Shalom and welcome the third installment in our series on the message of Messiah from the prince of Old Testament prophets, Isaiah. Thus far, chapter seven has shown us that the coming Messiah would be born of a virgin and given the enigmatic designation of, “God with us.” Four additional titles for this singular child are provided in chapter nine, “Wonderful counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Father of eternity” and “Prince of Peace.” Of those four designations, two pertain to status as a warrior and two are wholly inappropriate if assigned to anyone but God Himself. Curious and curiouser, as the mystery of Messiah’s identifying traits compounds. Nonetheless, with these expansive foundational titles, Isaiah explicitly emphasizes that the child’s royal destiny is to be supreme ruler over Israel.
In chapter eleven, we see that the Messiah is a descendent of David, and thereby rightful heir to the Davidic Covenantal promises. Isaiah pictures the tree of the House of David as being chopped down to the stump, in other words, having fallen on hard times. In fact, David’s royal name isn’t even used here; rather, it is that of his father, Jesse. Yet, this humble stump of the Davidic line, no matter how modest in appearance, is described as still possessing life-force and brings forth a fresh new shoot, indeed, a fruit-bearing branch, the messianic descendant of David.
Isaiah then describes the dominant characteristic of the Branch. “Branch” (Heb. netzer) is a well-worn messianic term which finds its initial Old Testament usage in this passage. He will be completely and totally dominated by the leading of God’s Spirit. This will empower the Messiah’s rule to be one of extreme righteousness and acute judgment. Furthermore, his rule extends not only over Israel, but over the nations, the Gentiles, as well. This will not be gratuitous dominance, but rather, the reign of the Messiah will be welcomed by both Jews and Gentiles.
Finally, this passage describes the time of the messianic reign to be characterized by ultimate, perfect peace. This will be a period of worldwide spiritual awareness as well as extraordinary changes within the animal kingdom concerning the abrogation of predatory instincts. The prophet indicates that Messiah will in some way be the "perfect" David who will rule with the spirit of God, in wisdom, understanding, council, strength and the fear of the Lord. He will be a righteous and faithful King who will not only rule Israel but the whole world, as the Messianic Kingdom will encompass a world transformed into a paradise on earth (11:1-10; 55:4).
Our Messiah, Jesus, arrived in the 1st century AD, a select period in history when Israel dwelt in the land without being ruled by a scion of David but, rather, under the domination of a Gentile power (Rome). By that time, the dynastic House of David had been reduced to an inglorious stump. The gospels reveal how in Jesus, the Davidic royal house was to be restored to magnificent holy grandeur.
Isaiah’s messianic message is jump-started in his collection of prophecies at the front end in three easy to remember odd-numbered chapters: 7,9, and 11. Next time we will jump ahead to the book’s second half, plunging into the deep theological and biographical waters of Isaiah’s servant songs.