Good morning Raintree! If you’re a guest, my name is Ryan, and I’m the Lead Pastor here, and I want to welcome you to our main gathering time. I also wanted to publicly thank Jeff Fitzgerald, one of our elders, for bringing a toilet seat wreath to our white elephant gift exchange yesterday with the elders.
I did want to mention briefly, about our budget—which, thank you Tim for explaining the plan for 2016—I wanted to mention that it’s not necessarily a negative thing that we have debt. I mean, in a sense it is, because you know, obviously, it’d be nice if we didn’t have debt. BUT, the building we are in right now, which is incredibly useful, and will be increasingly useful in the future, is the positive side of having a loan. It’s pretty great that we have a place that is so useful for groups and Bible studies and worship, and even weddings.
But I also want you to dream with me for a moment. If we stay on schedule with our loan, that means in 9 years or so, we will be in a rare position. I’m hoping, actually, that we pay off this loan in more like 5-6 years, because I’m hoping we’ll amp it up in the next few years. But most churches are never in a position to suddenly have at their disposal $140,000 to budget. I want you to dream with me for a moment about what God may be able to do with that money when we get there. I’m not talking about building a building or hiring 5-6 more staff; I’m talking about, just to throw some ideas out there: adding $50,000 to our missions budget, adding another $50,000 specifically budgeted to meet the needs of individuals in our church and in our community (like struggling families and individuals), and then perhaps, $40,000, the rest, for ministry purposes like staff, curriculum, etc.
I’ve been a part of churches that had a great desire to increase their missions budget or their benevolence ministry budget, but they can’t because it’s difficult to take money away from certain ministries or areas that are used to having that money. In a very real sense, paying for this loan right now is both forcing us to really steward our money well, but also will put us in a place in a few years of being able to steward a large portion of our yearly budget toward things that really matter. So when you give to Raintree, don’t be put off thinking about giving to pay a loan, be thankful we have such a wonderful place to worship, and be thankful that we’re going to have the opportunity to steward nearly 40% of our yearly budget in just a few years.
Today we are continuing our mini-series called “The Promise.” Last week we looked at the promise of His Coming, and this week we’re looking at the Promise of His Kingdom.
As a reminder, and to put us back into the historical context. Bird’s Eye view: all of Isaiah is about Isaiah prophesying to the people of Israel telling them to trust in God’s promises and telling them of the consequences of disobedience. Isaiah is prophesying to Judah about 700 years before Jesus. Assyria, if you remember last week, is a huge threat, specifically against God’s people. King Ahaz of Judah is facing the same question many other kings are facing with the Assyrians: do we stand up to them, or do we try and make some sort of alliance. It is likely that an alliance wouldn’t really be much of an alliance, but more a surrender; Assyria wasn’t the type of world power to make alliances. But he’s having to decide. So, moving from Bird’s Eye view down to a bit closer to today’s text, Isaiah has gone to King Ahaz in chapter 8 to tell him not to give in to Assyria. God doesn’t want Israel to fear Assyria; God wants Israel to fear Him.
Here’s the unusual part: God doesn’t want Israel to fear Assyria, NOT because God’s going to protect them from Assyria. In fact, Isaiah 10 refers to Assyria as God’s AXE that He’s going to use to cut Israel down! This may not be the most heartwarming Old Testament story for Christmas, when you hear the context, but it’s true nonetheless. God declares that Assyria is his axe, but he also declares that he will also destroy Assyria. But, in the midst Israel facing judgment, in the midst of God using Assyria to cut Israel down, God makes a promise.
