Isaiah 11

The Branch From Jesse


He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.


Three Sections: 1) The Man; 2) His Actions; 3) The Consequences; 4) The Application.

1) The Man

He will come from a family tree that in the prophet’s day has been reduced to a stump.

A stump represents a family tree that has been almost cut down without trace, such as the House of Israel at the exile.

A branch should represent a whole line coming out of the tree once it starts to grow upwards again.

The shoot will be small at first and only become fruitful when it grows again into a tree, but not all the new tree will necessarily bear fruit – maybe just this particular branch, and maybe just one fruit.

The man will be the fruit of this branch, which must mean something that contains that which can reproduce the tree if it is given ground to grow in, because God’s Spirit has rested upon him.

God’s Spirit causes the man to know, fear and delight in God, and to receive God’s own counsel, power, wisdom and understanding.

The implication at Christmas when this passage is read is that Jesus in the man.

The fruit which he represented was the word of God incarnate, which was removed from the tree as if it were a "rotten apple" and attached to another "tree" – the cross.

But just as a rotten fruit appears dead and withered, and yet contains a living seed which can reproduce a tree like the one which bore it, so the word of God incarnate in Jesus germinated into another tree which was the people called out of darkness into God’s marvellous light.

2) His Actions

The implication here is that the needy and the poor cannot speak persuasively for themselves, and do not appear worthy of favour, but that justice and righteousness and faithfulness to God demand that their cause be upheld.

The implication is also that someone is appearing against the poor and the needy who can be heard seeking to persuade their judge to reach a wrong and unjust decision against them.

The consequence of helping the poor and needy is inevitably to strike at these people, who may be described as wicked, but are far from exceptional, since it is "the earth" that is struck.

It is also a fight to the death as such people are not going to accept being struck without a fight in which they will wield lethal weapons give their position of power.

3) The Consequences

There will be a place, God’s holy mountain, where predators and prey in the animal world, and vulnerable humans and venomous creatures, will live together without killing or harming each other.

This event will be linked to the knowledge of God covering the whole earth.

They will have something to eat which nourishes them, and which presumably is designed to be eaten so that its seeds are spread in the earth and it can grow.

4) The Application

The experience of the House of Israel becomes our individual personal experience: we are each reduced to a stump and grow up again as a tree with one branch bearing one fruit more precious than any other – the fruit in which we incorporate the word of God.

That fruit must perish like all fruit and sow the word of God within it so that another tree or trees can grow which will carry the word of God through time.

The branch of our tree and its fruit must fear and delight in God and be a place for his Spirit to rest, so that we may have the wisdom, understanding, counsel and power to judge justly and righteously, and not be swayed by attractive and persuasive people and arguments, even if those people and arguments have the force of the prevailing law behind them.

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. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 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— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.