Shoots and Branches
By Debbonnaire Kovacs, 12-1-2016
Normally, I only post references, but I really hope you’ll read this whole passage, and I figured I’d save you a click! My devotional response, which will likely go in a direction other than you expect, (at any rate, I was surprised) is below.
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
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.
When I read the first verse of this, my mind went off on a different tangent. I thought of Nebuchadnezzar, strutting on his balcony, looking loftily out over his hanging gardens, and feeling pretty kingly. “Is this not Babylon the great,” he declaimed, “which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Modern translation: “Ain’t I hot stuff?”
The so-mighty king had apparently completely forgotten the dream he’d had a year before.
It was that dream that came to my mind as I read Isaiah 11:1. God, reinforced by Daniel, had warned Nebuchadnezzar that, like a tree chopped down and bound, but left in the ground to regenerate, he was about to be severely cut back. Unless, Daniel begged, Nebuchadnezzar turned from sin to righteousness—defined, as is nearly universal in all books of the Bible, by doing good to the poor.
The king’s pride and self-praise was cut off rather abruptly. You can read the whole story in Daniel 4, the only Bible chapter I know of that was written by a pagan—or, perhaps, a pagan convert.
I wonder…after that, did Nebuchadnezzar hold onto wisdom, understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord?
More relevantly, do you and I hold onto the wisdom and understanding we gain from the times we’re chopped down? Assuming, that is, that we take our brokenness to God. Anne Morrow Lindberg rightly stated that sorrow doesn’t make us wise, or everybody would be wise. It’s what we do with the sorrow, she said.
When were you last chopped down by painful circumstance? What were the bands of iron and bronze with which God bound you? (This may have felt like safety or may have felt like further imprisonment; it depends on the circumstances and on the state of your spirit when it happens.) What dews of heaven fell on and nourished you? What commonality did you share with the beasts of the field, and—looking back—can you yet see that the time this sorrow lasted was perfect, like Nebuchadnezzar’s “seven periods of time”?
If you are presently in the difficulty, you may not be able to see any of this. If that is the case, read these passages and take heart. God is with you and watching over you. The Root of Jesse stands as a signal to you of wisdom and compassion.
Debbonnaire Kovacs is a speaker and the author of 28 books and over 700 stories and articles for adults and children. To learn more about her work or ask her to speak at your organization, visit www.debbonnaire.com.