The picture here that’s worth engraining into your brain for the immediate context of this promise in Isaiah 11 is that of a forest that’s been completely mowed down, just destroyed, nothing but stumps everywhere, and Israel is one of those stumps. Then comes Isaiah chapter 11, starting in vs. 1, and going through vs. 9.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 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. 3 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, 4 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.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. 6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
So at the end of chapter 10, Assyria has been cut down. All of these stumps that I mentioned for you to picture in your mind, they include Assyria and Israel. The difference is that, in chapter 11, in this prophetic vision, Assyria sends out no shoot! There is no hope of life for Assyria in this picture that Isaiah paints of the future. But, out of the stump of Jesse, who is David’s father, out of this stump that is DEAD, destroyed, worthless, out of this stump one little twig shoots forth. And this isn’t like those annoying like shoots that just pop up and you have to constantly cut off the trunk of the three. This shoot is one little sign of life. Israel is not gone forever; the line of the Messiah, which the Old Testament kind-of follows, is still alive.
If you haven’t inferred yet, this is messianic in meaning. Isaiah is moving again from the present into the future, much like he did last week. Out of the line of Jesse, the line of David his son, one day will be a shoot and then a branch that will bear fruit. Eventually this shoot of Jesse will bring about a Kingdom of His own, of which we get a glimpse in the second half of our text.
What I’d like to do this week is look at Christ’s Kingdom now from the first half of this text, which really is just talking about the character of this shoot of Jesse, the Messiah, but I’ll explain what it has to do with Christ’s Kingdom now, and then Christ’s kingdom in the future. The text we just read is talking about the future, It was ritten 700 years before Christ, but this particular passage is talking about something that still hasn’t happened today, or at least hasn’t been fully fulfilled. So the Promise of His Kingdom Now, then the Promise of His Kingdom in the Future.
His Kingdom Now (vs. 1-5)
Christ reigns in the hearts of believers, those who have repented and trusted in Him alone for salvation. He reigns. So what this means is that He is our King. He’s the type of King you want to be ruled by. That’s kind of hard to imagine, kings on earth or anyone in power on earth, they’re inconsistent, right? They’re human, but this King, Christ, is an all-good, perfect, loving King.
A few things about this King: vs. 2- The Spirit of the Lord rests on Him. Even though he was human, he was also fully divine. The Holy Spirit rested on Him for his entire life, that’s a part of being one of the three persons of the Trinity. Now, the NEAT thing about this is that the Holy Spirit does not just affect just one category of human character, but in fact every single aspect of our character as human beings, can be greatly affected and changed by the Holy Spirit. Christ is the perfect example.
Some of these different categories are mentioned: Wisdom and Understanding: which is the ability to perceive and understand moral truth and just any and all truth. Counsel and Might: He can both know what to do, and then do it! Knowledge and fear of the Lord: He knows the true will of God and He respects it as such. All of these qualities are perfected in our King, Jesus Christ.
The crux, though, of this explanation of the character of this descendant of Jesse comes in verse 3. “His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.” Now when we hear this, it may sound a bit confusing. He delights in fear? When I think of that I can’t help but think of those of you who find joy in being scared; you like really scary movies. Or you like going to haunted houses. To each his own, but I just don’t get that. My sweet mother, of all people, just loves scary movies, like terribly scary and even gory movies. Anyway, this is a bit different: We all have something we ultimately respect over other things. We all have something that ultimately determines our actions. For the shoot of Jesse, that ultimate respect lies with the Lord. His greatest joy, his most central happiness is found in being in awe and in fear of God.
Now what happens when the shoot of Jesse ultimately fears the Lord above all else? Look at the second part of verse 3- “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.”
The shoot of Jesse judges with truth. He sees with eyes and a heart that is MOST concerned with the Lord! That is the only way he can really determine what is best! He doesn’t just judge by what he sees or what people tell him, but by the Spirit of Truth.
Now what does this have to do with us? Well, Jesus calls his followers to be a people of righteousness and TRUTH. We’re to reflect the character of Jesus. Jesus says this himself in John 7:24- “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” We’re not to make assumptions based on what we see, but on actual truth!
