Since the sermon I gave last Sunday morning at Heartland wasn't recorded fully, I thought I'd just put the content from the first part of the sermon here on my blog for people to peruse if they like.
We began a new series Nov 30 called Voices of Advent, where we will be listening to some voices from Scripture who will be helping us hear, prepare for, receive, and celebrate God's promise for a better day. The first voice was the prophet Isaiah's, who proclaims God's promise in the midst of chaos and hardship.
Isaiah prophesied during a troubled time – wicked rulers, endless wars – It was a very dark time in Israel’s history – the “good old days” of David’s reign were a distant memory. Isaiah gives us a picture of Israel like a tree, but it had been cut down to only a stump. It’s a picture of devastation where there was once fruitfulness and beauty.
Isaiah prophesies into this mess. This morning we're going to focus on Isaiah 11, partly because of a dream Deb had this week that seems like a word for us. [Isaiah 11:1-9 is read].
We had to cut down a diseased tree in our backyard a couple years ago –
we left the stump for a year or two, and then it was decayed enough to
just rip out of the ground. That’s what we expect stumps to do: decay
and then be removed and thrown out.
But Isaiah prophesies that a shoot will spring up out of Jesse's stump
(Jesse was the father of David). New life will emerge from what looks
lifeless and barren. What looks dead will bear fruit again.
A Messiah, a true King will come forth to lead Israel, ruling with the
Spirit’s power and in righteousness, he’ll bring peace to the whole of
creation, such that the very nature of the world will change: no more
curse! No more danger! No more destruction! The knowledge of God
filling the world as the waters cover the sea. Shalom. Peace.
As Christians we believe Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy – he
is the Messiah, the Davidic King – but of course we haven’t seen all
that Isaiah prophesies – lions laying down with lambs, little kids
leading dangerous animals around and playing with poisonous snakes…
This is the tension between the "already" and the "not yet."
And especially in this season of Advent, we long for Christ's return, so that we will see the fulfillment of ALL that Scripture prophesies: new heavens and new earth – the kingdom come in its fullness – new creation!
The point for this morning is that in the midst of Israel’s darkness
and brokenness, Isaiah paints for a brilliant picture of how God
desires to reach into that brokenness and pain and bring new life. It
was a word of hope for the people of his day – a proclamation of God’s
promise for a better day.
And I believe this is a word of hope for us today as well, because of a dream Deb had last week.
In this dream she was walking through our living room and saw a very tall plant that had been broken at the "trunk" (this plant was almost a tree – a large plant with a trunk). She was overwhelmed with feelings of devastation and despair (although this kind of thing is common in our house in real life – things are broken all the time, and nobody seems to know how they got that way!). But just when she was tempted to give up and turn away, my mother was in the dream (representing for Deb a voice of wisdom). She said, "No, look, Deb! Look closely at the place where it was broken, there's a little twig already sprouting again. It must be because the roots are so deep. It's going to be okay."
I believe this is the word for us this morning, that although we have been broken and we are tempted to despair, the voice of wisdom would tell us to look more closely, because new life has already begun to spring up in our midst, and because our roots go deep, God will bring new life more quickly than we expected.
Listen to the rest of the message online, if you like…