Advent Hope


Isaiah 11:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB)
11 A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
    a branch will sprout[a] from his roots.
2 The LORD’s spirit will rest upon him,
    a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    a spirit of planning and strength,
    a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.
3 He will delight in fearing the LORD.
He won’t judge by appearances,
    nor decide by hearsay.
4 He will judge the needy with righteousness,
    and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
    by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,
    and faithfulness the belt around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
    the calf and the young lion will feed[c] together,
    and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow and the bear will graze.
    Their young will lie down together,
    and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
8 A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole;
    toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.
9 They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
    The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the LORD,
    just as the water covers the sea.
10 On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples.
The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious.

Hope is defined by as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hope is a feeling? If you don’t like that definition then there is another one: Hope is also defined by as a person or thing in which expectations are centered. Hope is tangible, can be touched or measured, it physically exists? Hope is a funny thing. Our definition of hope and the basis on which it exists spans a wide continuum.

Some people depend on luck as their source of hope. From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, people settle for hope based on chance. Then, there are those who go through life depending on, hoping in their “instincts.” Some might call this “flying by the seat of your pants.”  Many in society are forced to live this way due to causes like mental illness or systems of oppression based on power and money.

However, the vast majority of middle-class people in the United States, even Christians, hope in “self” and “stuff.” Hoping in self might mean relying on one’s own knowledge and wisdom, logic and skill, looks and charm, or “connections”. “I” got this!? Hoping in stuff is, of course, being comforted by money and goods, these “valuable” things somehow represent security. Almost anything can be bought, right?

Then there are those who seem not to have any hope at all, nothing in their world points to the fact that health, finances, educational opportunities, employment prospects or basic freedoms will work out, improve, or come together for their good. They have no hope.

Before we talk about Isaiah’s message of hope, let’s examine the context in which he proclaimed it. There are many important things happening at this point in time but I am going to highlight three.  The designated leader, the king, was wicked.  There were complicated relationships with foreign countries that had been (sort of) friendly toward Judah.  The wicked leader acquiesced to a foreign enemy.[1]  This might sound eerily familiar to you, but this is 8th century BCE in Judah. The discord is political, military, religious, and personal.

In the very midst of this chaos, Isaiah speaks words of hope that begin with the words “A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse”. The shoot is the production center for a plant. It is the organ system that gives rise to stems, leaves, and flowers. The shoot system enables a plant to grow taller to gain access to energy-giving light.[2] Because of the shoot, the plant now has access to what it needs to grow stronger and to feed the other parts of the plant!  A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse. Isaiah proclaims; from that which seems unproductive shall come fruitfulness, from that which seems weak shall come strength for growth, from that which seems dead shall come life!

This hope is a leader, a ruler, a king, a messiah. Who will be permeated by the spirit of God, possess wisdom and understanding, be endowed with counsel and might, and will have the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. The characteristics of an ideal leader.[3] A logical thought is that this prophecy refers to Hezekiah. He was a righteous king that survived and followed his father Ahaz.

When looking back at this prophecy through the lens that is the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; this hope is Jesus, THE messiah, not just another king. That revelation accounts for the pervasiveness and totality of Isaiah’s prophetic words: judgement not with the senses but with righteousness, triumph over evil, peace between enemies, safety for the vulnerable, and full knowledge of the Lord on the earth.  Reconciliation. Restoration. Redemption.

Maybe hope is hard to come by for you today. Maybe you have realized that chance, self and stuff aren’t enough or your well of hope has run dry and is nonexistent.  The doctors can’t do anymore and the medicine and treatments are no longer effective. The voices of doubt and fear won’t be silenced in your head. The journey for you or a loved one has taken an unexpected turn. The relationship you cherished is damaged beyond repair. Your parents, teachers, coach, don’t understand you and you don’t understand why they don’t understand!  The time outs aren’t working for the toddler and taking away privileges isn’t working for the teenager. Will power and treatment for the addiction has failed again. The wheels of justice turn too slowly, too unjustly. The unethical system is too powerful, too complicated to bring down or repair. You are conservative or liberal or moderate and worried about our government and our country. You fill in the blank, it doesn’t matter what sphere of life has gone haywire.

Hope in these situations does not come naturally to human beings.  Based on our senses, despair is perfectly rational.  But it is also true that most of us cannot live in this state, our faith won’t let us, our God won’t let us. There is hope that is the very reason that we praise and pray, worship and wonder, express gratitude to God and seek grace and mercy from God – for ourselves and our world. In Jesus Christ we have a hope beyond humanity in the majesty and mystery of THE Messiah, the shoot from the stump of Jesse. The hope that Isaiah proclaims is both timely and timeless.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

[1] Who’s Who in the Bible: and Illustrated Bible Dictionary , p.21


[3] New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Volume IV, p 256



Rev. L. British Hyrams, North Carolina