Meditations On The Messiah - The Branch And The Banner

by Ray Hawkins


The chainsaw had done its work. The trees were down and only the stumps were left. At least they made good seats for the weary. It was thought that the trees would be no more.

However, in a couple of months, a passer-by was surprised to note that one of the stumps had sprouted a stem with some little leaves just beginning to unfurl. The tree lived.

Isaiah seems to have a similar discovery after the vision of the Assyrian axemen (chapter 10). They had laid a swathe of destruction through the descendants of Jacob which seemed so thorough and deliberate that surely nothing could live -- well, maybe a few stragglers and off-scourings of a noble race, but no one of significance. Undoubtedly the descendants of David had been 'lopped'.

However, God is not caught by surprise, nor is His plan frustrated by the barbarity of the godless. Isaiah witnessed the sprouting of the Branch from the stump of Jesse (11:1). "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." The anti-God force that tried to destroy the promised Messiah had once again been foiled although the house of David had been viciously assailed. A seemingly weak and insignificant shoot had emerged.

God seems to delight to express His Glory and Power in and through the weak things, the gentle things, the unspectacular things of life. We see this in the still small voice which came to Elijah; we see it in the promised baby of Isaiah 7:14; we see it in the One who would tread so unobtrusively that He would not even quench a flickering flax.

Here the Eternal reveals His Messiah in the vulnerable position of a struggling shoot from a lopped tree, and yet on this One rested the destiny of the children of Abraham, indeed, the hope of all who would cry out to God with a sincere heart.

Isaiah continues on in a rhapsody over the identity of the Branch. He is God's anointed and appointed bearer of blessing and judgement for all the world. We notice that there is no real break between the "shoot from the stump" and the implied maturity of growth associated with being the judge. Jeremiah calls the same Branch "King who will reign wisely" (23:5,6).

From the very beginning this Branch will enjoy a unique and all-embracing relationship with the Covenant God of Israel, for the prophet says that the "shoot from Jesse" will have "the Spirit of the LORD" resting on him, "the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD ..." (Isaiah 11:1,2).

When we begin to register the prophet's picture of this coming One's personality and fashion, we need hardly wonder that the forces of evil will want to chop Him down. For He is RIGHTEOUSNESS, both in His person and in His judgements. The earth will feel the "rod of His mouth" and His breath will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4) Jeremiah says He is "the LORD our Righteousness" (23:6), for in reality He stands in garments of glory, the invisible expression of the invisible God.

In our world today we can have neither peace nor justice, even though we cry for them, without righteousness. The Branch is the only One with the authority and power to produce justice. The prophets of old see peace and justice thriving under the shadow of the Messiah's presence and awesome righteousness.

Isaiah shows us the benefits of the promised One's prevailing presence. The wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the goat, the child and the cobra will play together (11:6-9). It will be in that day that the Branch will be the Banner that is the rallying point for the nations of the world. "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious." (11:10) He is the One who will combine the longing of our heart with the righteousness of Almighty God.

My desire: set my heart to know your righteousness Lord, so that I might express your justice in my life.