“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
God never abandoned Israel, promising that amid the apparently destitute land there remained “the holy seed” found in a stump (Isa. 6:13). Coming forth from the line of David (Isa. 11:1), this “root of Jesse” would signal to the nations a new reality (Isa. 11:10).
At Jesus’ baptism, as he rose out of the water, the Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the Gospel writers appear to connect this event with the messianic expectations of Isaiah (see Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; cf. Isa. 11:2, 61:1). Here is the true fulfillment of this expectation, as the one conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) grows in wisdom, understanding, and counsel, so that “his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:3; cf. Heb. 5:7–9). These words provide one of the most profound definitions of “the fear of the Lord” in the Old Testament. We hardly have a modern word equivalent to this Hebrew word for “fear.” The word cannot simply mean “terror,” because God’s people are called to love their Lord—impossible if they only live in terror of him. Many theologians, therefore, substitute words such as “awe” or “reverence” for this Old Testament use of “fear.” Such words help our understanding, but this passage (Isa. 11:2–3) reminds us that Christ will “delight” in the fear of the Lord. So, we are made to understand that the loving regard that the eternal Son has for his Father is the fear of the Lord. This is not merely reverence for divine power but is proper regard for all that God is: just, holy, powerful, wise, loving, compassionate, and merciful.
Contributing to this “proper regard” are Isaiah’s prophecies of the new world order. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who believe in him become a part of this promised new creation. With the coming of this “stump of Jesse” a radical shift in the way of the world is expected: chaos will turn to harmony, fear to laughter, death to life (Isa. 11:6–9). We who are new creatures in Christ joyfully participate in the work of the kingdom that we anticipate (Isa. 11:4–10), seeking reconciliation in Jesus’ name by pursuing peace, justice, creation care, and life-promoting goodness (cf. Deut. 26:13). In part we do this by putting on the full armor of God, first truly worn by Christ (cf. Isa. 11:5) but now given to us by his Spirit. In so doing we wage the battle not against foreign political powers but against “the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Echoing the words of Isaiah, we are encouraged to stand, to put on the “belt of truth, and . . . the breastplate of righteousness,” being ready “by the gospel of peace” to hold up “the shield of faith” and the “helmet of salvation,” fighting back with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13–17).
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.