Isaiah 11: The Righteous Branch

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Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 11 takes place during the reign of Ahaz, Judah’s wicked king.

Key verse:

Isa. 11:2:  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

Quick summary:

The day is coming when Messiah, a descendent of Jesse, will reign with righteousness, uniting Israel, bringing justice to the oppressed, and striking the wicked. No harm will come to any creature, even animals, because “the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water” (v. 9).

Take note:

Isaiah refers to the Holy Spirit more times than any other Old Testament prophet: Isa. 11:2 (four times); 32:15; 34:16; 40:13; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 59:21; 61:1; 63:10-11, 14).

Righteous reign of the branch (Isa. 11:1-10)

The Lord will cut down the tall trees and clear the forests (Isa. 10:33-34), that is, the armies invading Israel, but God’s kingdom will arise from a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse, David’s father (see Rev. 22:16). No doubt, Isaiah has in mind God’s promise to David that one of his descendents will rule over his kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:16; see also Isa. 9:7). His rule will be unique in that the ruler himself is both divine and divinely endowed, being gifted in three ways: with “wisdom and understanding for government (cf. 1 Ki. 3:9-12), counsel and power for war (cf. 9:6; 28:6; 36:5), and knowledge and the fear of the Lord for spiritual leadership (cf. 2 Sa. 23:2)” (D.A. Carson, New Bible Commentary, S. Is 11:1). The giver of these gifts is the Holy Spirit, who falls on Messiah on the day of His baptism to inaugurate His earthly ministry and empower Him for His work of redemption (Matt. 3:16-17).

Warren Wiersbe observes: “The four Gospels describe ‘the Branch’ for us as follows: Matthew – David’s righteous Branch (Jer. 23:5); Mark – my servant the Branch (Zech. 3:8); Luke – the man whose name is the Branch (Zech. 6:12); and John – the Branch of Jehovah (Isa. 4:2). Thus Jesus Christ will one day fulfill the OT promises God gave to the Jews and will reign over His kingdom in glory and victory (Rom. 15:8-12)” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, S. Is 7:1).

The title “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6) is illustrated beautifully in verses 6-9 of chapter 10 as all God’s creatures live together harmoniously. But peace is hard won; it follows judgment and flows from Messiah’s righteousness. Just as Christ today transforms the human heart through the new birth, so one day He will restore the entire creation to its pre-Fall perfection (Rom. 8:19-25). There is some debate as to whether the animal kingdom will experience this full transformation during the millennial kingdom or after the creation of the new heavens and earth. In any case, we may be assured that God will fully reverse the effects of the Fall and restore His creation to sinless perfection one day (2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev. 21-22).

Verse 10 features several key truths:

  • One day Messiah “will stand as a banner for the peoples.” While this likely pictures Jesus in His kingly role after His return, it is based on His finished work at Calvary, where He was “lifted up” (see John 3:14-16; 12:32).
  • The Messiah is the Savior of the whole world, not only the Jews, and the day is coming when Gentiles (“nations”) will seek Him.
  • “His resting place will be glorious.” Some see this as a reference to His work on the cross; others to His ascension, after which He sat down at the right hand of the Father; still others as the church, the body of believers over whom He is Head. In any case, it will be glorious because He has made it so.

The restored remnant (Isa. 11:11-16)

Some commentators find the phrase “a second time” significant (v. 11). Many Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity, but a far more devastating dispersion, known as the “Diaspora,” occurred in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem. So when Isaiah says “the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover,” this could be a reference to the re-establishment of Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948 as well as the blessings the people will enjoy when Christ returns and rules from the throne of David.

Isaiah looks forward to the day when the animosity between Israel’s northern and southern kingdoms will cease. Ephraim and Judah will live harmoniously as does the once-combative animal world (vv. 6-9). What’s more, the reunited Jews will defeat their neighboring enemies to the south and east. Finally, when the Jews return to their homeland at the beginning of the Millennium, God will dry up the Gulf of Suez and divide the Euphrates River into shallow canals to hasten their return from Africa and the lands to the east. They will be reminded of God’s work in ancient times, parting the waters of the Red Sea and enabling the Jews to escape captivity in Egypt.

Closing Thought

Warren Wiersbe comments: “When Isaiah looked at his people, he saw a sinful nation that would one day walk the “highway of holiness” and enter into a righteous kingdom. He saw a suffering people who would one day enjoy a beautiful and peaceful kingdom. He saw a scattered people who would be regathered and reunited under the kingship of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10); for only when His kingdom comes can there be peace on earth'” (Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, S. Is 9:1).

 

Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips

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