Advent: Jesse’s Stump (Isaiah 11:1-10)

By the time this sermon is over, I pray that you will never be able look at a stump the same way again. I pray that every stump you see will cause you to pause and give thanks to God for providing you with hope because you remember that God does not reject His people completely. Let us take time today to discuss this further.

Jesse’s Tree: Israel’s Kings

Jesse’s tree represents the Kings who reign over Israel. Saul was the first king of Israel because Israel demanded a king. Saul was later rejected by God due to his failure to perform the Lord’s commandments (1 Sam 15:13). God instructed Samuel to go “to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king from among his sons” (1 Sam 16:1). When Samuel saw David the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (1 Sam 16:12). After Saul died, David was anointed king of Judah (2 Sam 2:4) and then Israel (2 Sam 5:3) thus unifying the people of God. David was told by God that his kingship would be perpetual. After David died, the Lord “will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:12-13). He then said, “your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam 7:16).

Jesse’s Stump: Israel’s Kings Destroyed

Jesse’s stump represents the punishment of God upon the Kings of Israel. After David died, his son Solomon became king. After Solomon, the kingdom divided; with 10 tribes in the north becoming Israel and two southern tribes becoming Judah. All of the Kings of Israel were wicked and practiced idolatry. Most of the kings of Judah were wicked with a few notable exceptions being Hezekiah and Josiah. These two kings followed the Lord and sought to end idolatry in the land.

Northern Kingdom of Israel

Concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel, 1 Kings 16 gives an insight into the depravity of the kings and the people. The Prophets Elijah and Elisha were sent to Israel to call them back to God and to fulfill their vows. During the reign of Pekah, an alliance was formed between Israel and Syria (2 Kings 16) to fight against the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The king of Judah, Ahaz, asked for help from the king of Assyria saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me” (2 Kings 16:7).

The king of Assyria first conquered Syria and then carried the Israelites (including the inhabitants of Galilee and Naphtali) away into captivity in Assyria and resettled other peoples into Israel (2 Kings 17). They were exiled because “the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God” (2 Kings 17:7). The Northern Kingdom ended in ruin and the line of kings in the north came to an end.

Southern Kingdom of Judah

Concerning the Southern Kingdom of Judah, King Hezekiah trusted the Lord and rebelled against the king of Assyria. In Hezekiah’s fourteenth year, the king of Assyria (Sennacherib) came against Judah to conquer the land. Hezekiah sent word to the prophet Isaiah to seek the Lord’s help. Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard…I will put a spirit in [Sennacherib], so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land” (2 Kings 19:6-7). Judah was saved by the Lord but after Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh became king. Manasseh “led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9). The Lord said He would, “I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and spoil to all their enemies” (2 Kings 21:11-12).

Manasseh’s son Amon was king after him and was also a wicked king. When Amon died, his son Josiah became king and “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father” (2 Kings 22). When Josiah died, however, his son Jehoahaz become king and was wicked. The rest of the kings of Judah were wicked and Judah came to an end when the king of Babylon conquered Jerusalem. This happened because the Lord said, “I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds…I will kindle a fire in her forest, and it shall devour all that is around her” (Jer 21:14). With Jerusalem conquered and the Temple burned, the Southern Kingdom ended in ruin and the line of kings in the south came to an end.

Jesse’s Root: The King of Kings

It is in this context that the Prophet Isaiah said, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Is 11:1). Even though the line of kings from David has ended, Isaiah tells us that it will be restarted. Jeremiah the Prophet echoes this in Jeremiah 23:4-5, “I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.’” Also, in Jeremiah 33:15, the Lord says, “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

  1. The Branch’s Authority (1-2). The coming king will have ultimate authority. What is the stump of Jesse? Jesse was the father of King David. The imagery of a stump is of a tree that has been devastated so much that only a stump remains. This image is employed to represent the nations of Israel and Judah who have been devastated by the Assyrian Empire. It seems that all is lost until a shoot comes forth from Jesse’s stump. This is Jesus. Jesus is the son of David (Matt 1:1) who would emerge from the seemingly hopeless line of kings. He shall have the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him: “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Is 11:2).
  2. The Branch’s Righteousness (3-5). The coming king will be a good king. He shall have the Spirit of the fear of the Lord and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. This is very good news to the people of Israel because they had suffered greatly under wicked kings. The king who was most likely in power at this time was Ahaz. He did not do what was right. 2 Kings 16 describes the detestable practices he engaged in. Jesus judges with righteousness. He will decide with equity for the meek. He will be faithful and see that the poor are not mistreated.
  3. The Branch’s Peace (6-9). The coming king will bring true peace. This is symbolized by a wolf dwelling with the lamb (and not eating it!). It is also symbolized by a lion ceasing to be a carnivore and instead becoming an herbivore. There will be no hurt or destruction in the presence of the coming King. Predatory animals are shown to be dwelling in peace with their normal prey. All of these images are designed to symbolize the everlasting peace ushered in by the righteous king. There will be worldwide peace that surpasses all understanding as a result of Jesus.
  4. The Branch’s Hope (10). The stump of Jesse shall produce a branch from that will bear fruit of righteousness, hope, and justice. This branch shall also be a signal of hope for the entire world. Isaiah wrote, “of Him shall the nations inquire, and His resting place shall be glorious.” This hope is found in Jesus Christ. Do you know Him as Savior and Lord? Is Jesus your king? If not, admit that you are a sinner and repent. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Confess your faith in Him and be saved.