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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

What Good is a Stump?

From the Stump of Jesse

The First Sunday after Christmas – 12/31/2023

Isaiah 11:1-5

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion of God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Isaiah in the eleventh chapter with special emphasis on verses one through three which read as follows:

 

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                A stump is not a great thing to look at or mediate on. A stump is just a stump. At best, it can give us some glimpse of sacrifice in that a particular tree may have been taken for heating or lumber. But mostly a stump is a reminder of something lost. There was a tree, now there is a stump. And, as is the way of nature, the stump often is quickly overgrown with new growth and quickly forgotten. A stump is not anything significant. In fact, most stumps are simply overlooked.

                Who expects anything good to come from a stump? Most stumps are no longer trees for a reason. The tree may have died from disease or damage. Perhaps it had an infestation of insects. Maybe it was in the way. In short, a stump is a sign that a particular tree was either needed for something or was no longer good or useful.

                So what do we make of this stump, this stump of Jesse? Jesse, as you might recall from your Sunday School days, is the father of King David, the great ruler of the kingdom of Israel. David took over for the first king, Saul, who strayed from the Lord and was killed by the Philistines in battle. David was the first, great king of Israel and the Lord promised that his line would not fail and that the Kingdom of Israel would always have a son of David on its throne. But Israel was not able to stay faithful. After David’s son Solomon died, the twelve tribe of Israel were divided into two kingdoms. The north rebelled against the house of David and, during the time of Isaiah the prophet, was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC. Judah, the remaining southern Kingdom, would not be conquered until 586 BC, 136 years later.

                But the decline was not only in terms of politics. The people of Israel were rebellious not only against the king sent by God but were rebellious against God Himself. They allowed the false gods of the nations around them to infiltrate their houses and places of worship. They prostituted themselves to pagan idols and undertook false practices that offended the Lord of all heaven and earth. There are reports among the books of the prophets in the Old Testament that Israel even engaged in human sacrifice to these pagan gods.[2] Their morals were corrupted by false teaching and false gods which led to the people of Israel abusing their authority and positions of power.[3] While we could spend some time cataloging all the failures of the Old Testament people of God, suffice it to say that they turned from the true and living God to idols and this, in turn, led to and coincided with sins against each other.

                So what of the stump of Jesse? Clearly the tree of the house of Israel and her kings was no longer good for anything. It was a diseased, rotten thing and was fit only for destruction. And so, God, in His own time, set the axe of judgement to the tree and cut it down to the ground. After all, how could a good and loving God continue to allow evil and sin up to and including sacrificing their own children go on unabated? Justice and love demand that evil be stopped and put to flight. This, if you recall your study of the Catechism, is one of the lessons repeatedly taught in the explanation of the Lord’s prayer. God’s will is done when evil is stopped, and we should never forget this.

                There is a hard lesson in the stump of Jesse: the line of David and the very people of Israel who were chosen by God was cut down for their sins. Too often, we act and carry on like there will never be a reckoning for our sins and as if there is no judgement day waiting for us. God has cut off the line of David and torn down the tree of Israel before. And, if we too abandon the Lord and give into the false teachings and idols and worship of our time, He may do so to us as well.

                But God did promise that the house of David would rule forever and that the people of Israel would be His own forever. And God never forgets His promises nor does He take them back. Even though the Lord’s patience for Israel and her sins eventually ran out after hundreds of years of sending prophets and priests to call them back to faithfulness, He did not forget them. And from the stump of Jesse, a stump made by their failures to keep the faith and adhere to the covenant, the agreement, made with them by God, God promised to bring up a new shoot.

                This new shoot is significant because it does not rely on the old rotten wood of the stump; it comes from the rootstock of its own accord. In other words, this shoot will not be hindered by the sins of the past, nor does its validity and strength depend on the rotten works and faith of the past. It stands on its own strength and does not wither or decay or suffer disease.

                Now in this context, this prophet teaches this for two reasons. Firstly, this promise of the shoot reminds Israel that they are not forgotten and that God will preserve and restore His faithful remnant. But even more than this, a Shoot will come forth form this house of Israel, even the very lineage of Jesse who will rule the people of God, His Israel, who will not fail and who will last forever.

                I speak, of course, of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is of the house and lineage of David. He brings about the fruit of righteousness demanded by God, and does for not for His own sake, but yours. And this righteous Lord is not swayed by greed or brides, He instead judges with right judgement and clear sight. No evil is tolerated before Him or under His rule, but it is instead wiped away with the merest of breaths that come from His mouth.

                And you, you faithful of the Lord, are given into this Kingdom not by ragged works of self-righteous pretending, but because you have received the very saving work of the Lord Jesus and hold to the same in faith. Yes, it is the Lord an He alone who builds His everlasting Kingdom and who has ensured a place in it for you by His own death and resurrection.

                As for this shoot, Jesus Christ, who comes from the stump of Jesse? The tree of His person and Kingdom stands strong and resilient, easily shaking off wind and insect and disease, for this shoot will last forever and, by your being grafted into it by the power of the Word of God and faith, you will as well.

                A shoot has come forth from the stump of Jesse, giving us life and salvation in the forgiveness of sins.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 


[1] English Standard Version

[2] For example, King Ahaz sacrificed his own son in 2 Kings 16:2-3

[3] For example, Jeremiah 22:17

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