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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 2

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 11, 12: The Branch from Jesse

Chapter 21: The Fruitful Branch

Isaiah 11 gives us a glimpse of the future when the Messiah was to come through the lineage of David. Isaiah 11:1 says,

1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Isaiah’s metaphor was that of a green shoot (choter, “rod, twig, branch”) growing out of the trunk (geza) of a tree. The tree in this case was Judah. The branch was Jesse, the father of David. David was the original “shoot” or twig coming out of Jesse. Isaiah spoke of this “shoot” as a future event, the coming of the Messiah.

Isaiah understood God’s promise that David’s descendants would rule forever. Yet the Assyrian threat at the time had confronted men with the choice of believing the promise of God or believing the dire political “reality.” Such situations test men’s faith in God’s word in every age, and we are not exempt from such trials of faith even today.

This prophesied branch (netser) “will bear fruit.” The prophet has already introduced us to this terminology in Isaiah 4:2, saying, “In that day the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be His pride.” The purpose of a branch was to bear the fruit of a tree. This branch will indeed be fruitful, the prophet tells us.

But what kind of fruit was this branch to bear? Perhaps the best description of fruit is found in Gal. 5:22, 23,

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against these things there is no law.

There is no law prohibiting the fruit of the Spirit from being manifested. Love, of course, is the greatest fruit, and the law is built upon its foundation. Those who think that some of God’s laws (especially the judgments of God) are based upon hatred or carnal vengeance do not understand that the entire law hangs on the two great commandments of love for God and love for one’s neighbor.

There is no law against love because all laws come out of God’s nature. God is love, and even His judgments are motivated by love. It is only when we misunderstand God’s judgments that we become confused, thinking that God’s judgments are rooted in hatred against sinners. God’s judgments are temporary, because they are rooted in divine love. That is why God mandated the law of Jubilee.

As we will see in the next verse, wisdom is one of the seven Spirits of God. God was wise enough to devise a plan for creation where His victory was ensured. The Spirit of strength was strong enough to implement His plan and to fulfill His promise to the world.

The Seven Spirits of God

Isaiah 11:2 says,

2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

We know that these seven spirits rested fully upon Jesus Christ, as the prophet foretold, for He was the Logos (John 1:1). The Hebrew concept of the Logos was one who was the embodiment of the word of God, i.e., the word made flesh, the living word. He was called the Memra. Moses was their prime example of this, but the Messiah was also to be like Moses (Deut. 18:15).

If we count every seventh Hebrew letter in verses 1 and 2 above, and if we add the numerical value of these, they total 888, which is also the numerical value of Jesus in Greek. Hence, hidden in Isaiah’s text itself is a mathematical allusion to the Messiah, giving us a clue to discern His name in Greek.

It also shows that God had no problem using the Greek language as easily as Hebrew, for He integrated the two into this hidden prophecy in Isaiah 11:1, 2 and in many other passages as well.

The Seven Churches

The seven spirits of God correlate with the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Each of the seven churches needed a different spirit to deal with its prophetic calling in order to overcome in its unique situation. So we see:

1. Ephesus needed the Spirit of the Lord to overcome.

2. Smyrna needed the Spirit of Understanding to overcome.

3. Pergamum needed the Spirit of Counsel to overcome.

4. Thyatira needed the Spirit of Knowledge to overcome.

5. Sardis needed the Spirit of Wisdom to overcome.

6. Philadelphia needed the Spirit of Strength to overcome.

7. Laodicea needed the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord to overcome.

(See The Revelation, Book 1, chapter 11 for a longer study.)

God has seen fit to distribute His gifts in the church, not giving anyone all the gifts, so that we might learn to function as a body. The Head, however, must possess all of the gifts in order to direct all things in the body. The same is true with the seven spirits of God, for these are distributed to each of the seven churches, but the Head of the church is given all seven spirits.

The Menorah

The Menorah, or “Candlestick” in the temple, was a lamp having seven branches to give light to the Holy Place. The seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are introduced in the previous verse, Rev. 1:20,

20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Hence, the Menorah was meant to be a prophetic picture of the seven churches with Christ serving also as the main branch in the center (Rev. 1:13). The seven stars appear to be the lights on each of the seven branches. John says that they are the angels of the seven churches, that is, the messengers sent to impart the seven spirits upon the churches so that they may overcome.

It is clear from this that in the church there are overcomers as well as believers who fail to overcome. Essentially, the non-overcomers are like Jacob, while the overcomers are like Israel. Believers are thus Jacobites, while overcomers are Israelites.

