The prophets we are talking about here were men of God who were open channels for the messages that God had to share with mankind about the ‘one who is to come’ – the one who we now refer to as Jesus. They were not predicting the future – they were waiting for the time when they believed that God’s promise to the Patriarchs would come into fruition.
The period of the prophets of the Old Testament falls after the reign of David and Solomon – the Golden Age of the Jewish people. In about 922 BC, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam reacted harshly when his people requested that the hard service that they had endured should be lightened, the nation became unstable and as a result the ten northern tribes of Israel split from the two southern tribes of Judah.
There followed a period of great uncertainty and instability under the rule of numerous corrupt kings who chose to go their own way. In 735 BC Judah was plunged into crisis. The Assyrian Army was controlling a great deal of that region and Israel and Syria decided to make and alliance and rebel. They wanted Judah to join the alliance but the king of Judah, Ahaz, refused.
The prophet Isaiah was called and commissioned by God in about 738 BC – the year that king Uzziah died and he was sent to Ahaz as Gods messenger. Ahaz would not listen, decided to form an alliance with the Assyrian king against the Northern Kingdom and Israel and Syria were laid to waste.
Isaiah continues that the Messiah would be the answer to the future of Israel. But as we read these prophecies today we must read, what in some cases are very familiar passages with open minds and figure out what God has to say to us through these. In some cases, Jesus, through the gospel writers has made connections for us between the prophecy and His fulfilment of them. So let us look briefly at today’s Old Testament reading which is this vision of Isaiah.
Reading Isaiah 11:1-10
This is a very well know passage. Some of you may have noticed the picture in the corner – that of the Jesse sculpture which is in St Mary’s in Abergavenny and is one of the oldest pieces of church sculpture in existence. If you haven’t seen it, make time to do so.
You will see that Jesse isn’t complete. Although the man himself, David’s Father Jesse, is made from one piece of wood, there is a join which rises up – and that join would originally have been part of an altar, carved as a family tree to show the direct line of descent from Jesse, through David and Solomon which would have ended with Mary and Jesus.
This year St Mary’s has unveiled a new window, not a carved altar piece like the original but a stained glass window which when the effect is complete and Jess is re-housed – it will appear as if the window, which shows the family tree of Jesus with be attached to the carving of Jesse.
It shows numerous people connected with the history of the people of God. Here are the people who believed that God had a part to play in their lives. You see Adam and Eve, you see Moses with the tablets of the law
At the centre of the window you will see Mary and Jesus, who is recognised as the descendant of Jesse who is described in the opening of Isaiah 11 Whereas David’s role was to be king of Israel his descendant’s job is to bring all the people to God.
The spirit of the Lord will rest on him –
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LordIsaiah 11.2
His Kingship will be unlike any other kingship which Israel has seen, totally revolutionary and turning creation on its head.
This idyll where all the animals can live together without anybody or anything eating or killing another. Assuming that the animals didn’t eat each other in the garden of Eden (!) what Isaiah is describing is some form of return to the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, of God’s kingdom rule. It is a vision, not of the return of Messiah and the affect it will have – it is the vision of God’s Kingdom rule coming into fulfilment here on earth.
Those of us who are waiting and watching for Jesus return may see signs of the accepted order being turned on its head:
We see men who were once arch enemies in Northern Ireland working together…
We may see Christians working alongside Muslims to build bridges between communities …
We may see families of victims choosing a way of forgiveness instead of retribution…
A World where the poor of the earth – be it the financially impoverished, or the abused, or the refugees – whoever – are given due consideration and fairness in the world – even when it is against the best interests of those who seek wealth and prestige.
And so prophesy speaks in the time scale of God. Words which comforted God’s people in the war torn 8th century BC spoke to people in the Roman occupied 1st century and again to us in the 21st Century. This timelessness helps us to put our lives into perspective, to realise that God is transcendent in his faithfulness to us and it helps us to focus on what is important in our lives now.
Because we must keep looking for signs of God’s Kingdom breaking through on earth, praying for the coming of the kingdom and to announce Jesus’ presence to our community while bringing his peace as a sign to others; Committing ourselves to bring God’s Kingdom in the lives of our friends and family and neighbours.