Scripture about Root of Jesse
I Samuel 17:12 – 12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old.
Matthew 5:1-6 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.
Romans 15:7, 12 – