In the last verse of the previous chapter, we read of the thickets of the forest of the Assyrian army being cut down; but here in this chapter, in the first five verses, we find a Branch springing up from the roots of Jesse! Jesse was the father of David, and so this is a prophecy of Jesus as the descendant of David. From speaking of the great earthly kingdoms which were about to perish, Isaiah has abruptly passed on to speak of Christ’s Kingdom, which was small indeed in its beginnings, but grew and spread over the whole earth.
The Hebrew word for “rod” (verse 1) gives the idea of a branch which shoots up or sprouts from the roots of a dead tree. At the time of our Savior’s birth, the family of David no longer sat upon the Jewish throne; they had fallen into decay, and were living in poor and humble circumstances in the village of Nazareth. From this lowly stock sprang “a root out of a dry ground” (chapter 53:2); but this was the Branch of Jehovah (chapter 4:2), which was intended for honor and glory! Jesus joined Himself thoroughly and entirely to our poor human nature (Heb. 2:14-18), and so He is a true Son of man! As the Son of man, He carried out all His redeeming work on earth; as the Son of man, He now stands at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56); and as the Son of man, with a golden crown and a sharp sickle, He shall come again in glory with His angels (Rev. 14:14; Dan. 7:13; Matt. 25:31).
An expression in verse 2 – “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” – immediately reminds us of the passage in chapter 41 of this same Book, which our Lord Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth and applied to Himself (Luke 4:16-21). Our thoughts pass on to that wondrous scene of His baptism, when the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove upon Him (Matt. 3:16). God poured out the Spirit upon Him, and the encouraging thought is that every believer is made a partaker of the same Spirit which thus rests upon Christ. Just as the ointment upon Aaron’s head ran down to the hem of his high priestly garments (Ps. 133:2); so also, even the humblest believer shares in the same Spirit which rested upon Christ.
In the sixth and following verses, we have a description of the happy effects of Christ’s everlasting rule! A time is approaching when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” There shall be perfect peace, and none shall hurt or destroy. This is the time for which we pray, when we say, “Thy kingdom come!” These times of peace will ultimately be brought about in the heavenly Kingdom; but even while we are still here on earth, the knowledge of the Lord does produce a peaceful blessedness! The true know-ledge of God, as He is revealed in the Gospel of Christ, always brings happiness and peace. But to know God does not merely mean to know about Him, and to be able to talk about Him; rather, it means to know Him by faith, which brings us into a saving relationship with Him. When any individual soul thus knows God by His Word and by His Spirit, and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ – then that soul is happy and at peace. The bad passions, the dark feelings, and the harassing anxieties which used to disturb and torment him like wolves, leopards, and lions – these are all calmed and subdued. And as more and more souls are thus converted to the Gospel of Jesus, the peace and happiness which they experience will multiply more and more throughout the earth! The wolves and lions which formerly persecuted the Church shall be converted (like Saul of Tarsus) into peaceable lambs, dwelling in harmonious love with the saints whom they once endeavored to devour!
The root of Jesse, spoken of in verse 10, is already raised as an ensign or banner to the people! Ever since His resurrection and ascension, the Gentiles (non-Jews) have been seeking Him, as Paul explains to us when quoting this very verse in Romans 5:8-12. When all are gathered unto Him, then “his rest will be glorious.” If we want to fully enter into the meaning of this expression – “his rest” – we must turn to Hebrews 4, where we read of three rests of God: first, His rest in creation (Heb. 4:4; Gen. 2:1-2); second, His rest when He had brought the Israelites into Canaan (Heb. 4:5; Ps. 132:13-14); and third, His rest in the finished work of redemption (Heb. 4:1-10). These rests all resemble each other. They do not imply idleness, but a satisfaction and delight on the part of God in some completed work. And in each of these rests, the Lord calls man to share! “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God!” (Heb. 4:9) Let every struggling, sorrowing believer lay these words to heart: “his rest shall be glorious!”
In verse 11, it is said that “the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people.” It is probable that the first time alluded to was the deliverance from Egypt. But the prophecies in the latter verses of this chapter cannot be said to have been entirely fulfilled in the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile. It seems that Isaiah was referring to that same time of which Paul speaks in Romans 11, where he tells us (verses 23-26, 32) that the Israelites shall be grafted again into their own tree. He says that the nation of Israel shall be saved, for they shall one day come to recognize that Jesus Christ is indeed their long-awaited Messiah! And then all of His people – both Jews and Gentiles – shall be brought together in His one Body!
Lord, let Your Gospel increase more and more throughout the earth, and cause the ferocious persecutors of Your Church to be converted into peaceable lambs! Amen.
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painting by William Strutt, 1896 | Wikimedia Commons