In Isaiah 9-10 we read that the anger of the Lord will still stretched out against Israel and Judah for their various sins. Assyria, in whom they put their trust, would be their demise and God would use them as an instrument of his judgment against them. However, Assyria will become prideful and go too far by thinking that their power resides in themselves rather than seeing themselves as instruments in the hand of God. Therefore God will judge Assyria as well. We pick in prophecy in verse 20 of the tenth chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah now describes what the future holds for Israel and Judah.
Creating A Remnant (10:20-34)
Isaiah declares that there will be a remnant to come. Verses 21-22 drives home this truth to the hearers. “A remnant will return” is the name of the son of Isaiah, Shear-Jashub. It will not be all of Israel that will be delivered. Notice verse 22, “For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.” This is a direct reference to the Abrahamic promise. Recall that when God made a covenant with Abraham that through his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed, declaring that he would multiply Abraham’s offspring like the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea (Genesis 22:17). God is recalling his covenant promise by not destroying the nation, but only a remnant will return to the mighty God. Verse 20 tells us that the remnant will be those who no longer depend on outsiders, but will faithfully depend on the Lord alone. This dependence is a picture of weakness resting on strength. They will not simply say that they rely and depend on the Lord. They will rely on the Lord in truth. They will truly do this and they will do so faithfully. This is what it means to return to the mighty God (10:21). Now, do not forget that the “mighty God” was described in Isaiah 9:6 as the child born and son given to the world that will sit on David’s throne and rule in righteousness and justice. The truthfulness of the nation’s faith will be demonstrated by their action of choosing to trust the Holy One of Israel, the Mighty God, rather than someone else or something else. So Isaiah states an important truth: the Abrahamic promises are not an absolute guarantee of blessing for people who fail to trust God.
Turn to Romans 9:27-28 where the apostle Paul quotes this verse and makes the same application. In Romans 9:6 Paul declared that the word of God has not failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are truly Israel. Paul spends the ninth chapter of Romans proving this point. In verses 27-28 Paul uses Isaiah to prove his point. Though the number of Israel is great, only a remnant will find salvation. The true people of God, Israel, are known by their faith in the mighty God, not by ethnicity.
I think we have the right to make the same application today. Not all “Christians” are Christians. Just because you were baptized does not mean that you are part of God’s faithful remnant. Just because you accepted Jesus and confessed him as the Son of God does not mean you are part of his glorious kingdom. The remnant are those who go past the external acts of obedience (while obeying those commands, of course) and faithfully put their hope and reliance on God. The remnant is a group of people who obey the Lord because they are faithfully relying on God, not by merely accomplishing some list of acts.
What God will do to keep his covenantal promise is do something that seems to be impossible. First, God is going to end his wrath against Judah (10:25). Second, God will attack Assyria (10:26). Third, God will remove the yoke the Assyrians from the neck of Judah (10:27). God uses two examples to show how he can accomplish the seemingly impossible in 10:26. First, God will act like he did “when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb.” This is a reference to Judges 7:25 in the days of Gideon when God was victorious with only 300 soldiers. Second, God will act like he did when “he lifted his staff over the sea in Egypt.” This refers the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea to deliver Israel from Egyptian oppression. Verses 28-34 picture the cutting off of the Assyrians, cutting off their power and ending their rule. The key image is in verses 33-34 where Assyria is pictured as a mighty tree with great height being cut down. Impressive Assyria will be cut down.
The Reign of the Branch (11:1-9)
In contrast to the mighty, impressive tree of Assyria, Isaiah prophesies that a shoot will come from the stump of Jesse. A branch from the roots of Jesse will bear fruit. This is an amazing image. Judah is pictured as having been cut down, a mere stump. There are no branches, no trees, no life, no hope, and no sound. Just a stump as a reminder of the life and power that previously existed. But from that stump a shoot grows. Life is now seen. Notice that this is not the stump of David. Rather, a shoot from Jesse is going to come. The point is that this not just another failed king from the lineage of David, but another David. This is the son of Jesse, David is going to come. This is the Davidic king who rules with justice and gathers people from the far reaches of the world. He will replace the proud Assyrian tyrant who destroys and scatters many nations. Further, the Spirit of the Lord will empower and guide this new king. The Spirit of the Lord coming upon this king shows us again that this is David ruling. Listen to what happened when Samuel came to anoint David as the future king.
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. (1 Samuel 16:13 ESV)
He will not depend on his own strength or wisdom like the king of Assyria did. Having the Spirit of the Lord means that he is going to exhibit different behavior than other kings. The unimpressive shoot will be the hope of the world. God is going to use the unimpressive, foolish things to put to shame the wise of this world. God is in the business of demonstrating his own glory by using the seemingly unimpressive to accomplish his plans.
This “king David” will not make the foolish mistakes like Ahaz did during his rule. This king will delight in the fear of the Lord. His mouth will contain the royal decrees and execute his will. Everything will be guided by justice, upright behavior, and faithfulness. He will perfectly display God’s character like clothes on him. Inwardly, he delights in the Lord. Outwardly, he commits himself to righteousness. He is the king after God’s own heart. The second half of verse 4 comes from Psalm 2:9, reminding us that this is the Messiah and his rule will be the striking down of the enemies.
