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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:A Broken World has Hope in the Root of Jesse
Text:Isaiah 11:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 98:1,2                                                                                            

Ps 73:1,9                                                                                                        

Reading – Isaiah 10:5-34

Ps 2:1,3,4

Sermon – Isaiah 11:1-10

Hy 46:1,2,3,4

Hy 73:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved, when you look around the world, you see there’s a lot going wrong. People who don’t care at all about God are thriving. The tide of our culture is rushing quickly toward dangerous places. Just go to the public library, or onto Netflix or YouTube, and you’re confronted with many godless values. People talk about justice and equality, but they really mean justice only for some, and they’re actually looking for a revolution. Meanwhile, we see wars and disasters and so much misery.

If you dwell on these things, maybe if you read the news too much every day, you despair. What’s next? Where’s all this going to end up? God is the Lord, but maybe we wonder about the evidence of that sometimes. What is God doing with this world?

And then we turn to the gospel of Isaiah, and his account of the Lord’s great glory. Back in chapter 9, he told us about a Child to be born, a Son, and “the government shall be upon his shoulders.” This promised one will sit on David’s throne to govern in true justice.

In Isaiah’s time, maybe the people weren’t so sure about that promise anymore. God said that great kings would come from David’s house, but so many of them were disappointing. The cowardly Ahaz was just the latest one to show himself faithless and to fail to give leadership.

But God’s not done with the line of David. Instead of another poor leader, God will raise up a King who is filled with his Spirit: “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse” (11:1). It’s interesting that Jesse is mentioned here, and not David. God probably wants to remind everyone of the very humble beginnings of the kingship. David certainly wasn’t born as a noble prince with a silver spoon in his mouth, but as the youngest son of Farmer Jesse, reared in the country village of Bethlehem, and trained as a shepherd. Like God loves to do, He brought something great from this small beginning—and God would do it again.

For this is what’s going to happen: “A Branch shall grow out of [Jesse’s] roots” (v 1). Isaiah likes imagery of the forest. At the end of chapter 10, he says Assyria will be cut down like a tall tree, lopped off, never to grow back. But Isaiah also told us in chapter 6 that new life will come from Israel’s burned-out stump. So for Judah: ‘a branch will grow,’ as God restores what is broken. The stem of Jesse and the branch of David don’t look like much, but God will raise up a glorious King and Saviour.

The broken world has great hope in the coming Root of Jesse:

  1. the Spirit who fills Him
  2. the righteousness by which He judges
  3. the peace that He brings


1) the Spirit who fills Him: If you take a quick glance at verse 2, what word jumps out? 'The Spirit.’ Isaiah says about the Root of Jesse that “the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him” (v 2). He’ll be a Spirit who brings him many gifts: wisdom, understanding, and counsel.

Not that the LORD had never given his Spirit before this. The Old Testament tells us about many people who received the Spirit so that they’d be ready to serve God. Think of Joseph, a young man in whom was God’s Spirit. Or Bezalel, one of the craftsmen of the tabernacle—equipped by the Spirit. The Spirit moved among the judges too, men like Othniel and even Samson. Kings like David and prophets like Micah were blessed by the Spirit, and you could see his mighty work in them. For the Spirit brings good wherever He goes. It’s only through the moving of the Holy Spirit that a person can be faithful, and fruitful, for God.

When Jesse’s great offspring comes, the Spirit’s holy presence will mark his life. The Christ will live not according to the sinfulness and selfishness of the human spirit. But the coming King will stand apart, the Spirit of the LORD ‘resting upon him.’

And the Spirit will supply him everything that He needs to be a good and faithful King. What kind of Spirit? “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding” (v 2). Scripture calls a person ‘wise’ whose life is lived in a constant communion with God. A wise person can make the right decision at the right time, because he is always thinking about how the Lord would want him to go. You can’t study for this kind of wisdom. It’s gained by those who truly fear God.

