary we need to look to Christ and rest in His peace. Peace is something we will experience perfectly in eternity, but it can also be something we rest in presently, thanks to Christ. Do not let yourself be swept away in despair – accept the peace Jesus is offering and live in it. By doing so we might just change our world!
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.
I read an article on Forbes the other day that was titled, “Death of a City, The Portland Story?” It was about how near “death” Portland is because of bad policies, violence, crime, homelessness, and drugs. It painted a pretty bleak picture of our city. It got me thinking, is it really that hopeless? Is it really that bad? Sure, there are problems, but our entire country has problems. What can we do? What is the Church supposed to do? We hope, that is what the Church always does.
Isaiah was tasked with a very difficult mission – to go and prophecy to a very stubborn people and tell them to repent and turn back to God. In his message to them he tells them one day Jesus will come, peace will arrive, and the land will be a glorious place. This, of course, was a “not yet” word to them. It was something they could look forward to and reassurance that God had not forgotten them.
When we read this same word, we generally take it to mean “not yet” as well, even though we know Jesus has come. I want to argue that this prophetic word from Isaiah, for us, is not just a “not yet” word but also an “already” word. Jesus has already come. He has already brought His Kingdom. He has already set His plan of redemption in motion. Jesus has already given us hope for today and hope for tomorrow. He will, one day, complete it and we will experience His peace to the full. But, in the meantime we can experience His peace right now.
While we live in a world that has it’s fair share of darkness, pain, and brokenness we don’t have to settle for that. We can hope for more. We should hope for better. Why? Because Jesus is here and Isaiah said where Jesus is the land will be a glorious place. We need to have hope in the present and the future. The Good News of Jesus is that He came to heal us now, free us now, and assure us of a better future that starts today.
If you are a follower of Jesus you have a responsibility – not to run from the darkness but to take hope there. We, as the Church, are supposed to be the ones living in (and being an example of) God’s Kingdom today. But, maybe before we can do that, we should ask God to renew our hope too.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.