The Unimpressive Shoot Who Makes Us Sing

Do these signs make you sing?
Do these signs make you sing?

Do these signs make you sing?

The election 2020 candidates have all tried to impress us, but it’s the unimpressive “shoot from the root of Jesse” who will make us sing.

Today we cast our vote. What will tomorrow bring? The end of campaign rhetoric at the very least. We will no longer be subjected to speeches filled with lavish promises. We will no longer have to sort through headlines and editorials to sift grains of truth from buckets of sand.

I’m glad we’re coming to the end of this race. I’ve never been particularly good at understanding politics. Generally, I’m too eager to hope and too gullible about taking candidates’ words at face value. When they let me down, I rebound. I want to trash them all and wash my hands of the whole mess.

Politics for me is like being in a toxic relationship, constantly swinging from hope to disgust. There’s only one thing that steadies me–God’s sovereignty. The sovereign rule of God fortifies me both to vote and to wait for the results. The eternal God is my confidence for today’s vote and tomorrow’s headlines.

Specifically, it’s God’s word through Isaiah 9-12 that gives us perspective in today’s post.

The Tangled Mess–Isaiah 9:8-10:34

We have almost 4 chapters to cover, but before we get to the next high point, Isaiah 11:1-16 we need to dip into the low point where sin and need have made a tangled mess. Last week’s post focused on the previous mountain top, Isaiah 9:1-7. Those verses gave us God’s word of hope to Judah, the southern kingdom of a divided Israel.

Isaiah 11:1-16 also brings hope, this time to the northern kingdom, Israel–the ten tribes who separated from Judah to form their own alliance under their own king (1 Kings 12:16-24). Were they worse sinners than Judah? No. God doesn’t measure sin by comparing sinners to one another, he measures it by comparing sinners to his holiness, as Isaiah 6 showed us.

What specific trouble in Northern Israel called for a Messianic intervention during Isaiah’s day? First, they refused to listen to God’s words of warning. Israel had been on a steady slide into idolatry for decades. King after king did nothing to stop their descent. Although the Lord sent prophets to call them to repentance, they didn’t heed the warnings. Second, their refusal eventually brought the very judgment God had warned them about (2 Kings 17:4-8). They were attacked by the super power Assyria, and most of the population was carted off to exile. Third, along with faithfully judging them, God faithfully left a remnant, a small population of mixed race and mixed religion, who remained in the northern borders (2 Kings 17:29-33, 41).

That’s the low point, the tangled mess. Picture it with me: a land decimated by invasion and populated by the mixed band of refuges left behind. It’s this group that needs the good news Isaiah brings.

The Unimpressive Shoot–Isaiah 11:1-9

Isaiah begins

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

A shoot–a wisp of green coming from the dead stump–is not impressive. Yes, it’s a sign of life. But it is tiny, tender. Fragile. You could pinch it between your fingers and pull it out.

slender shoot from a stump

What kind of help will such an unimpressive shoot bring? Why such a fragile provision for such a great need? Because, as our pastor said, “We need a leader who’s humble.”

Today’s election is between The Senile One and The Mouth. Neither is the kind of leader we need (though we must chose and cast our vote). Rather, we need a leader who is both wise and humble. And that’s what Isaiah describes here:

  • humble like David, the root of Jesse, who was the youngest of 8, tending the sheep when Samuel came to anoint him
  • wise like Solomon, the wisest of kings, who could solve the unsolvable and bring enemies together

We need a leader who is guided at every moment by the Spirit of God. One who fears God more than anything or anyone else. We need a leader who cares for the meek and brings justice to the oppressed. This is the kind of leader who can’t be claimed by any political party, who can’t be bought by any backroom deals.

We need a leader who is righteous, not just on the outside, but all the way down to his underwear. Yep, apparently that’s what the text, “righteousness shall be the belt of his waist (Isaiah 11:5a) means!

The Impressive Root–Isaiah 11:10

Jesus, the unimpressive shoot, comes from a deep tap root. His roots go down into the soil of human history, past the birth of America, past the beginnings of Europe, deeper than foundations of Jericho, Damascus, Luxor, or Yanshi. (All of these are on the “oldest cities continuously inhabited” list.)

The roots of our Messiah go deep, deeper than the history of civilization. His credentials are too long to list. His previous experience qualifies him beyond all other contenders.

We need a leader who is up to the job, not some newcomer who might not be able to back up his promises, nor some old geezer who is past his prime. Isaiah shows us such a leader–one who will bring his scattered people together under his holy banner.

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 11:12

I’ve never attended a political convention, but I’ve watched the sign waving on TV. It’s rousing to watch the excitement, especially if you think the candidate is a good guy who will make a great leader.

But imagine the banner waving excitement when our Messiah appears! He will assemble his people–those for whom he died–from every people and language and nation, gathering them to the great celebration. Isaiah envisions that day in the geopolitical terms of his day, and in the historical terms of the exodus:

And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of the remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

Isaiah 11:16

Jesus himself will bring us together from all lands and every epoch. The unimpressive shoot will prove to be the Most Impressive Root.

The Joyful Song–Isaiah 12

Which brings us to the song.

My neighbor’s yard filled with campaign posters doesn’t make me sing for joy. Frankly, even if her signs reflected the candidates I support, it wouldn’t start me singing. But that’s OK.

I’m not supposed to get swept up in today’s election fever. In this day, I’m called to study the issues, make my decision, and cast my vote. After the winner is announced, I’m called to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).

But as I do, I’m still actively, expectantly, eagerly waiting for that day, and that’s why I join this song today:

“You will say in that day:

…Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and not be afraid;

for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.”

Isaiah 12:1a, 2

Join me in voting, waiting, and singing.