Not a people of Headlines, but of Truth
Maybe one of the biggest plagues hindering the pursuit of truth is our over-reliance upon ourselves for truth. We put too much trust in humans for truth. Sometimes, how we see the world is based solely upon headlines as opposed to God’s Word. How we see the world is based upon what we read in our Newsfeeds, or upon simply what our friends are saying, or upon whatever our favorite News Channel has to say, which they seem to say a lot of different things, which should probably be concerning. We are not to be moved by appearances, or by simply what people are telling us. We are to reflect the character of our King who reigns in our hearts. That King judges by His ultimate respect and fear of the Lord and by the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives Him, not by headlines.
What does this mean, when you really get down to it? Because Christ’s kingdom is here now in our hearts, we don’t make judgments based upon appearances.
- Someone wearing a blue uniform and trusted with authority in the community: we DON’T assume they’re on a power trip. We don’t assume they’re a racist.
- Someone of a particular color in the community: we DON’T assume they have a problem with authority. We don’t assume they’re a criminal.
- We don’t assume when we see some viral video that we have all the facts.
- We don’t assume, on a less intense level, that young people are all entitled and hate the idea of working.
- We don’t assume older people are all stubborn and refuse to change.
- Just to hit it where it might be really relevant for us: We don’t assume parents who homeschool are on a high-horse, nor do we assume that parents who send their kids to public school are somehow less pious Christians.
We are people of truth, not assumptions. With Christ as our King, we are increasingly seeing the world as He sees it, with ultimate respect and awe reserved for God alone. We fear no headlines, and we definitely don’t avoid headlines that don’t quite fit into our preconceived assumptions about reality. We don’t assume things just because it may fit our preconceived assumptions. We’re a people of truth, capital T truth. We want and pursue all truth, not just the truth that fits our “truth.”
This also means that we refuse to be dishonest, even to win people to the faith. We don’t do the bait and switch, where we trick everyone to come here into the building, then, haHA, we really just wanted share the Gospel. We’re a people of truth. We fear no one, nor do we act like we’re better than anyone. When meeting with a principal, or a lawyer, or your boss, or an employee. We don’t fear their judgment, nor do we think we’re somehow better than them. We’re a people of truth. The truth is that we’re all made in God’s image, and that the ultimate reality is that God is the ruler of all. That truth ultimately determines how we think.
Be Thou My Vision
How do we really get to this point where we see the world, we understand our experiences through the God-lens if you will? How do we get there? How do we fish through all of the nonsense! How do we really know which politician isn’t lying? How do we really know if justice is being served with race tensions across the country? How do we really know even if we can trust the news sites that we read, or the friends who tell us what’s going on in the world? If I’m honest this morning, the answer to this question is that we cannot trust our own understanding of reality.
It’s the called the noetic effects of the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, the entire created order was marred. This includes our ability to understand reality. Our knowledge is not trustworthy! That might scare us a little; and, frankly, it should! Our mental capacities, our processes for comprehending using our senses, our ability to see reality as it really is has been marred. So here’s the question: HOW then can we possibly see?
The way the shoot of Jesse sees. He was able to judge justly, meaning he was able to determine truth, how? By delighting in the fear of the Lord. For you and for me, the greatest possible thing we can do to increase our understanding of reality as it really is, is by first looking and standing in AWE of our great God! It starts with HIM. We must set our joy, our identity and our affections on HIM. He is the ultimate reality. He determines what is good. Do you realize that He doesn’t just recognize what is good; He determines it! We must see and stand in awe of our great God. Then and only then will we be able to see the world through the lens of God’s great glory.
That’s why I love the placement of vs. 3. He shall delight in the fear of the Lord, THEN he will be able to judge justly, understand truth, discern reality.
That’s why today’s choice of “Be Thou My Vision” is so appropriate. And we didn’t plan this, but catch these lyrics:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tow’r:
Raise Thou me heav’nward, O Pow’r of my pow’r.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
His Promise of the Kingdom is NOW. Jesus is our King, and he can be the ultimate reality through which we see everything else. This happens when we look at God, when we read the Scriptures and see who He is, and are consumed by Him. He captures our affections with His unmatched character and glory and majesty. Are you captured today? It’s pretty easy to really submit to Christ’s loving Kingship when we see who He really is. Submission, obedience, becomes a natural response. How? Because when see Him as He really is, we quickly learn that He is better.
