All Things New
In 1965, Donald Currey killed the oldest known tree on earth. There’s a few different versions of the story, but the one found in the Smithsonian magazine tells that Currey, a tree scientist, was trying to take a core sample of a bristlecone pine in what is now Great Basin National Park in Nevada. He knew it was an old tree and he wanted to see how old it was.
And his coring device, which takes a core out of the tree trunk, got stuck. He couldn’t get it out. So a park ranger, who didn’t know any better, helped him cut the tree down to get his coring device out. Only afterwards did they count up the the tree rings and when they almost got to 5,000 they realized that they had just killed the oldest tree known to humans at the time.1https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-one-man-accidentally-killed-the-oldest-tree-ever-125764872/
Talk about an “oopsie,” right? One you cut a tree down, you can’t exactly glue it back into place. That’s why forestry companies pay college students to go plant little trees every summer. Once you’ve clear-cut an area of the forest, it’s not coming back.
Isaiah 1-12 has had a number of tree or forestry pictures in it. People have been described as trees and God’s judgement against them has been like a forest fire or a lumberjack, burning or cutting them down until nothing is left.
Chapter 1 of Isaiah ended with these words: “For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them” (Isaiah 1:30–31).
In chapter 2 he described his judgement “against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan;” (Isaiah 2:13). Chapter 6 ended again with the picture of a forest fire: “And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled” (Isaiah 6:13).450
The people of Israel and Judah were like a forest, and that forest was going to be destroyed. And at least in Israel’s case, the axe or saw that God was going to use was Assyria. 10:15 said that Assyria was the axe in God’s hands used against his people.
But that wasn’t going to be the end. Because of Assyria’s wickedness, the divine forester was coming for them, too. Chapter 10 ended by saying this about Assyria: “Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the loft will be brought low. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an axe, and Lebanon will fall by the Majestic one” (Isaiah 10:33-34).
What a picture of devastation. People and kingdoms cut down by God’s wrath on account of their rebellion.
But throughout these chapters we’ve also seen notes of hope. 4:2 promised that one day, the “branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.”
After all the judgement, a branch would remain. 6:13 told us that a stump would remain, and that the holy seed or offspring was that stump. Again, there’s notes of hope there.
And mixed in throughout these chapters have been repeated promises about a child who would be born, a son who would be given, who would rescue and redeem God’s people and bring an end to their sin and their exile.
And today’s passage, our last stop in this series on Isaiah 1-12, connects that promise of a Messiah with those images of a stump and a branch gives us a beautiful picture of the way that God’s grace is going to triumph in the future of his people.
Chapter 11, verse 1, opens with these words of hope: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” The house of David would be cut down, reduced to a stump, like that bristlecone pine tree in 1965. From he time of Ahaz on, the kings in Jerusalem would always be under the thumb or threat of a foreign king. And within a hundred years the kingdom would be destroyed entirely, and no king would sit on the throne for centuries.
But from that stump, a shoot will grow. And He will bear fruit. Unlike the fruitless people in chapter 5 who only grew wild stink-fruit, this branch will bear the righteousness that God was looking for.
We should notice that the stump mentioned is the stump of Jesse. We might have expected to this say the stump of David, because the Messiah will be David’s sone. But instead we are told that this is the stump of Jesse. Which suggests that this branch here in chapter 11 is not just just David’s son but a new David altogether.
Several other times the Old Testament prophets speak this way (Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23-25, Hosea 3:5). And the idea here is that the Messiah, while being the son of David, is more than that. He is also a new David. The true and better David.
And in the rest of chapter 11, we find out what this branch, this coming king, will be like. First, in verses 2-5, we are told what kind of King He will be. Then, verses 6-16 tell is what things will be like when He reigns, but from two different angles, like part one and part 2.
So that’s our outline for the next bit here. We’re going to see what kind of king this branch will be, then what will happen when He reigns part one and part two.
What Kind of King He Will Be
Let’s start in verse 2 where we see what kind of king He will be. And the first and most important thing we see is that, just like the first David, this future king will be anointed by the Spirit.
