Advent – Isaiah 11:1-10

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This passage gives us a glimpse of the one who is coming, The King who will set things to rights. The kingdom that is coming is revealed in it’s king, yet there is so much more going on in this passage. Let’s get stuck straight in:

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.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of theLord
    as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

It starts with the Spirit. I think that Isaiah 11 is a passage that one could spend a lifetime learning from. As is so often the case with Scripture, it is wide and deep, simple and complex, true and beatiful, challenging and comforting. Verses 11-18 raise huge questions for theology, politics and more. But our focus today is on the first ten verses. Their mighty resonance with the concerns and needs of our world today, and some of the implications for people moving towards Jesus.

We could – and I hope one day to – talk about the vision of the Kingdom in verse six onwards. The promise of peace, the inversion of normal ways of living and hunting, and the way that the knowledge of the Lord is what accomplishes this are all ideas well worth exploring.

But I want to start where the passage starts. Look at who is in view:

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.

This passage starts with the Spirit of the Lord – the one we Christians have historically called the Holy Spirit. The language is Trinitarian – The Spirit of the Lord (no other Spirit, but the one Holy Spirit that proceeds from God the Father and God the Son, and is himself God), and will rest on him – with distinct difference yet wonderful unity being the shape of the interaction. And what is the Spirit like? The language here invokes the image of someone I would love everyone to meet! The Spirit is wise, and understanding. The Spirit counsels us, and is mighty. The Spirit communicates knowledge of God and fear of God. And the effect of having this Spirit rest on him, for this un-named King who has not yet come, is a wonderful paradox:

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Christmas is a time, a time just around the chronological corner, where many of us will delight in a multitude of things and people. Christmas is a time, a time just around the chronological corner, where many of us will be in fear of bombs raining down, where our next bed or meal are coming from, of the family flaring up our our loved ones turning violence.

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Christmas, like so many of the high points in the Christian story, the Gospel history, is a time where tension is vital and reality is being changed. Christmas time is a time of delight for many and fear for many. The Holy Spirit is part of the story. In fact, the Holy Spirit is one of the key actors on the stage of salvation, empowering and speaking and soothing and healing. Whether you approach Christmas with delight, or you approach Christmas with fear, can I suggest that the Holy Spirit might be one of the people you need to engage with?

The Holy Spirit is intimately for and with us, as Christians. If you aren’t a Christian, or if you are and are unsure about how you feel about Christmas, perhaps these words would be a good place to close this blog post. They are from 1 John 4:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear

Perfect love comes down at Christmas in the form of a baby. A King is Born, and the Spirit rests upon him. The Father smiles down, and everyone is invited.

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