His Kingdom in the Future
That’s today, that’s right now. But one day in the future his kingdom will be fully realized. One day, the knowledge of who God is will so fill the earth that peace will reign! We get a real picture of this in verses 6-9 of our text. We see a wolf dwelling with a lamb. Just hanging out! The Leopard will lie down with the young goat. The calf and the lion and the fattened calf, and get this, a child will lead them. The cow and the bear, the nursing child will play over the hole of the cobra. Talk about a parents’ worst nightmare! Seriously, you may be frightened just by thinking about that right now. When I was I think about 12, I stepped on a rattlesnake walking into our backyard, and my mom saw the whole thing from inside the house. Do you think she was scared? The wolf, the leopard, the young lion, the bear, and the snake (or adder) are pretty much the only dangerous animals of Palestine, which is why Isaiah used these animals in particular, but the point is that, Vs. 9- “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Christ’s future kingdom will be new! It will be a little different, if you didn’t catch that already. Destructive forces will be GONE. Christ’s future kingdom will be one of perfect peace. I think all the animals are more metaphorical, but even if there is an animal kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth, this harmony the Messiah’s rule brings even affects the animal kingdom!
How? How, exactly, will there be peace? “Because” the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When fear of God, or awe of God is global, that reality determines the actions of all things! When the knowledge of the Lord is no longer suppressed, even animals change their actions.
Now, just for clarity-sake, many believe this is referring to a future millennial kingdom, where Jesus comes back and reigns on the earth for 1000 years. I don’t think this is referring to a millennial kingdom, but instead to the new heavens and the new earth. Why? Well, if you’d like to look later at Isaiah 65, verse 25 quotes almost verbatim Isaiah 11:9, the last verse of our text today. And then if you move just 8 verses earlier, if specifically says that “I create a new heavens and a new earth.” In other words, I think Isaiah is speaking of the same time period in Isaiah 11 as he is in Isaiah 65. That may be more info than you feel like you wanted, but if you wanted to look at Isaiah 65 later, it might be worth seeing yet another picture of Christ’s future kingdom.
But all of this, his Kingdom now, His Kingdom in the future, this is a lot more than maybe we would expect from a shoot, a little twig coming out of a dead, chopped down stump. Not only though, is Jesus the shoot of Jesse, but, according to Revelation 22:17, he’s also the “root and the descendant of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Jesus is both the shoot and the root. He’s the shoot, showing life and eventually turning into the branch that bears fruit, but he’s also the root, the very source of that life!
That is so fitting for showing us the glory of Christ: He’s the shoot of Jesse and the root of David. He’s what else? The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the end. He Himself is the life in the line of David, the promise of His coming, but also He reveals Himself to be the very source of that Life, being born of a virgin.
The Promise of Christ’s Kingdom has a present reality and a future, fully realized reality. But ultimately, and I really want you to catch this as we close, the Promise of Christ’s Kingdom is not the promise of a place. It’s not about leaving this place and going to another, though that may happen. It’s not about getting our mansion or our lot that we deserve in heaven. It’s not about going to a place where we will get to do whatever we want. The promise of His Kingdom is ultimately the promise of Himself! We will be in His presence, delighting in His glory, being in awe of Him, seeing the world as He sees it, paying no mind to sensational headlines and man-centered news, because our hearts and our minds and our eyes will be set on Him. If that sounds boring to you, then you don’t see Jesus as He really is. the one because of whom there will be no sun in this future Kingdom, because His glory will fill with light the entire new heavens and new earth. See Him as He is today. Set your fear on Him. Stand in awe. Then you will be able to discern truth. Let’s pray.