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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:The Messiah: Shoot, Branch, and Root
Text:Isaiah 11:1 (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day
Topic:The Incarnation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Scripture Readings: Luke 2:1-7; Isaiah 10:33-11:16
Text: Isaiah 11:1
Songs (from the Book of Praise): Hymns 11, 16, 12, 17, 15
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Our Canadian Constitution, 1867, by which the Dominion of Canada was born, says that it is the duty of Parliament to "make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada." Peace, order, and good government—those are good things.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982, begins by stating that Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. Recognition of the supremacy of God and the rule of law—those, too, are good things.

How much of these good things do we see in our country? No, it is not all bad. But it is not that great either. How much peace, order and good government do we see? Does the Charter play more than just lip service to the supremacy of God? What law were they thinking of when they said that we recognize the rule of law? The law of God? Or the law of man?

The United Nations was formed in 1948, after the two devastating world wars. The UN was going to ensure that the rule of law was employed throughout the world. It was going to bring about peace throughout the world. It was going to bring about the end of bad government. In fact, the UN has been completely ineffective in establishing peace and good government in the world.

But, a lack of peace and good government is nothing new. It was there in the time of the Prophet Isaiah who prophesied during the reign of Ahaz king of Judah. Religiously, King Ahaz was an evil king. He participated in idolatrous practices. Politically, he was foolish. During his reign, Syria and Israel joined forces to attack Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah told Ahaz to stand strong in faith in the Lord, the God of the Jews. Ahaz refused the advice and appealed for help from the king of Assyria. That was a disaster for Judah, politically and religiously. Ahaz and Judah ended up surrendering to Assyria. Judah ended up as a vassal state of Assyria. Ahaz had a pagan altar placed in God's temple.

The slide of the kings of Judah, after Ahaz, continued. There were a couple good kings yet: Hezekiah, Josiah. But mostly they were corrupt. They led the people down into a death spiral, politically and religiously, until they went into exile in Babylon. The misery that began at the hand of Assyria was completed some 140 years later by Babylon. The house of David ended up in exile in Babylon. An ignoble end to a powerful dynasty that had begun more than 400 years earlier.

Nothing left but a stump. That's what Isaiah prophesied during the reign of Ahaz. The powerful dynasty Ahaz belonged to, the house of David, would end up as a dead stump.

I am going to speak to you this morning about that stump. And about how a shoot came from the stump. About how even a fruit-bearing branch came from the stump. And I am going to speak about the deep and excellent roots of the stump.

Isaiah called the stump of the Davidic dynasty, the stump of Jesse. Jesse was David's father. Jesse was a farmer who lived in the little town of Bethlehem. Jesse was a nobody who lived in small town. The mighty house of David would be reduced to nothing. Right back to what it was before Samuel came and anointed David, Jesse's son. Right back to obscurity of a largely unknown farmer living in a small town.

And yet, at the same time that he spoke about the judgment that would come upon the house of David for its false religion and bad government, the Prophet Isaiah spoke the message of hope. A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse.

You know how that happens sometimes. A tree is cut down and all that is left is a stump. But then, one day you see some life in that stump. A shoot beginning to grow.

What a contrast with Assyria. God was going to punish Assyria. If you read through chapter 10, you see that God had used Assyria as a club in his hands to punish His idolatrous people. But Assyria had become very conceited and arrogant. Assyria's king had boasted about how he had destroyed many nations by his own power and strength.

For his ungodly motive, God was going to punish Assyria. See 10:12-13: "When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, 'I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.' For he says: "By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings."'"

God was going to chop Assyria down like you chop down a forest of trees, as we read in 10:33-34.

Now see the difference between the dynasty of the Assyrian king and his nation, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the dynasty of the Davidic king and Judah. The fallen Assyrian dynasty and nation would look like a forest of trees that has been felled. As if the mighty cedars of Lebanon had been felled.

Over in Judah, in Bethlehem, there will be that one lonely stump. Jesse's stump. But a shoot will emerge from it. New life. The Assyrian nation lies dead with no hope of life. That's what happens to the proud nations of the world. But Jesse's stump sprouts new life.

Who is that shoot? It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom God gives to his people, to his church. This prophecy that a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse was fulfilled on the day we are commemorating today. The day of Christ's birth.