To use Isaiah’s terminology, the overcomers are the remnant that returns from the Assyrian captivity. So we find that Jacob himself went to Haran (Syria/Assyria) where he remained in bondage for twenty years. He returned as an Israelite to depict the remnant principle. As we will see later, Isaiah 44:1 identifies Jacob as “My servant,” but Israel as the one who is “chosen.”

John implies that not all who are part of the seven churches will actually overcome. For this reason, it is clear that believers are not necessarily overcomers. There remain many Jacobites in the church, people who are deceived into thinking that God needs help from the arm of flesh to fulfill His promises. The basis of their belief system yet depends upon Adamic flesh and its power. Only those who overcome this carnal path qualify as Israelites (by God’s standard).

We need all seven of the spirits of God to achieve balance and full victory. However, the dominant spirit needed in the final church (Laodicea) is the fear of the Lord. This is probably the most misunderstood of all the spirits, because most people think of “fear” as being afraid. But the Hebrew concept is broader than that. It means to have reverence or respect for the Lord, to honor Him by recognizing His sovereignty.

In its political application, the fear of the Lord means to recognize that we are “one nation under God.” More specifically, it means to recognize Jesus Christ as King, for He is the Heir of all things and has been given the right to rule all nations. Overcomers teach and work toward that end until all things have been put under His feet.

He Will Judge Righteously

Isaiah 11:3, 4 continues,

3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; 4 but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth, and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

Here the Messiah is pictured as the great Judge of the earth. So Jesus said in John 5:22,

22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.

Isaiah says, “He will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Jesus said in John 5:19,

19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

In other words, Jesus was the Amen of God (Rev. 3:14), One who bore witness to the Father and did nothing of His own initiative. His delight was “in the fear of the Lord,” for He honored His Father by never deviating from His Father’s will. We too are called to be like Christ, for we are called to honor Christ in the same manner, doing nothing of our own initiative but doing and saying only what Jesus does and says. So John 5:23 says,

23 So that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

As the great Judge of the earth, Jesus does not base His verdicts on the surface testimony of men, for men’s memories fail them and they often see what is not there. All Jacobites are in some form of self-deception, and so their testimonies are unreliable. The Judge must discern the truth in order to render a just verdict.

He will not give special regard to the rich and powerful, for unlike the laws of men, the laws of God are impartial. Neither will He demand more restitution from a rich man than from a poor man who is guilty of the same crime (Exodus 23:3). All restitution is calculated according to the magnitude of the crime, not according to one’s ability to pay.

Rev. 2:27 and in other places, it is said that Christ will rule with “a rod of iron.” That, of course, is a metaphor for strength, showing that His rule, throne, and verdicts are unbreakable. A judge’s rod or scepter was never used to beat anyone over the head.

Isaiah defines the rod of Christ by which He judges the earth in righteousness. He strikes the earth with “the rod of His mouth.” In other words, the rod is His verdict which He speaks in the divine court. It is an iron rod because His word cannot be broken (John 10:35). Even the death penalty is a verdict that comes from “the breath of His lips,” the prophet says. John goes further with this Hebrew metaphor by speaking of His tongue as a sharp sword. Rev. 19:15 says,

15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron…

In Hebrew metaphoric language, the “edge” of a sword was a mouth (peh). So Exodus 17:13 says,

13 So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge [peh, “mouth”] of the sword.

The “sharp sword” coming out of Christ’s mouth, then, is the word that He speaks. Hence, Paul says that we are to wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Under the Old Covenant, men conquered by physical swords; under the New Covenant, we conquer by the word of God through the preaching of the word. Your tongue is your sword. This is clearly seen in Isaiah 11:4, where the prophet defines the Messiah’s righteous judgment.

The Belt of Truth

Isaiah 11:5 says,

5 Also righteousness [tsedekah] will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness [emunah] the belt about His waist.

This is a typical Hebrew parallelism, where a statement is repeated in a slightly different form to give it emphasis. A “belt” (ezore) is the innermost garment, or underwear. It literally means “chains, bonds.” Hence, Christ’s belt binds Him to righteousness and faithfulness in all of His judgments.

Isaiah also restates righteousness as faithfulness. Faithfulness is emunah, from amun, “faith, truth.” In other words, Christ will faithfully judge according to the truth that is the standard of all justice. Faith is not faith unless it believes the truth. So the Apostle Paul interprets this in Eph. 6:14, saying, “having girded your loins with truth.”