The Jesse Tree is a Christian tradition dating back to the European Middle Ages. For each of the days of Advent leading up to Christmas Day, we read about someone in Jesus’ family tree. The name Jesse Tree derives from Isaiah 11:1, which is where we begin our Jesse Tree readings.
There has always been the promise, through the likes of Abraham and King David, that through God’s chosen people all nations would be blessed. There was also always belief that God would be faithful in keeping His promises. Hope is born from the marriage of this belief and that promise. Hope, however, is hard to see in Isaiah 10.
This chapter describes the barren burned out landscape of Israel’s exile. Israel, God’s chosen people, rejected Him time and again, but there was always a faithful remnant. Though the forest of Israel has been chopped down and burned over with fire, there will emerge a shoot and branch from the charred stump of Jesse.
Imagine or remember walking through a forest after a forest fire. The air is still pungent, and the ash is everywhere. This is a grayscale landscape, all white ash, smoky gray, and charcoal black. From this bleak black and white world, the green growth of new life will arise.
Jesus, this shoot of Jesse, was born as the evergreen fulfillment of that promise. From the ashen desolation of Israel’s exile, however, the shoot of Jesse is off in the distant future. Israel’s remnant clings to this future hope, trusting in the faithfulness of God.
On this first day of Advent, imagine sitting in the barrenness of exile with the remnant of Israel. There is absolutely nothing you can do about your situation. Your only hope is that shoot of Jesse. You cling in faith to that promise.
Do we have that faith of Israel's remnant in God today? When life seems to be burning down around us, is Jesus the hope to which we cling? Or do we instead place our trust in the cherished idols of money, power, and success?
This long promised son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our hope and our king. When the forest is felled and burned over, He is the One who remains. Thank God for that!
Isaiah 11 - 11
11:1 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,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but 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.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
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.
In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.
He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,
and together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
And the LORD will utterly destroy
the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching breath,
and strike it into seven channels,
and he will lead people across in sandals.
And there will be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that remains of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.