Expect the unexpected – Tuesday, 1st week in Advent – Is 11: 1-10 / Luke 10: 21-24

In 735 Syria and Israel invaded Judah in the south in an attempt to force it into the anti- Assyrian coalition, an attempt that ended with the Assyrian conquest of Israel (733) and Syria (732). As a consequence Judah now became a vassal state of Assyria. In 714, backed by a promise from Egypt, Judah and Philistia began beating the drums of war and revolt against Assyria. The prophet Isaiah spoke out against this alliance. Then on the death of the Assyrian king Sargon II in 705 another attempt was made by Judah to free itself from their conquerors. Isaiah’s fervent and sometimes bitter words failed to move King Hezekiah who revolted with a promise of help from Egypt; a promise that was never kept. Isaiah prophesied the Assyrian invasion (8:1-15) and judgment on Israel (9:8 – 10:4).

The revolt by Judah was crushed in 701 with great destruction to Judah. King Hezekiah had to surrender and pay indemnity to the Assyrians. But Isaiah also prophesied the demise of Assyria (10:5-19). Just before this chapter, God declares punishment on the people: “the tallest trees will be cut down and the lofty will be brought low.”  It is with this background in mind that we should read the text of today for Isaiah describes the one  who will restore Israel.

Isaiah paints a picture of a positive reign, harkening back to King David, in the midst of a disappointing reign. The text is one of the positive messianic promises that are rather unexpectedly interspersed throughout first part of the book of Isaiah, a book that is otherwise marked by perhaps the most shocking word of judgment found anywhere in the Bible

There is no question that our passage of Scripture from the first ten verses in Isaiah 11 is Messianic in nature. The passage points to Jesus Christ as the promised, long awaited Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world as we can see from the very opening words: “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”David’s family tree looked bleak in the eighth century-a mere stump of its former glory-under attack by the Assyrian hordes and hence the task at hand was to be taken up by the coming Messiah.

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