Why did Isaiah say that the Messiah would come from the stump of Jesse rather than the stump of David? Why does the prophecy go back beyond David to David's father? For two reasons. Our Lord Jesus Christ starts all over. He goes back to the obscurity of Jesse. The Lord Jesus was born in obscurity. Born in the little town of Bethlehem. Born to a young woman who was betrothed to Joseph. Joseph was of the lineage of David, but he was a nobody. A humble carpenter practicing his trade in Nazareth, a remote town in Galilee. This was part of Christ's humiliation.

The second reason is because Jesus Christ came not just as a successor to David. He would not be another disappointing descendant of David. He would, rather, be another David.

Throughout the books of the Kings, the kings are compared to King David. He was the man after God's heart. He was the greatest king who established Israel in the land. He was the man who brought about peace and good government. He ruled over God's people as a good shepherd. He established righteousness, fairness and equity in the land. Jesus Christ, as the new King David, would do the same, except even better.

The second part of our text says that from his (Jesse's) roots a branch will bear fruit. The Hebrew word for "branch" is the word for a more mature shoot. The word comes from the Hebrew word "to be green." Fresh and green. When a shoot begins to grow, it can become a young sapling. This also refers to Christ. He grew up like a tender shoot and bore fruit. The fruit he bore are the things the rest of ch. 11 speak of. It speaks of his wisdom and understanding, his counsel, and knowledge. He is our great teacher who teaches us the wisdom and knowledge of God.

He is the great judge who judges righteously. He is the great king who establishes a peaceful kingdom for all his people to live in. He is the great shepherd who gathers in his sheep from all nations and peoples.

Christ is the shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse, even the branch, the good fruit-bearing sapling, that comes up from the roots of Jesse. But there is one very important thing we must notice in this text. That is that Jesus Christ is also the root. In 11:10 He is called the Root of Jesse. So what do we have? Christ comes from the root which is Jesse. But, at he same time, he is the Root of Jesse. Jesse is rooted in him.

How can that be? How can Christ both come from Jesse and be the one from whom Jesse comes? For that is what we have. Christ is both the root of Jesse and the shoot and branch that comes forth from Jesse.

The NT speaks about how Christ is the root of Jesse. The Apostle Paul, speaking very obviously about Christ, calls him the Root of Jesse in Rom 15:12: "And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.'"

We read something similar in the Revelation:

(Rev 5:5) "… the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed."

(Rev 22:16) "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

King David, Father Jesse, are rooted in Christ. Jesse's role in redemptive history is rooted in the original promise of Christ the Saviour. (Gen 3:15 where God promised:) "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

There and then, right at the beginning after man fell into sin, God promised that he would send a mighty Saviour to destroy Satan and all the powers of the evil one. A mighty king to deliver God's people from the evil one. Father Jesse as the father of a dynasty of kings was rooted in that promise of the Christ. David, as the greatest king who ever lived, was rooted in that promise of the Christ. Christ was the root of Jesse, the root of David. Jesse and David were nothing without Christ.

They were also rooted in Christ because our Lord Jesus Christ has his existence from eternity. He is the eternal Son of God who took our human nature upon himself to deliver us from our sins and from the evil one.

Christ Jesus is both shoot and root. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last. The beginning and the end. The Author and the Perfecter of our faith.

Today we commemorate his birth. He was born to suffer and die for us under the wrath of God.

In ch. 53, Isaiah came back to the shoot and root imagery. There he said that the Messiah would grow up before God like a tender shoot, like a root out of dry ground. He would be pierced (on the cross) for our transgressions. He would be crushed for our iniquities. By bearing our punishment, he would bring about for us peace. The peaceable kingdom.

Today we experience everything from reasonable government to bad government. The supremacy of God is not respected in our society. Not at all. Peace, order, good government, the rule of law—it remains an elusive dream. It eludes us here in Canada. It eludes, so much more, people living in countries controlled by communists and Muslims.

But it will not elude us forever. Because, haven't you heard? The Lord Jesus Christ was born. A mighty King. A King better than David. A King of whom David was a very pale and poor imitation and foreshadow. A King was born in the city of David. He is Christ the King. He has progressed from the cradle to the cross, from the cross to the crown. Today he is seated the right hand of God ruling over all things. He will come again, as mighty King, to establish perfectly his kingdom on earth. A peaceful kingdom. A kingdom of righteousness, of beauty, of glory. The very last words he spoke to us in scripture are these words:

I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. I am coming soon.

Did you hear that? Today we commemorate his first coming—his incarnation. But we await his final coming. We hold on to the promise of him who already came once. We are the people who hold on to the promise that he is coming again. Even, that he is coming soon. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2006, Rev. George van Popta

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