In 1 Samuel 16 we read that, after Samuel anointed David with oil, “The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). The Holy Spirit enabled and empowered David to rule.
And so will it be for this future ruler. Verse 2 tells us that “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” The Spirit won’t just touch Him once or twice, but will rest upon him.
And what will that mean? Verse 2 goes on to tell us what attributes the Spirit will convey to this king. First, He will be “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.” Those are judicial and governmental words, which means that they point to the way this king will rule wisely, making sound judgements and wise decisions.
Second, we read that the Spirit resting on this King will be “the Spirit of counsel and might.” This points to strength in military strategy. The king was the commander-in-chief of the armies and this future King will be a wise and strong military leader.
Finally, the Spirit will be “the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” The book of Proverbs links together knowledge and wisdom with fearing the Lord, and this will be a king who embodies both. And a proper fear of the Lord—not a foolish fear that wants to run away from God, but a proper fear that delights to draw near to God, as verse 3 tells us: “And His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
Verse 3 goes on to tell us about the righteousness of His reign: “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3–4). He’s not going to be a king who shows favouritism, treating people based on how well dressed or how good they look. He’s not going to favour the rich and the beautiful, and he’s not going to believe everything that people tell Him.
Instead, he’s going to be a king who rules according to justice, period. He’s going to take care of the the weak and the defenceless (Psalm 72:2,4).
Verse 4 goes on to say that “He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). This means that His words will be powerful. They will have divine effectiveness, and with his powerful, effective words he will rule the earth and judge the wicked.
And finally verse 5 tells us that righteousness won’t just be a part of this king’s job. It will be who he is. “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins” (Isaiah 11:5). The Bible often speaks about clothing in this way, pointing to the very nature of who someone is. Think of how Psalm 104 says that God is “clothed with splendour and majesty” (Psalm 104:1b). That points to who God is.
And so this king will be wrapped with righteousness and faithfulness. This will be who He is.
Don’t you long for a political leader like this? A man full of the Spirit, wise and powerful, who fears the Lord, always makes the right decision, is powerful and wise, isn’t swayed by appearances or what sounds good, who stands up for the weak, who will deal with the wicked instead of pandering to the wicked, and who is righteous and faithful to the core?
This is the true and better David who God has promised to send to reign over His people. This is what verses 2-5 have told us what He’s like.
What Will Happen When He Reigns, Part 1
Having heard what he is like, the rest of chapter 11 goes on to describe what His reign will be like. What will happen when he reigns. And you’ll remember that this comes in two parts. Part one is found in verses 6-10.
What do you think we’ll find here? Lower taxes? Better healthcare? Reduced home prices?
How about a new creation? Look at verse 6: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
Predator and prey in fellowship with each other. Notice that is says calves and not just cows. Calves are most vulnerable to a predator, and a fattened calf is most desirable, but here they are all safe.
And notice that not only is the little child safe in the presence of wolves and leopards and lions, but the child is leading them. Just like God intended, with humanity restored to its proper place of having dominion over the animals.
Verse 7 tells us that this is happening because the very nature of these predators will change: “The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (Isaiah 11:7). Animals will not be carnivorous but will all eat plants together.
Do you realize what this is talking about? This is talking about a restored creation, brought back to the garden of Eden. Back in Genesis 1:30, God said “To every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:30).
That was the original intention. Animals eating other animals, and especially animals eating humans, was not the way it was supposed to be.
Now I know this raises some big questions. Look at animals like wolves or cheetahs or hawks, which seem purpose-built for killing and eating. Did God build them that way knowing the fall was going to take place? Did He equip them with those features after the fall? We don’t really know because we’re not told.
But what we are told us that, when God’s Messiah reigns, nature itself will be transformed. The instincts and eating habits of predators will be changed, all of creation will be restored to Eden, and nobody will be afraid of being hurt or preyed upon anymore.
This picture gets even clearer in verse 8: “The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den” (Isaiah 11:8). Remember Genesis 3:15? When God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring”?
