Isaiah 11, Part 1: The LORD's Righteous Judge
Previously, in Chapter 10...
Isaiah declares God's judgement against the iniquitous leaders of Israel who oppressed the needy and poor. A powerful enemy, Assyria, would be used by God as a rod of anger against godless Israel.
But Assyria herself would be punished for their arrogance when the king boasts of his unlimited power and lofty scorn for the God of Israel. Assyria's invasion would be suddenly halted before the gates of Jerusalem with a wasting sickness that would decimate the army.
Only a remnant of Israel would survive the destruction of war, yet the people would return in faith to the LORD.
Now, in Chapter 11...
Isaiah describes One Who would judge the world with the power and righteousness of God. This Righteous Judge will stand above all earthly governments and powers, ushering in a time of extraordinary peace and joy. The scattered remnant of the nation of Israel will return from all corners of the world to the land given them by God after their exodus from Egypt.
The LORD will empower a Righteous Judge.
Isaiah 11:1-2,4,10 (ESV) 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...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...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.
"A shoot from the stump of Jesse" describes the earthly lineage of the Lord's Righteous Judge.
"Jesse" refers to the father of Israel's celebrated warrior-king David (1 Samuel 16). Isaiah compares Jesse to a tree, fallen in old age but sprouting new growth from its roots.
Who was Jesse? What preeminence made this man a reference point for a divine, Righteous Judge who would oversee a time of earthly peace like no other?
Jesse appears to have been a simple farmer with eight sons, living in Bethlehem, David being the youngest and least significant in his father's eyes. Even after David had gained a reputation for valor and leadership his father regarded him but lightly (1 Samuel 16:18-19). David's identity remained that of "the son of Jesse". Those jealous of David's popularity used the label as a reminder of his simple, rural bloodline (1 Samuel 22:7-8).
However, David seemed to take pride in his humble background, seeing it as a testimony to the power of God's grace:
1 Chronicles 28:4 (ESV) The LORD God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel.
In the minds of all Israel David would be "the son of Jesse". Isaiah's reference to a descendent of Jesse would cause any Israelite to immediately think of David and God's promise to provide a Ruler forever from the tribe of Judah and the family of Jesse.
Has a descendent of Jesse appeared to fulfill Isaiah's promise?
At the time of Isaiah, Jesse had been dead for over 200 years. Over that time Jesse's descendants never achieved anything near the peaceful utopia described by Isaiah.
Isaiah 11:6-10 (ESV) The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf 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 cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 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.
None of Jesse's descendents fit Isaiah's description of the Righteous Judge...except one.
Acts 13:22-23 (ESV) [God] raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, "I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will." Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.
Jesus was a direct descendent of David the son of Jesse, and the New Testament is the story of how faith in Jesus brings a person spiritual perfection now, and physical perfection in the future.
Luke 1:31-33 (ESV) You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
Acts 13:38-39 (ESV) Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Jesus claimed to be empowered by the Spirit of the LORD:
Luke 4:18-19 (ESV) The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Ephesians 1:3 (ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
Colossians 1:13-20 (ESV) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Will Jesus be Judge of all earth? Isaiah described the Judge as one who would render a righteous verdict in favor of the poor and meek, and destroying the wicked on the earth forever.
While ministering on earth Jesus did not regard himself as a judge:
John 8:15 (ESV) You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
But Jesus did expect a day in which he would judge the world:
John 5:21-23, 25-29 (ESV) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him...an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man...an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John 5:30 (ESV) I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Romans 2:16 (ESV) God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.
Revelation 19:11 (ESV) I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.