Thursday, December 8, 2016
by Keenan Rodgers
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.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
In the spring of 1980, the land around Mt. St. Helens in Washington was in upheaval. In May, the mountain exploded, sending ash and debris 80,000 feet in the air. The landslide that precipitated the eruption was large enough to raise the elevation of nearby Spirit Lake 200 vertical feet. After the event, the mountain was over 1,000 feet shorter. This was a cataclysmic event of a scale rarely seen.
I visited the area on the 30th anniversary of the eruption. More than a generation after the event, evidence of the blast was still plainly visible. Trees were still blown over uniformly, covering the hillsides around the volcano. And yet, there were signs of life. Grasses had grown back. Small plants grew from the stumps of downed trees. Despite the devastation still apparent, there was hope for something new evident all around.
In the time of Isaiah, the land was in upheaval. Competing powers fought over territory. Israel was overthrown and sent into exile. Their leadership was essentially cutoff. For the people of that day, this was a cataclysmic event of a scale they’d not seen in their generation. And yet, through this spiritual and human devastation, Isaiah brings a message of hope for something new.
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse…” From the desolation you feel so tangibly all around you, there is hope.
We are fortunate to live in a place and time in which we generally don’t worry about the same fear of exile that the Israelites of Isaiah’s time experienced. But that doesn’t mean that we live free of events that darken our horizon or cut us down at the knees. However, it’s in these times that we are called to wait patiently for the hope promised, then as now.