See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power. The lofty trees will be felled, the tall ones will be brought low. A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 10:33; 11:1
It should seem obvious to us that God is about bringing restoration to his people in miraculous, impossible ways. But often it’s not. And Isaiah is at it again, on behalf of God, prophesying the unbelievable – that something new will come out of something dead. New life out of barrenness.
But should we be surprised? It happens again and again in scripture. The creation of our world out of a dark void. Isaac, son of barren Sarah and elderly Abraham. Samuel son of barren Hannah. Jesus son of virgin Mary. Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. The list could go on.
Isaiah’s prophesy is the destruction of God’s people at the hands of the Assyrians because they have sought their own desires instead of God. In doing so, God’s people made unjust laws, issued oppressive decrees to deprive the poor, withheld justice, preyed upon widows and robbed orphans (Isaiah 10: 1-2). Because of this, the “lofty trees” of Judah will be clean cut off. Quite an unpleasant picture.
But in the very next chapter, the next verse, even, God offers his people a word of hope – a shoot will come from the stump of Jesse. New life comes from death. How can we begin to talk about the hope found in knowing God? When we should be dead in our sinfulness, God provides us a new way to life (Ephesians 2:5). God chooses to do new things on our behalf, even in the face of our unfaithfulness. God will create a way in the uncertain wilderness and provide water for drinking in the dessert (Isaiah 43:19). Whether we are on the giving or receiving end of injustice, God can restore and offer new life in ways we cannot fathom.
And as Christmas draws nearer, remember that God humbled himself to live among his creation in order to expose, then defeat, the death in each of us. What does hope look like when we live in line with God’s purposes? The Biblical witness repeats this over and over again as well: the weak are raised up, the proud are humbled, and the people of God put their full trust only in the name of God. This advent season, how will you put your full trust in the God of new life? How will others tell?