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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 4, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 11:1–9

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall 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.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea. (NRSV)

As we have been reading, Isaiah remarkably prophesies the coming of a messiah—not soon, but eventually. New Testament scholars cite Isaiah passages as foretelling the advent of Jesus Christ some 700 years later. Jesse, the father of David, is the “stump” from which this new shoot will grow, thereby giving that messiah status. We apply the descriptions of this messiah to what we believe about Jesus: having wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. Actually, “delight in the fear of the Lord. He will judge (or minister to) the needy and poor in a spirit of righteousness. He will vanquish the wicked. Times will be better: enmity will diminish (“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, etc.”). Verse 9 ends with, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

We wish. But isn’t this hopefully glorious prediction the reason we celebrate Advent and Christmas each year? The Messiah did come, as prophesied, and taught and moved among people like us, displaying and dispensing wisdom, compassion, advice, the power of love, and trust in and holy fear of his Father, God. Maybe we should focus on that phrase, “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” Perhaps we, today, as heirs of Jesus Christ, should ponder what it would mean to really know the Lord—not just go to church, recite Bible passages, and give lip service but instill meaning to knowing the Lord at the same time we have a holy fear, or reverence or belief or trust, or just plain listen for what God is telling us or waiting for us to do.

These nine verses from the ancient prophet are beautiful and comforting, a remarkable link between the Old and New Testaments. But they are also a challenge to try a bit harder to live up to what is expected of us by our Messiah. Gulp.

Lord and Messiah, in this season of joy, hope, bright lights and fun, help me to pay better attention to underlying messages from the prophet and, perhaps, do something about that recognition. Amen.

Written by Rebecca Dixon, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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