One of the ways Christ would be remarkable is through his Spirit of “understanding” (v 2). Jesus had a deep insight into people, a penetrating knowledge of who they really are. In our life, we’re sometimes blessed to have someone who understands us, who truly ‘gets’ us and knows our heart. You’ll know how rare that is—and what a blessing that is—which makes Christ’s ability so amazing. John writes in his gospel that ‘Jesus knew what was in a person.’ He can see into the deepest places of every person.

This makes him an effective king, and a great saviour. To render good judgments, kings need this ability: to see through the façade that people put up, and to discern what motivates and moves them. The Son of David has this understanding, which in turn gives him a true compassion for us. He knows how sinners struggle, how we are tempted, and how we need constant help. And when you ask him, He gives help!

The Spirit resting on him will be “the Spirit of counsel and might” (v 2). The word for ‘counsel’ describes plans and decisions. Kind of like the plans that you and I will make at the start of every week. Sometimes our plans work out, but so often they need to be revised or cancelled altogether. But the coming King will also be blessed with ‘might,’ having the strength to always carry out all his decisions. Christ’s counsel will not fail, but He’ll accomplish all that He purposes to do: to save his people and to glorify his God.

And on him will rest “the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (v 2). Those two run close together. As we said, when we revere God’s holiness and God’s glory—fearing his name—He grants the knowledge of how to live, how to find our way through this world. Fearing God is the key to a good life. It’s also the key to good leadership.

Israel’s history showed that far too many kings ruled without a fear of God. World history shows the same thing. The top desire of kings and presidents is often not to please the Lord, but they’re focused on increasing their power and accumulating wealth. Such a focus results in lying, corruption and war. It leads nowhere good.

But the new King will bring so much good to his believers. I’ve already been referring to him as Christ, for there’s no secret that Jesus is the promised Son, the branch who grew from Jesse’s roots. For instance, when his coming was announced to Mary, the angel said, “God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:30). Then it was no accident that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, ‘the city of David’ (Luke 2:4). And during his ministry, people often cried out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy.”

So we’re not surprised when Scripture says He had upon him “the Spirit of the LORD.” Recall Jesus’s baptism when the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove. Or there’s what Jesus said in his very first sermon, presented in the synagogue of Nazareth. He quoted from Isaiah—not our chapter, but Isaiah 61—and He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18).

God’s Spirit was upon him! The Spirit would give Christ every necessary trait for faithful ministry: wisdom, understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. In the Spirit’s mighty power, Jesus preached, and obeyed, and suffered—He was faithful even to death.

Beloved, it’s one of the Lord’s greatest mercies that we are allowed to share in his Spirit. This fact should never cease to amaze us: the same Spirit who filled Jesus now fills us! The Spirit of the LORD enters us with mighty power and speaks to us as a wise counsellor. And we need his nearness, every day.

For there are things that God is calling you to do. He gave Jesus a calling—to be Saviour and King—but He gives you a calling too. And your calling is in the place wherever God has put you today. It’s in the relationships you have today, the responsibilities and the duties you have today and this coming week. Here and now is where He seeks your service!

Sometimes we feel God must be asking too much of us. ‘This is too hard. I can’t surrender. I can’t forgive. I cannot trust.’ But God delights to give good gifts to his children. So ask for the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might. He will help, just as He helped Christ, so that He could be our glorious King.


2) the righteousness by which He judges: You can summarize the reign of Christ in just one word: righteousness. This is being right and doing right in the eyes of God. When the Root of Jesse takes the throne, it’ll be clear whose will He seeks to do.

In the first place, “His delight [will be] in the fear of the LORD” (v 3). Earthly rulers take delight in many things. They are happy when the economy is strong, and when the polls are in their favour. But Christ the king has a different priority: He delights in the fear of God.

Meditate on that for a moment. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, finds joy in a person who loves the Lord! If you fear God, He delights in you! And it’s good to look at ourselves the way God looks at us. We can feel badly about the sin and failing in our life—and it’s right that we do. But remember too, that God delights in you. If you are battling and striving every day, running up against all the thorns of life on this planet, but still seeking God for your strength, and loving God, and holding God in high honour, He delights in you.

