19 December 2008

O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do / homage:*
Come quickly to de- / liver us.

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1)

"In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:10)

"And again Isaiah says, 'The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.'" (Romans 15:12)

The “tree” of Israel had to be cut down because of its sin and rebellion against the holy, triune God. Throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles we read many instances of God's people forsaking the one true God to worship in the cultural religion of their day, the Baals and the Asherahs, complete with their sparkling graven images and their child sacrifices. The stump of Jesse was dead wood; God simply cut it down. But this He did in an act of pruning (see also John 15:1-8). A new shoot would sprout up from that cut down stump of Jesse. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God incarnate, is that new shoot divinely given to bring new life to the dead wood of our sinful, idolatrous, death-shackled humanity. As He lay in the wood of the manger, our little Lord Jesus already began His work of delivering us from death to life, from idolatry to true belief. His work, begun in the manger, even before that at His conception, would climax at the cross and empty grave. From the dead wood of the cross, our Savior, the Son of David, the son of Jesse, dies and is "chopped down" to bring life out of death for us. In His Resurrection He gives us victory o'er the grave. Though we were dead in our sins, Christ has made us alive with Him and to serve Him (see Ephesians 2:8-10). We, the Church, are the fruit of His redeeming work. So we pray for Christ’s gracious rescue from our sinful state and our many sins, both now and finally in eternity. We pray for His deliverance and we bear witness to His rescue for all people. This Root of Jesse gives life not just to the stump of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, that is, to all people.

Oh, come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan's tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save;
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel! (LSB 537:4)

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