Reflections on Isaiah 11
The Reading from the Prophecy of Isaias. [11: 10-13a.,16b, 12: 1-2]
Thus says the Lord: In that day there shall be a root of Jesse and the one who rises to rule the nations, in him the nations will hope, and his rest will be honour. And in that day it shall be that the Lord will continue to reveal his hand to be zealous for the remnant that is left of the people, that will have been left by the Assyrians and from Egypt and Babylonia and Ethiopia and from the Elamites and from the rising of the sun and from Arabia. And he will raise a sign for the nations and gather the lost of Israel and the scattered of Juda he will gather from the four corners of the earth. And the jealousy of Ephraim will be removed and the enemies of Juda perish. And it shall be for Israel as on the day when he came out of Egypt. And you will say on that day, “I shall bless you, O Lord, because you were angry with me and you turned away your wrath and had mercy on me. See, my God, my saviour is the Lord, I shall trust in him and I shall not be afraid, because the Lord is my glory and my praise, and has become my salvation”.
“In that day there shall be the root (שֹׁרֶשׁ/ῥίζα) of Jesse. And the one arising (ἀνίστημι) to rule the nations, upon him, the nations shall hope. And his rest shall be glory (כָּבוֹד/τιμή).” [trans. from LXX and MT]
This verse contains several significant terms which appear in other places of Scripture. In the book of Isaiah, the phrase “that day” refers simultaneously to the day of judgement and to the restoration of Israel. It is the same day. The term, “root,” appears in 2 Kgs. 19:30: “And he shall increase him that has escaped of the house of Juda: and the remnant shall strike root beneath, and it shall produce fruit above.” Another place in which this term appears is the prophecy of Jeremiah 17:8:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
And he shall be as a thriving tree by the waters, and he shall cast forth his root toward a moist place: he shall not fear when heat comes, and there shall be upon him shady branches: he shall not fear in a year of drought, and he shall not fail to bear fruit.
The 2 Kings text talks about a movement in two opposite directions: “beneath” and “above;” taking root in the ground and bearing fruit above. The one who arises to rule the nations is both root and fruit. This leads to the third term, ἀνίστημι (“to rise or arise”). This term refers to the resurrection of the dead in Daniel 12:12 (LXX) and throughout the Gospels to refer to the resurrection of Christ. Finally the “rest” of the one who arises to rule the nations, “shall be glory.” In Scripture, the term, Glory, refers to the “weighty” divine Presence.
The paradox of going down and going up, and the paradox of judgement and restoration makes sense as a divine event because God is coming down to the tomb this and leading up in the resurrection.. God has joined the humiliation of the people, and brought his blessing into the earth so the people will be firmly established and can now bear fruit. So when Christ comes to fulfill this “root of Jesse,” he gets planted into the earth through death so that he can raise up humanity.
At the end, after all the signs to the nations, Isaiah says, “See my God, my Savior is the Lord.” He sees the Lord as a savior because he is there raising up a new tree of life. He says, “I shall trust in Him and not be afraid,” because God has confronted the utter cutting down, and has dug into the earth, deeper than the tree that was there before to give strength and courage in the midst of death. Isaiah finishes up by saying: “the Lord is my glory and my praise, and has become my salvation” because the Lord has raised up His people in a new Passover, from death to life, just as “on the day when he came out of Egypt.”
This new tree will stand as the sign of the new Passover. That tree is the Cross on which the son of David, the son of God, both roots or firmly establishes humanity and raises us up.
(Written by Fr. Elijah and Mrs.Fr.Rebecca)