The Root Of Jesse (Part One)
During the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, Israel was facing major upheaval in the world. The days of the small, regional kingdoms were coming to an end, replaced by the age of empires. Far beyond the horizon, across the Euphrates River, was the implement of God’s wrath against Israel – Assyria. It was an empire built on blood, ruled by despots, with only thoughts of plunder on its collective mind. Assyria was sent by God – an example of His mighty providence working with a godless nation – to judge the people of Israel for their unfaithfulness (Isaiah 10:5-7). It would leave a path of destruction resulting in the captivity of every northern tribe of Israel, even going as far as the outskirts of Jerusalem before being turned back by God (2 Chronicles 32).
There is a reminder to the faithful remnant of Israel, though, that just because God uses a godless nation for His judgments it does not mean He approves of them. Assyria’s moral failures more than doomed it in the eyes of the Almighty, who reassures His people that their enemies would meet a judgment of their own when their purpose was fulfilled. Throughout Isaiah 10, the Lord speaks through the prophet about the boastfulness and pride of Assyria (10:13-15) and the inevitable doom they face (10:24-25). He notes, in both 10:18-19 and 10:33-34, that Assyria’s fate will be like a forest that is totally devastated. The reader is enthralled by the image of mighty trees being torn, limb by limb, and gardens being ravaged. One writer astutely observes, “Great and lofty was the forest of Assyria, but it would be cut down by a mighty One. What, however, had become of David’s house? That now was but a tree, and at that a tree which had been felled. It was only a stump or rootstock. To emphasize its mean condition, Isaiah looks to its lowly origin, not even referring to it as the house of David, but merely as the rootstock of Jesse. Jesse had lived in Bethlehem, and Bethlehem was least among the thousands of Judah. What possible contrast, however, could there be between that mighty Assyrian forest and the lowly stump of Jesse? Just this: Assyria would perish and come to a complete end, but in the rootstock of Jesse there was yet life. From that stump a twig was to come forth, and from the roots which furnish the stump with life a branch would grow and would derive its life from the roots so that it might be fruitful” (The Book Of Isaiah Volume I, Young, p. 378).