3 December 2012

Isaiah 11:1-4

"The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." (v. 2)


This poem that goes through to verse 9 has taken on a deep significance over many centuries and in different faith traditions. Jesse is the father of David, the great king who reigned over a unified Israel about a 1,000 years before Christ's birth.

Within the Islamic tradition David is seen as one of the major prophets sent by God to guide the Israelites. In the Jewish and Christian world, David is seen as a mighty king who brought stability and unity to the tribes of Israel and governed them as one nation, but what is significant for us, at the beginning of advent, is a strong belief that the Messiah, the anointed one of God, would come from the House of David.

In Isaiah's poem past, present and future collide. For the stump of Jesse is David, the mighty king of old; it is also the hope of a promised messiah from the line of David; and today it is the one who came and is to come - Jesus, who is from the house of David.

This hope for a great leader that would bear all the qualities listed in verses 2-4 is surprisingly resilient. Even though David and many other kings never quite measured up to this list it did not stop Israel longing for that kind of leader. For Christians, they recognise those qualities offered here as the character of Jesus. It is in him that Christians find their perfect king, their true leader.

So in this ancient poem we discover something of the enormity and mystery of Jesus. For he is the one who is longed for; he is the one who is expected; he is the one who will lead his kingdom with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and with righteousness; and he is the one who is rooted in history - the stump of Jesse.

To Ponder

  • How would you describe Jesus? What qualities would you use?
  • Why do you think Israel longed for such a leader? Who might be looking for such a leader today?
  • If it is true that we are called to be like Jesus - how do we live up to those qualities outlined in verses 2-4?

Bible notes author

The Revd Simon Sutcliffe

Simon Sutcliffe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church currently working part time as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and part time as a pioneer minister with Venture FX establishing new forms of Christian community in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District. Simon has four children who help to keep him grounded and in a constant cycle of tidying up(!), and is deeply disappointed that none of them support Bradford City..