Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.
Isaiah 11:1-6 (NLT)
In typical fashion one Christmas at the height of the crush/rush season, I managed to get the flu. Thankfully it was a mild case! Early in the evening while I was attempting to be a little healthier than dead, Mr. and Mrs. Preacher were (as the poem has it) all snuggled in their bed for the night. We were not in hopes that St. Nick would soon be there…we were more hoping that Tylenol PM would kick-in and put us out for the night!
Just when the Sand Man began to do his thing with my heavy eyelids,
Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter – Mrs. Preacher went to the door to see what was the matter. Robbers? Bandits? A tornado come a-twirling? Nay, said Mrs. Preacher…’tis the Youth come a-caroling!
The Youth and Children of our church had made our home one of the stops on their Christmas cheer parade. As dead as I felt, it was a wonderful blessing! From my bedroom in the front of the house I could hear Mrs. Preacher direct the children to go over closer to my window. My blinds were shut, but I could hear them come, laughing and excited in the near Arctic weather.
After singing several choruses of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, et al, I heard one energetic little voice say (in a stage whisper that could have been heard in Cleveland), Do you think he’s asleep? Another merry youth suggested, Pitch that rock up on the window to wake him up. Right there I decided to respond to the merry makers. I reached over to the little electric candle in the window, and began turning it on, and off, on, and off…. Finally, a small, excited voice cried out, He’s sending us a sign; He’s sending us a sign.
After a few more carols, and a few more on and off, on and off’s of the sign – the voices and laughter faded into the silent and holy night. And the SandMan came. The little electric candle sign had done its job. All was well!
When it is really dark it is hard to miss even the smallest light. Candlelight services prove that. With all the lights off, one candle, lit from the Advent Wreath shares its light with someone else’s candle, and then someone else’s, and another, and another…. The light will overtake the darkness.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. John 12.46
We understand the picture of light chasing the darkness away. It is that way with peace. How odd peace looks in the middle of confusion and clatter. Christmas struggles are humorous because they touch at the very center of where we live. A little girl was pushing the limits of her mother's very last nerve. Mom was nearing the end of a hectic season of cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and church stuff. She was also nearing the breaking point with her little pre-schooler.
Finally the little girl was bathed and ready for bed. As she knelt to say her prayers, Mom listened as her sweet three year old theologian "customized" her evening prayer, ...And forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us!
Let's look at three pictures of Jesus, the peace tree...
There are many words in the Bible for "tree." The "rod" of verse 1 is a tender shoot, while the "stem" refers to the stump of a tree that has been cut down. There is nothing that looks so dead as the stump of a once great tree. A shoot may pop out of the stump, but it looks so hopeless, so incidental.
The great dynasty of King David had been cut down like a tree. Assyrian domination had crushed the once proud Jewish nation's identity. Everyone spoke of the throne of David. It was supposed to last forever. Now they were slaves again.
Isaiah traces the royal lineage of the Messiah back before David, to Jesse, father of David.
JESUS, THE ROYAL TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S HERITAGE
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: Isaiah 11.1
Jesus' favorite title for himself was "Son of Man." That can be traced back to Jesse. But He was also the "Son of God." That is traced back to before the foundation of the world. A modern Jew, Sue Kolinsky, has said, Probably the worst thing about being Jewish during Christmas time is shopping in stores, because the lines are so long. They should have a Jewish express line: Look, I'm a Jew, it's not a gift. It's just paper towels. The worst part, Sue, is the reality that your Messiah has already come, and you don't know it!
JESUS, THE ROYAL TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S HEART
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, Isaiah 11.2a
A king must have a discerning understanding of the hearts of men. If you are going to deal wisely with those who would take your kingdom, it takes a “wise as a serpent” ruler. Jesus knows the intents of our hearts. Often in the Gospels, we find Jesus answering the lawyers and religious bigots in such a way that they could not even respond.
JESUS, THE ROYAL TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S HEAD
the spirit of counsel and might, Isaiah 11.2b
The spirit of counsel is the ability to give worthy advice. The LORD himself reminds us:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
You can get your counsel from "Dear Abby" or "The Psychic Friends Network." But, as for me and my house, we will follow the LORD. He wrote the manual.
JESUS, THE ROYAL TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S HAND
the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; Isaiah 11:2c
Knowledge and fear of the LORD are simply ways of expressing a close walk, an intimate personal relationship; a heart that knows how to worship an all-powerful God. Jesus knew the Father intimately. He said we could too. It is a close personal relationship that grows out of proper knowledge and reverence to God:
O Worship the King, All glorious above,
And gratefully sing, His wonderful love.
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and King
Jesus is the Royal Tree of Peace, and…
JESUS, THE RIGHTEOUS TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S CHARACTER
Isaiah 11:3, 5
The word "righteous" means right. It has to do with moral uprightness, as defined by God. The character of God is holy and righteous.
Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. 1 Chronicles 16:10
Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Psalms 103:1
There is no mistaking a king's character; it shows in His conduct:
JESUS, THE RIGHTEOUS TREE OF PEACE HAS A KING'S CONDUCT
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. Isaiah 11.4
When people miss the true significance of Christmas, it is not generally because of the commercialization of the day, it is the trivialization of the event! We look at a baby boy in a manger and think, Oh, how sweet. My friends -- Baloney! That sweet little baby boy was holding the universe in those little hands. He was, and is, the KING of KINGS, and LORD of LORDS. That little baby was God, wrapped in the flesh of mankind.
The next time He comes, there will be no hay, lowing cattle or shepherds -- and everyone, innkeepers included, will not only make room for him – we will bow in humble abject worship.
The next time He comes, it won't be lowly, and riding on the foal of an ass – it will be as a victorious, conquering king!
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Revelation 1:7
The next time He comes there will be no debate in the courtyards with the political and religious "big wigs." The next time there will be only One who will speak in judgment. With a single word of His mouth He will turn time and eternity upside down.
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mark 10:31
When He comes again He will set up the millennial rule. There will be a thousand years of His perfect judgment. The poor and rich alike will serve Him. Only it won't have anything to do with money. The poor in spirit and the rich in faith towards Jesus will be the ones gathered around the throne of King Jesus.
Are you ready for His return? A young woman was expecting her date. She was dressed-up and waiting patiently. However, by the time he was an hour late she figured she'd been stood-up. So, she took off her makeup, put on her pajamas, gathered all the junk food in the house and sat down to watch TV with the dog. As her favorite show was just coming on, the doorbell sounded. It was her date. He stared at her wide-eyed: I'm two hours late, and you're still not ready?
The next time there will be no misunderstanding about just who this righteous tree of peace is -- and what He expects. It will all change radically in an instant -- the twinkling of an eye!
In Jacksonville, Florida there stands a tree called the "Treaty Oak." It is there that opposite sides of a conflict met to sign away the hostilities. That is radical action. It ends the war, begins the peace.
In a spiritual sense, Jesus arrived at the tree first. It was dead, they hung Him on it. And now, He has transformed that tree into a peace tree. Better, He has become the peace tree. When He died, He shouted, It is finished. He was telling all eternity that the time for your sins and mine had come to be forgiven. We need only meet him there. He is your peace tree -- peace with God, and peace within you. There is only one question: Will you meet him at that dead tree, so he can make you fully alive?