by Rev Hilda Warwick.
Isaiah chapter 11 is a text that begins against a backdrop of devastation, characteristic of Isaiah. However God will work newness beyond this dismal state. Isaiah never ceases to summon God’s people to hope and expectation in the face of discouraging circumstances.
The promise begins with a stump, a terminated plant from which nothing can grow.
The context is a deep failure of the Davidic dynasty, the one that had carried the hopes of Judah. I wonder if we need to ask ourselves, what leads us to deep hope in the place of discouraging circumstances? What are the stumps, shoots and sprouts of goodness that keep us focused upon God and His life amongst us? Are there places in our lives where we too feel nothing can grow? Yet God seems to indicate otherwise.
So now, in the face of that spent hope, a sprout, unnamed and unidentified, brings a faint sign of life, growth and possibility. The explanation offered is the “Spirit of the Lord”. A force that enlivens, gives power, energy and courage. One who has the capacity to do what the world believes is impossible .The Spirit generates new historical possibility.
The coming of such a king would be marked by a life fully congruent with God’s intention, to bring justice to the poor. The king is to practise righteousness and equity that are not based on surface appearances. A discerning ruler is not moved by wealth or manipulation. The fear of the Lord, is the guiding influence upon this new ruler.
Israel was to be a community, committed to justice, for the weak and vulnerable and in public affairs.
So what can we see? This is a vision of justice. A biblical community that is invited to represent all that is right and good.
Secondly, it is a reminder that Jesus cannot be reduced to a salvation that is solely private and personal. He was received, celebrated and eventually crucified precisely for his embodiment and practise of this vision of social possibility. Righteousness and justice are the clothing of this coming king and should be ours also.
However we then move on to the vision of the new creation
This passage is about deep, radical, limitless transformation in which humanity is involved. Human powers matter to the health of the earth. Did these passages anticipate the effect of climate change because of human intervention? I wonder?
The transformation is vastly public and intimately personal. It is a gift and a vocation, only possible when the sprout comes from the stump by the Spirit.
So what can we see? Newness, is for people and for nations. However there is one other transformation that we must recognise, an internal one .North and South, Judah and Samaria, will experience internal reconciliation. Whilst there has been human conflict, this passage moves to the real possibility of internal and external peace. Produced by the Prince of peace Himself, at work in community, bringing lasting and final harmony. What a promise. What a possibility.
Prayer – In the midst of a changing world, Father enable us to stand up for what is right and good, reflecting Your values in all that we do and say. In Jesus name Amen.