The Root of Jesse
Israel had lost hope. God had not spoken to them through a prophet for four hundred years. Rome was now in charge. They felt the burden of taxes and military occupation. Where was God’s promise to King David” When would he restore the kingdom? They were looking for God’s anointed one to lead them to victory over their enemies.
In today’s Old Testament reading God speaks through his Prophet Isaiah:
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots. (Isaiah 11:1)
Have you ever looked at what appears to the dead stump of a tree and noticed a very small shoot growing out of it? That shoot offers the possibility of new growth. The stump or the root had been cut down, but underneath a strong foundation may still exist. The was true for the root of Jesse, King David’s father and Israel before him. God had laid a foundation. a firm foundation. All appeared lost for Israel, but a new shoot was not coning forth, the very Incarnation of God.
Israel was not prepared for their Messiah, at least for the kind of Messiah he would be. John the Baptist was trying to prepare them. In today’s Gospel we read:
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)
Are we ready for new growth today? Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time of new hope. God wants to build on the foundation that he has laid for us. Will we trust him to do that even though we may feel spiritually dead? Otherwise we will be trusting on another foundation. That is what the Pharisees were doing in the days of John the Baptist. John warned them:
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:4-10)
The stump of Jesse may appear dead, but it is the only one that is alive. There is no life in the world’s foundation. It is a dying tree. John warned that the ax is laying at the root of all trees that do not bear fruit. Only in Christ can we bear fruit because only in Christ is any new birth possible.
Do we need the hope of Advent today? The Apostle Paul assure us that the foundation which God has laid for us is sufficient if we hold onto our faith in Christ Jesus:
being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6)
Thed promise given by the Prophet Isaiah for Israel if also a promise for us. Paul writes:
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:12-13)
What about our nation? Have we lost hope for it as did the Israelites? Our nation was built on a strong foundation laid down by the founding fathers whom many of us believer were under the direction of God. For those who have eyes to see, however, there is grave concern that we have lost our way in recent times. Nevertheless, and regardless of one’s politics, is a new shoot coming forth? Do we see it? God has not given up on America. Can we afford to give up on God?
This much we must understand: only the righteous nation will ultimately survive and thrive. The psalmist wrote:
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field,
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish;
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. (Psalm 72:6-7)