Reflection on Isaiah 11

This year for Advent the church that we attend put together a daily devotional written and edited by members of the congregation.  I wrote two, one focused around Isaiah 11 and the other around Hebrews 10.  Here is the one for Isaiah 11, with the Hebrews 10 one to follow in a few days.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we live in a black and white world, or a grey one; a cut and dried world, or a world of paradoxes.  On the one hand, just a few weeks ago our country was deeply entrenched in the labeling of ourselves as either Democrat or Republican.  On the other hand, we live in a country deeply mired in a 4 year recession, and yet we still manage to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to go see “The Avengers.”  We simultaneously want to preach the American dream where anybody can succeed if they only put forth the effort, but we also can be quick to define who and what is acceptable.  But it’s not just us.  These same divisions and desires have driven humanity almost since day one.

So what does this have to do with Advent?  Maybe nothing.  Or maybe everything.  As I’ve been thinking about Isaiah 11:1-9 over the last few days, it’s dawned on me that Christmas is the ultimate balancing act between the black and white and the paradoxical.  Here we have the birth of a child to an unwed mother, in a country where he wasn’t a citizen, into an economically dire situation, and yet this child was born in the knowledge that he was both fully God and fully human and was the Savior of the world.  This child came to teach a message that was both black and white (“love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself”) and a complete puzzle (“the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed”). 

That this child fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 11 is yet another example of this.  In these 9 verses it says that he won’t judge with his eyes or ears, but with righteousness and justice, and he will strike the earth and slay the wicked not with bombs and technological warfare, but with the breath of his mouth—his words. And then there’s the pairings:  the wolf and the lamb; the leopard and the goat; the calf and the lion; the infant and the cobra.  All of these natural enemies will live together and lie down together because of the presence of this “shoot from the stump of Jesse”—Jesus. 

Advent, then, becomes a time for us to examine how we live between the black and white, and the grey—between the here and now and the not yet.  It gives us the chance to live in the paradox of being able to sing “Come thou long expected Jesus” and live into the salvation given through Jesus 2000 years ago.  It gives us the chance to rethink everything that we know about God stepping into the world in both a black and white and paradoxical way, because He knew that the world needed to see both.


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