Isaiah 1: 1-10

Psalm 72: 1-7, 18-19

Romans 15: 4-13

St. Matthew 3: 1-12


“New Growth”


Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.


In Ohio there are many different trees and each have their own quirks. Oak smells really good when smoking and gives a nice finish to drinks prepared in such. Maple produces the syrup we love putting on pancakes and French toast. Pine is always green and is the primary tree used for Christmas decorations. And so on. Yet when cut down, all these trees become equally dead stumps. In their death they all become the same, a mere stump. 


Now outside of Ohio there are several trees out there that no matter how much you cut them down they just keep growing back. Whereas I am unfamiliar with such a tree commonly found here in Ohio, I do know that there are plants out there that do have great revival capabilities. Take the roses outside this church for example. They are currently cut down, but are they dead? No, for next year when spring comes so too will the new growth and their fresh flowers. When we cut the roses in the fall, we do so with the certainty that in spring they will grow back. Therefore there does exist flowers with such great revival abilities that out of stubs they still regrow; and if such exists among flowers then why not trees as well? And in fact they do, for example willow trees, chestnuts, and elms are all example of trees that can regrow from a stump.


You walk up to a European chestnut in your front yard desiring to cut it down. You make a stump out of it thinking that naturally the stump will die and rot and wither thus making it easier for you to remove the rest in the future. You leave for several months and come back expecting a dead stump only to find a bush where the stump once was. While you were gone many stems sprouted out of the stump of this chestnut. The stump was not dead, and had he known what he was doing he would have removed the stump entirely.


Unlike the bewildered man who cut down the chestnut, God knew exactly what He was doing when He cut down the great tree of Jesse. For the tree of Jesse was like the chestnut, even though it was cut down, it was going to come back, but only God knew when.


But what is this Tree of Jesse? It is the Dynasty of King David son of Jesse. You see, Jesse was King David’s father, thus through David, all the kings chosen by God to lead his people (not you Saul) are descendants of Jesse. We don’t say Tree or Stump of David because that would exclude David for David is not a descendant of David but of Jesse. Therefore, in the same manner David is rightly called David son of Jesse, the tree is so too called the Tree of Jesse.


God established David as the first tree king of Israel and through him the Davidic Dynasty. He knew what He was dealing with. He knew what kind of tree the family tree of Jesse was like. It started out good with a couple of much needed grooming along the way, but eventually the tree became diseased and all of the new growth that was sprouting from the pruned stems became a sore sight to God. He detested the ugly tree of Jesse with all its wicked kings. This once beautiful tree had become a hot mess of rot and gnarls. So God ended the dynasty by cutting down the tree all the way to a stump. The Babylonian captivity ended the great Davidic Dynasty.


But through the many prophecies of old, the Jews did not lose hope, for they knew that the stump was not dead. God did not kill the stump entirely, and promised that one day there will be new growth. One day a young stem of Jesse will sprout out of the stump and a new king, a greater and more perfect king, a king that would far surpass David, will be blessed by God and guide the people towards a perfect everlasting kingdom. The Jews knew of this prophecy, so instead of reestablishing a monarchy in the Judean region, they opted to wait for God Himself to do so. Well what about King Herod? The Herodian Dynasty was established by Rome, not the Jews. When Rome took control of Israel, they saw a kingless nation. So they appointed Herod in 37 BC as the “King of the Jews”. The Jews did not establish a new king; they waited for God to bless them with their coming Messiah.


But what would this new king foretold in prophecies be like? Isaiah reads, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and 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 of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins,” and, “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.”


This king whom the Jews have waited long for, a healthy shoot from the stump capable of bearing good fruit on its branches unlike the diseased branches of the prior kings, was to be filled with the Lord’s Spirit. He was to be filled with divine wisdom, not earthly wisdom, and divine might, not earthly might. He was to be filled with divine knowledge, not earthly knowledge, and fear of the Lord, not fear in mankind. Eyes and ears deceive for people lie and sometimes you don’t have the whole truth, therefore this great king was not to judge by using what he sees nor hears but instead with righteousness. Not with human righteousness, for no such thing exists, will this king pass judgement, but with divine righteousness that comes only from He above that knows all things and is all good and can do all things. This king will speak and his divine might will rule the earth. He will be ever faithful to God the Father, and this king will be blessed with God’s righteousness.


Now this is a mere understanding of Scripture if we were to read into the king just humanity. But what if this king was not only a man but also God Himself? The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, well of course because He is the Lord, therefore this Spirit is His Holy Spirit. And as The Divine Himself, of course the Lord our King will have what is rightfully His, i.e. divine wisdom and divine might and divine knowledge and divine fear. And does God ever judge using eyes and ears; no, for God judges with truth and righteousness. He needs not eyes and ears to find the truth, for He is the truth and has already ascertained the deepest realms of your heart. He sees that you are poor in spirit, and knows the full depravity of your soul, but because you are a member of His kingdom His righteousness overcomes your sinfulness. For his righteousness is not a curse to the poor in spirit who occupy His divine kingdom, but a soothing balm that heals the wounded soul. And no matter how wounded your soul is, through faith, the righteousness of the Lord overcomes all ailments. The meek are those who know they are wounded and bow down to the Lord for healing. The meek are those who know they are sinners and bow down to the Lord for forgiveness. The meek are those who know they are criminals and bow down to the Lord for mercy. And it is because they are meek that judges them all with equity. For the Lord’s righteousness had made all of these perfectly clean.


And if this king is God then what about His breath killing the wicked? Does not the breath of God bring life? So how is this so? Sin kills. It is because of your sins that you are truly dead. So if God kills the sins within you, that which is keeping you in a state of death, then God is bringing you to life. By putting sin to death, God also breathes new life within you. For the Word of God, takes away your sins and provides the Resurrection.


The Jews have waited long for this coming king, this Messiah, this shoot from Jesse’ stump to arrive; and He has. The Tree of Jesse did not bear good fruit, was cut down and the axe is laid to the root of the tree, but a new shoot that does bear fruit has sprouted. And unlike the prior growth, this sprout will grow into a mighty tree that covers all nations and will provide good fruit for all of eternity. This Tree will produce only good fruit, there will not be a single bad fruit, and the produce from this Tree will be so vast that there will be no need for any other tree. All will be welcomed to eat of the fruit of this tree, not just the Jews but also the Gentiles. From young to old, all will be welcomed to enter the shade of this mighty tree. And he who desires shade will see with faith that this tree alone provides good shade and good fruit.


The King has finally come, and the Kingdom is at hand.


Let us pray,


Dear Heavenly Father, welcome us into your kingdom, provide us with your shade from the beating sun, fill us with good things, heal us from our sins, and assure us that this great tree will never fail us. In your most holy name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible Verse of the Day

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