When the Messiah comes to reign, this enmity will be finally ended. Cobras and vipers will be harmless. Nothing to be afraid of.
And verse 9 tells us what’s behind all of this transformation: “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
Don’t miss this connection here. Back up at the end of verse 2 we read that the Messiah will have the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And what we see here in verse 9 is that He’s not going to keep this knowledge to Himself. He’s going to spread it so that the whole earth will know its Creator. Think of the way a dog knows its owner. When this day comes, animals and humans will know and obey their maker and will live as He intended them to live and all creation will be as it should be.
So in other words, the Messiah is thus not only a new David but also a new Adam. He stands at the beginning of a New Eden, and New Creation. And we should not miss that this is God’s ultimate plan. I’m so grateful that when we die knowing Christ, our souls to go heaven. But that’s not the final destination. If you look at the final chapters of revelation, you’ll see this picked up and affirmed again: God’s plan is a whole new creation where all things will be as they should be.
Verse 10 sums up this first section by telling us that “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).
The Messiah will have a resting place. His work will be done. And the nations of the earth will come to seek His knowledge. And all will be well.
I can’t wait? Can you?
What Will Happen When He Reigns, Part 2
But remember, what we’ve seen is just part 1. Part 2, from verses 11-16, describes another aspect to His reign. Part one was all about the New Creation. Part two is all about the return from exile. Look at verses 11-12:
“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:11–12).
Israel and Judah have been warned that they will be exiled from their land and be reduced to a small remnant. And here, Isaiah prophesies that the Messiah is going to lead the exiles home, wherever they are, however far they have been spread.
And as they come back, they will be drawn together again. Verse 13 describes peace between Israel and Judah, and verse 14 tells us how they will work together to subdue their enemies.
And in verses 15-16, Isaiah describes this great return from exile in a way that brings to mind the Exodus from Egypt so many years before: “And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt” (Isaiah 11:15–16).
Just like when God brought His people out of Egypt, so again He will lead them home, destroying any obstacles in their way, and bring them back to where they belong in His presence.
Hope on the Horizon
So this is the hope held out by Isaiah for the people of his day. They lived in dark days. Their foolish kings were selling them into slavery to foreign powers. Exile lay ahead. Though Judah was a mighty forest, it would soon be reduced to a stump. The kingdom would be dead and lifeless and whatever small remnant remained would be scattered among the nations.
But from that stump a branch would grow, and this branch would make all things new.
Things didn’t happen right away, though, did it? The exile to Babylon was still almost 100 years in the future. And after that, centuries of exile. Even when they came back to their own land under Cyrus the Persian, they never really got out of exile. They rebuilt Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, but God’s presence did not fill that temple, they were still under the power of foreign powers, and for hundreds of years they waited for the dry stump of Jesse to sprout this branch that God had promised.
The Return From Exile
And then it happened. In the most unlikely way, a branch started to grow. And after being born in David’s town, and re-enacting the story of Israel through His own sojourn to Egypt, this branch began to grow up—in Nazareth of all places.
But maybe that’s not too big of a surprise. The Hebrew word for “branch” is neser, which sounds awfully close to the first part of Nazareth, and a number of scholars think this is the significance of Matthew 3:23, which says that “he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23).
The branch was Jesus, and after His baptism, “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3:16), just like Isaiah 11:2 foresaw.
And time and time again throughout Jesus’ ministry He proved Himself over and over to be one with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the far of the Lord. He proved Himself to be one who did not judge by appearances but by right judgement (John 7:24). He was one who cared for the vulnerable and stood up to oppressors and could not be manipulated or backed into a corner by anybody.
And time and time again Jesus used words that showed that, in Him, the long exile was finally coming to an end. So many of the Scriptures Jesus quotes, or even the miracles He did, point to this theme that, in Him, the exile was coming to an end.
And the exile was coming to an end because God had come to be with His people again—through Jesus Himself, Immanuel, God with us.
And after dying to pay for His people’s sin, and rising again to kill death, and sending them out to gather in the children of God from all tribes and nations, Jesus has promised to return and deal with the wicked and make all things new.
