Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Well St. Paul sums it up neatly when he says “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction”. Listening to Paul then we need to pay as much attention to the Old Testament as to the New, because the New confirms all that was promised by God even back as far as the Garden of Eden. So it’s important that we listen to Isaiah’s message today with keen ears.
Isaiah is prophesying about the future Messiah, let’s see if he was correct, and confirm that it was Jesus he was talking about. First, the Messiah will come from the lineage of Jesse, David’s father. We have genealogies to prove that is true see Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38. Isaiah further says that “The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him”. Well that is correct too, see John 1:32, Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10 and Luke 3:22, which are the records of Jesus’ baptism.
Isaiah says the Messiah will be invested through the Holy Spirit with wisdom and understanding. In proof of that are Jesus’ many parables which stand as unequaled illustrations of wisdom, because they tie everyday things to eternal truths. Then consider His response to the question of paying taxes Matthew 22:17-21, He confounded those who wished to trick Him with wisdom and understanding.
Isaiah says the Messiah will be a great counsellor. Jesus knew how to counsel sinners, for instance the woman caught in adultery, I don’t know why they didn’t catch the man, maybe he could run faster, but not facing up to his sin cost him Jesus’ forgiveness; so don’t run, take responsibility when you get it wrong. Not only did Jesus counsel the woman but her accusers too at the same time in just a few simple words John 8:3-11. Through His power Jesus was able to forgive, it takes a lot to forgive, the mighty can do it; you are mighty too, at this Advent Season forgive those who have harmed you.
Isaiah then says that the Messiah will command knowledge. Jesus had knowledge of many things appropriate to His day. Jesus was human, His divine nature gave Him many abilities that we do not ordinarily share, like walking on water Matthew 14:25-33 and many, many healing miracles for example, however the periodic table and E=MC2 were not in His lexicon. But His words, His thoughts, the two-edgéd sword of His teaching struck the Earth and changed it, and overthrew Evil; all as prophesied.
Isaiah says the Messiah will be righteous and faithful. Jesus is righteous and faithful and remained so, right to His life’s brutal end, and by us clinging to Him peace will come about, violence and vindictiveness will be no more, and the disorder of this very troubled world will be set right. And Jesus love of God stands without question.
It seems to me that Isaiah got it all right. Jesus is the perfect realisation of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah, the Christ. So we can go full blast through Advent to Christmas with renewed faith in the Son of God having come to us to heal this troubled world.
Now the other guy for us to emulate is John the Baptist. Foodies seem to have found that insects are an A-one source of protein so you may one day find yourselves adopting his diet of locusts and wild honey. But in the meantime it might be more palatable to adopt his cry of “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. As we travel through Advent take that up as your motto. The ‘way’ I am talking about is the ‘way’ in our hearts that Jesus has to travel for us to really appreciate who He is. But we live in the real world, we may find ourselves too busy with all the lists we have to prepare, to do this, to get this, to go there, and the not-to-forget-to-say-thank-you list for all the good things received from others and most importantly from God. But still, don’t arrive at Christmas Day without adequate preparation and anticipation of the wonderful event we celebrate when God entered our messy world and started again to straighten things out. Lastly don’t wait to get to the threshing floor before you get rid of the chaff that corrodes your life. Use the door jamb of the Church as a rubbing post when you come in on Sundays and get that dried-up stuff, that chaff, the sin, the trouble that burdens you and get rid of it this Advent, once and for all.
The vision proclaimed by the Psalmist today is how it will be when Jesus’ teachings are adopted by the world. Governments will rule justly. Because of peace, order and good government, we will all prosper, not wasting our resources and wealth on arms races and meeting military spending goals. Jesus’ words will make the difference in a world of believers. There will be a time when fecundity, fertility and fruitfulness will cover the whole Earth, and every plate will be full, and everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, will have a plate and a seat at the table.
That’s not the world we have today. Philosophies and religions other than Judaism and Christianity have missed the mark completely. Variously other religions seek oppression of others and ‘death to the infidel’ and they cannot agree within themselves where Salvation, here and hereafter, lies. All the more reason to cry out “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” this Advent. There is not one of us who does not want a better world, a more just world, and we have the means and the power to bring it about by starting new lives this Advent. It’s up to you. So go do. Amen.