Verses 6-9 describe the nature of the kingdom of this new David. The imagery is amazing as it is beautiful. Read those words from verses 6-9 about this glorious kingdom. There are at least three aspects of this new Davidic kingdom that Isaiah pictures. First, there is reconciliation, an ending of hostilities (11:6). Wolves lying down with lambs, leopards lying down with goats, and fattened calves lying down with lions shows that there is an end to hostility in this new kingdom. Second, there is a change of nature (11:7). Cows and bears are eating the same food. The ox and the lion are both eating straw. There is a total change of nature that will occur in the creation during the reign of the new David. Third, the curse is removed (11:8). The hostility and enmity that existed between humanity and serpents ends. The infant has nothing to fear from the cobra and the viper.
Now, here is the sad thing. So many people read this text and think that this is talking about the end of the world or the second coming of Christ. They think that the earth will be made completely different and we will live on an earth where animals no longer fight or eat each other and children will no longer be bitten by snakes. I submit to you that these conclusions are drawn because we do not study through Bible books. We swoop into a text like this one, read verses 6-9 out of its context, and draw conclusions that do not fit the message of the prophecy. This amazing imagery is not concerned with fixing the world order around us as if it is God’s great concern that lions eat calves. Let’s put these verses back into their prophetic context. The people are in hostility with God. Isaiah 9-10 declared that the anger of the Lord is still stretched out against the nation as judgment after judgment comes crushing against them. There is only a remnant that will saved and God is describing what life will be like for the remnant when the Davidic king arrives. When the King comes, there is going to be an end of the hostility between God and his people. Reconciliation is going to occur with God, and perhaps even picturing reconciliation between Israel and Gentiles as Ephesians 2 describes. God’s people will dwell in peace with God. Second, there is going to be a change of nature and change of order. Isaiah already declared this in 10:20 as well as in 4:2-3. The people under this King’s reign will faithfully depend on the Lord, the Mighty God, and no other. They will put their glory and honor in the Branch of the Lord. They will be called holy and have their filth and bloodstains cleansed (4:2-3). Finally, the curse will be removed. Isaiah pictures the breaking of the curse. God’s people will not be hurt by the power of the serpent. The cobra and the viper will not hurt or destroy any of those in his holy mountain. The coming of the Davidic king is going to be crushing of the power of the serpent. Satan will be held powerless against those who are God’s faithful remnant. How is all this going to happen? Verse 9 elaborates that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” When the Messiah comes the knowledge of the Lord is going to spread throughout the earth as the nations will come to the holy mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2). We see the apostles instructed to carry out the message of the new Davidic king, preaching the gospel beginning in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. Isaiah pictured that hopeful, glorious kingdom where our hostility with God would end, we would have a nature that seeks him, and have the curse of sin removed.
The Gathering of the Nations to God (11:10-16)
The chapter concludes by elaborating the result of the earth being full of the knowledge of the Lord. The nations are going to be gathered to God. Verse 10 of Isaiah 11 shows we are on the right track of our understanding. The root of Jesse will be the banner and signal to the nations to come to the Lord. The apostle Paul quotes this in Romans 15:12. We will start in verse 8 to see the context of Paul’s point.
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:8–13 ESV)
The nations are going to come in for instruction. The Gentiles are going to have equal opportunity to receive instructions and live in the glorious kingdom of David. Gentiles will not have to live in hostility with God. They will not be part of the curse of sin any longer. They can also be joined in the kingdom if they will put their faithful dependence on God.
Now consider this point: if Isaiah was not fulfilled when Jesus came his first time to the earth, but pictures a future time yet to come, then Gentiles cannot and are not in the kingdom for salvation now. The text has a cause and effect. When the root of Jesse comes, he will establish a kingdom that will end hostility and remove the curse of sin. During that same time, the root of Jesse will bring the nations to himself and his rest will be glorious. Jesus would be the banner to rally around. Jesus will promise a glorious place of rest. Trusting in Jesus will not bring disappointment. Listen to Jesus’ commentary on this prophetic concept.
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31–33 ESV)
The cross is the banner we will rally around. The cross and the resurrection are the signal to the world that will draw all the nations to him. Isaiah 11:14 shows the kingdom of Christ expanding beyond its promised borders of Canaan out into the surrounding nations. Further, a new exodus is going to occur (11:15-16). Jesus is going to remove every obstacle and bring about the salvation and deliverance of his people. The cross is the obstacle remover. The cross is the means by which we are redeemed from the curse of sin and walk on dry ground through the sea to the Davidic king and his glorious rule. As we study the death of Jesus we must keep in mind that this is the signal to the world that is reconciling them to God, taking them out from under the curse of sin, and making it possible to belong to the remnant that finds grace. Return to the Mighty God, lean on the Lord with all your heart, and find rest in him.