A Shoot from the Stock of Jesse

May 7, 2023     “A Shoot from the Stock of Jesse”    Isaiah 11:1-6, Romans 8:22-29  
by Pastor Teddie McConnell

Isaiah delivered his prophecy over 700 years before the birth of Christ to a people who were in desperate need of hope, a reason to believe they and their children would have a future. They were in the middle of a scene of terrible devastation. Every Israeli building had been destroyed. All their fields were stripped bare. They were ready to give up.

Then Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah, complete with the indwelling of the spirit of the Lord, with such confidence and enthusiasm that it would sustain the people’s belief in God’s promised deliverance through many generations. His analogy of a shoot coming out of roots is familiar to anyone who has worked with plants. If you’ve ever tried to pull up bindweed, you know what I mean. The roots break, and that plant you though was gone reappears in about two weeks.

However pruning happens, it removes weaker branches and makes the plant grow more thick and lush, because it gives the roots a chance to support fewer branches with the same amount of sap. Even what looks like a dead stump can produce a new plant from the roots.
The Israelites who first heard Isaiah’s words had been pruned to the ground. They were down to nothing. The early Christians who heard Paul’s words about hope were also mostly poor and under the persecution of the Romans and the Jewish leaders. But when you’re down to nothing, remember that God is up to something. Even when you can’t see it coming, can’t imagine a way out, God is up to something. You may be in a pit of despair, but God can lift you out of it. You may have been cut down to a stump, but a shoot can emerge from the roots of a tree that has been cut down, like Jesus from the stock of Jesse. God can bring new life out of what looks like death. That’s resurrection.

Isaiah also predicted that the Holy One who will judge us will decide our fate with righteousness and equity, even for the poor, even for those enslaved by others, even those enslaved by sin. God’s kingdom is and will be so different from what we have now that wolves, leopards and lions will no longer be a threat, even to the little child who shall lead them. When I hear that verse, I like to picture Jesus as a child, playing unafraid with a wild lion cub.
Paul wrote to the Romans that we have hope like an anchor, hope that holds us in the storms and keeps us secure. But Paul also reminded us that hope for something you can see isn’t hope at all. Who hopes for what is already here in plain sight? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience and trust God for it. God is up to something.

Jesus was the shoot that grew from the stock of Jesse, the branch that became the tree of eternal life. When we each chose to follow Christ, we were grafted onto that mighty tree. Our plant of faith can only grow with the loving water of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge we gain by studying God’s word. This is how we hold tighter to God to weather the storms. It’s also how we produce more fruit. When our branches grow out of Him, we can be strong and faithful. We can be tossed by the winds of life, might be pruned down to a stump, but our sap still runs up and grows from the roots of Jesus. Patience is the proof of hope. Growth takes time, but that shoot will come. We serve a resurrection God. There is new life coming. God is up to something.

The seasons of our lives that are the most fun aren’t necessarily the ones that are the most fruitful. The seasons of our lives we get the most out of aren’t necessarily the ones we would choose to go through. There are some seasons of our lives that will cut us down and take off our branches. Even in the pruning there is a promise. Isaiah said, “I see a stump cut down to nothing, but I see a shoot coming forth from the stump.”

God does things the hard way. Don’t assume you’re doing something wrong because it’s taking a long time, because what you’re going through is challenging or painful. You’re being pruned for more lush growth, more spiritual strength. And you’re being trained to trust in the Lord, not lean on your own physical strength and understanding. God likes to work in hard situations. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Then He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so He could have the glory. God brings good things out of bad, gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, life from death, and grace from the cross.

If life was easy, we’d give ourselves all the credit for our successes. We’d trust in ourselves, rather than God. Sin always stems from the poison ivy of selfishness and self-centeredness. We all have to learn the hard way that nothing is impossible with God, to trust God more than ourselves.

God took the Israelite through the sea instead of taking them around it, and it wiped out Pharaoh’s army without hurting the people of God. It was the hard way, but it proved God can be trusted to do the impossible. God was, and still is, up to something.

Look at David and Goliath. David brought a rock to a swordfight, and no one else there thought he could win. God wants to supply the strength you need and show you real hope, not just wishful thinking. Like David, you must ignore the jeers of the onlookers and focus on the task at hand. You have to learn the hard way to trust God in everything. Jesus came in weakness so you could know that in your weakness, God is strong.

Even the Christmas story was a struggle for the people who were in it. Mary had to endure the rejection and gossip of everyone who didn’t believe her seemingly impossible story. Joseph, who was a good man, had to trust in the dream the angel brought him in order to believe her. They didn’t even have money or a place to stay in Bethlehem. Jesus and his family were exiles for the first three years of his life. When God says He’s going to do something in our lives, we might think it’s going to be easy, but it’s not. It has to be challenging to stretch us into the right shape for God to use, the right tool for the job.

As Jesus said in Luke 6:20-23 from The Message translation,
“You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.
“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like! —for even though they don’t like it, I do, and all heaven applauds.”

Maybe you’ve been cut down so God can show His power through your comeback. As a believer, you have the God-given power and ability to bounce back from adversity. People put Jesus in the tomb, but no one could stop Him from bouncing back out of it.

Hope lives in the roots of the stump. But even though that’s the part where you can’t see, it’s where the action is. If hope stays rooted, that’s the promise of new beginnings. Hope has to be hidden deep in the roots of your heart. When we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and give us more gifts, it’s like being watered so we can thrive.

We’re still in the time between Jesus’ rising and His return. As Paul wrote, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God…We groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies…. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” The creation groans even though it is subject to decay and pollution because God has filled it with hope.

We must remember that this feeling of tension, of soon but not yet, comes precisely because we know we are not home yet but will be any day. We feel incomplete because, while Jesus could say, “It is finished” when He died for our redemption, the end of the story, Christ’s return, is still coming. We’re doing our part while we wonder not what will happen, but when. Our hope keeps us moving forward, even though we don’t know the exact timeline we’re following. We can’t let the suspense wear us down.

Even though our world is still full of wars and rumors of wars, even though violence and sin still triumph, God’s plan is in place, working toward the time when we can all live together in the peaceful kingdom. Jesus is proof that a green shoot can grow from a dead-looking stump. God is still up to something.

How is your hope when God seems silent? Some of God’s greatest work is done when we can’t feel it, can’t see it, under the ground deep in the roots. We don’t know how, but we know Who. Disappointment can’t kill hope unless we allow it. As we turn back to faith, disappointment becomes the beginning of a new and deeper hope. It’s all from Jesus, the shoot from the stock of Jesse, the Lord of new life, the Savior of our souls.

No Comments




no categories


no tags