Christ is a king who cherishes those who trust in him, and He’s a king who judges by truth. Verse 3: “He shall not judge by the sight of his eyes.” On the last day when people come to him for judgement, Christ will go by what is right. Did they fear God, and keep his commands?           And it’s telling that Isaiah says what Christ will not do: “not judge by the sight of his eyes.” That’s how we so often judge. We look at image. If someone presents well—nice clothing, good hair, an attractive profile—we favour them. We feel good about a person who looks good, even if they don’t care about God. As Samuel said so long ago, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

This makes for a good king. Christ isn’t biased against people, and won’t be swayed by things He’s heard about a person, not “[deciding] by the hearing of his ears” (v 3). Again, for us, sometimes just a whisper of a person’s bad reputation makes us reject them. ‘But did you hear what he did? Do you know what her family is like?’ Just like that, we write people off. But Christ treats everyone righteously. Verse 4, “With righteousness He shall judge the poor.” He is always guided by what is right.

Why does Isaiah mention that ‘the poor’ are judged? Because these are the folks always at a disadvantage. If you’re poor, you just can’t compete with the rich. The rich have influence, and in Isaiah’s time, the rich gave bribes. As for the poor, no one cared. Why advocate for someone who can’t bring you any benefit? Why speak up for the silent?

But the Root of Jesse will do this. As king and judge, He’ll be utterly fair to a person, whether they’re rich or poor. He will “decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (v 4). We said that to execute justice perfectly requires you to have perfect knowledge. People can do all the right things but for all the wrong reasons, and so they’re still guilty. But Christ has a knowledge of hearts—our motives and desires—so He can do justice.

I said in the introduction that justice is a big concern today. People want to put right the wrongdoings of the past, even overthrow society to bring that about. We see that this kind of justice quickly takes on a focus on punishment. It’s often mixed in with anger, some envy, and bitterness. It’s actually no different for us: we hate to see people getting away with bad behaviour. We want people to get what they deserve, and not to get what they don’t deserve.

And so the warriors for social justice cry out today against white supremacy, or against male oppression. At the same time, we cry out against the wicked who seem to thrive. We say it’s just wrong when people get away with breaking the rules. Reading the news everyday becomes an exercise in frustration! It’s wrong when the godless don’t have to answer for what they’re doing, like their immorality. We crave justice, but we don’t always see it.

So it’s a big comfort to have a righteous king. One day Christ will judge rightly, reward graciously, and punish fairly. Verse 4 says: “He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips He shall slay the wicked.” It’s a picture of someone with so much power that He simply has to speak. With just a breath, Christ will wipe out those who oppose him, no matter who they are. When we see the world in crisis, and our culture under the sway of godless people, God reminds us that the wicked cannot escape. Even if they are seemingly able to do whatever they please, Christ can shatter all who oppose him.

We know that this will happen, because righteousness runs so deep with God. Verse 5 says about Christ: “Righteousness shall be the belt of his loins, and faithfulness the belt of his waist.” The Hebrew words for ‘belt of his loins and waist’ describe the most intimate garments a person would wear, garments right on the skin. When you strip everything away from a person, what do you find? What is your truest character? Who are you when no one else is around?

For Christ it is righteousness and faithfulness! He remains true in everything: in every promise, in every judgment. So He’s the kind of king in whom we can trust fully, and to whom we should listen always. He won’t lie, He won’t fail, for righteousness is his belt.

Now, after all this, we still get nervous about the idea of Christ as judge. Being called before the all-knowing King on the last day is pretty daunting. Christ judges with perfect insight, penetrating and unpeeling all the layers of our heart. He knows us in the secret place and calls us to account. If we have hidden sins in our life today, a habit that brings us shame, an ugliness we’ve carefully covered, then this is a strong motive to confess and to repent.

For confessing to Christ is safe and good. This righteous Judge won’t hold sins against us, but He’ll forgive. That’s the wondrous thing: the sinless One became sin for us; the righteous One was made thoroughly unrighteous. When we have a true and living faith in Christ, He looks on us with mercy and He forgives.