Romans 11 promises that, before this happens, the remainder of Israel will turn back to Jesus, and through faith in him they will be grafted back in to the global people of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:8 says that Jesus will kill the lawless on “with the breath of his mouth” at His coming, an echo of Isaiah 11:4. Revelation 19 speaks about Him destroying the wicked with a sword from His mouth, echoing the same truth that Jesus’ words are powerful.
And Revelation 21 tells us how God, in Christ, will make all things new, and Isiah’s vision of peace and safety will finally come to pass. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” (Revelation 21:4).
“And the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
That is the ultimate triumph of grace. The history of God’s people, re-written by grace, to include not only their redemption from exile but the restoration of the whole creation.
Have you ever thought what it will be like to actually get to experience this? To actually set your eyes upon that future?
Have you thought, have you dreamed, have you imagined, have you wondered, what it will be like to be reunited with your resurrected body? To walk around, day after day, not feeling death and decay tugging at you? To live on a world the way it was meant to be? To live in perfect fellowship with not just every other person but every animal and, beyond that, God himself?
What will sunsets look like in the New Earth? What kind of home will you live in? How will you decorate it? What will it look like to see and hear Jesus and not need any faith anymore? And what are you going to name your pet lion?
I’m not trying to be funny. I’m trying to help us reflect on the fact that this is real. Isaiah saw something that is real. And we know it’s real because the Righteous Branch did shoot up from Jesse’s stump. Jesus did live and die and rise again and for he past 2,000 years He has been working through His church to gather in His people from all the nations to Himself.
And it might feel fantastical to you. It might seem like a fairy tale. And we’ve been told that such things aren’t true. We’ve been told that we know better as modern people. We know so much more than previous generations of primitive people who believed in silly things like God and prophecies about happily ever after.
But if we know everything, and we’re so smart, then why are we so sad, and lonely? Why are young people today killing themselves at such a high rate? Why is our world so obviously aching for something so much bigger and truer than what we’ve been offered?
What if us modern people got it all wrong? What if science can’t explain everything? What if the stories are true? What if Andrew Peterson was right when he sang, “I can see the the world is charged, it’s glimmering with promises. Written in a script of stars, and dripping from the prophets lips… I can see it in the seas of wheat, I can feel it in the horse’s run, it’s howling in the snowy peaks, and it’s blazing in the midnight sun. Just behind a veil of wind, a million angels waiting in the wings, a swirling storm of cherubim making ready for the reckoning.”
What if the next big event on God’s calendar is not the next federal election but the return of His Son Jesus to make all things new? What if we’re on a countdown, and every day that the saints cry out “How long?” is one day closer to that day, a day on the calendar with a year and a month and a date attached to it, when the Lord will say “enough!”, and Jesus splits the skies, and we finally see what’s been real all along?
I’m praying that God stirs up your heart this morning to embrace the truth that these prophecies are true, and they’re going to happen. If Jesus is your saviour, every good thing you’ve experienced in this life is just the down payment on the full salvation that is waiting for you (Ephesians 1:13-14). Everything you’ve experienced in this life is just the prologue to the real story that will begin when Isaiah 11 finally comes to pass in its fulness.
This is our hope, people. Our hope is not in politics. Our hope is not in social programs. Our hope is in Jesus returning to flood the earth with the knowledge of God.
And I can’t wait to find you on that day. What will it be like to find each other, having walked through so much together in this age, and lock eyes and say to each other, “We made it!”
It’s going to happen. And chapter 12 tells us what kids of words will come out of our mouths: “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 12:1–6).
And God will receive all of the glory, and we will receive all of the joy, and life will finally begin.
If you know Christ, that’s your future, folks. Hang on to that hope. Fight for that hope. Pray for the Holy Spirit to sustain that hope. Never cash in that hope for the cheap trinkets of earth. Let that hope fuel your obedience as you learn to live, today, like a citizen of that future kingdom.
And if you don’t know Christ, this could be your future. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Eternal rest through the triumph of God’s grace.
Let’s pray and then sing together to celebrate the hope that is coming to all of creation one day.