And when we’ve been forgiven, this has a sure effect on our life. One effect relates to how we treat others. We tend to judge people, we said, but not ‘in righteousness.’ We judge according to what we see, by what we’ve heard. We fail to be generous and forgiving—sometimes toward fellow members, often toward our nonbelieving neighbours. But don’t forget the mercy that you received from Christ! Show the same compassion and treat others with equity. Then you’ll enjoy true peace.


3) the peace that He brings: How deep does sin go? How far does the brokenness extend? Sin goes much further than our personal failures to keep God’s law, and further too, than sin’s damage to our marriages and friendships and church life. Romans 8 says that “the whole creation groans and labours” (8:22). Everything has been ruined by mankind’s unrighteousness. And what means that the righteous king has a lot to put right.

This is what we see in the last part of our text. It’s a scene that recalls the Paradise of Genesis 1-2, when everything was ‘very good,’ when there was perfect peace. The Root of Jesse will unite and heal everything that has been broken and separated. This restoration is captured in a whole series of symbols of aggression and helplessness, violence and peace, now living together in the harmony Christ gives.

“The wolf…shall dwell with the lamb” (v 6). Here are two sworn enemies: one a hunter, the other the hunted; one strong and ferocious, the other meek and helpless. How many lambs in Israel every year met their bloody end through the fangs of a wolf? You just couldn’t imagine a wolf getting comfortable next to lamb. But now they’re at peace. The wolf is the lamb’s guest.

Likewise, the leopard and young goat (v 6), lying down together. The predator and prey having a sleepover! Or “the calf and the young lion and the fatling together” (v 6). Here is an unlikely trio: a tame animal, a killer, and a beast of burden—now the best of friends!

And such will be the peace among the animals that a little child can step in and “lead them” (v 6). Humans have domesticated a few animals over the centuries, but sometimes they still let us know that they’re animals and we should stand back. If you’ve seen two dogs fighting—angry and snarling—you’ll know not to intervene. But Isaiah sees a time when even a young child will step in among animals who used to be at each other’s throats. ‘A little child shall lead them,’ for the most ferocious will become calm.

Likewise, the fear of snakes is one of the most ancient human fears. But so profound will be God’s peace through Christ that “The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den” (v 8). No more fear, no more threat, no more venom.

One of the questions that people ask about this passage is whether we should take it literally. Are we really to expect that a committed carnivore (such as a lion) is going to become a herbivore, and enjoy a grassy lunch? But this is God’s powerful recreating purpose. We’re given a glimpse of it in Revelation 21 also, where John sees “a new heaven and a new earth” (v 1). And it’s a place where brokenness is banished: “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…[and] no more pain” (v 4).

And not just among the animals, but among all humans: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isa 11:9). Christ the glorious King, ‘the Prince of Peace,’ will bring an end to all the hostility and malice which fill this earth. Black and white together, Jews and Gentiles. No more wars and refugees. No more angry arguing and violent protesting. No more godless rebellion. No more divorce, and no more funerals, and no more cancer. For “His resting place shall be glorious” (v 10).

When Christ returns, He’ll bring his peace to a perfect wholeness. Verse 10 says, “In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people.” In the ancient world, a king would lift a banner in order to collect people together. When they saw the banner, they knew they were being called for battle, or called to hear good news. Christ himself is the banner, He is the rallying point. For it is Christ alone who can unite people and bring them together in peace.

Looking at how broken the world is today, it seems impossible. But in small but powerful ways, we’re allowed to experience his peace already. When you believe in Christ, you have peace with God, because He has forgiven you. When you follow Christ, you have the sure motivation for living at peace with all the people around you. When you know the Lord, you can face an uncertain future with a sure peace, because you know his promise.

So hold onto your hope. Be of good courage. Know that this world and its desires is passing away, but whoever does the will of God will live forever (1 John 2:17).  Amen.      


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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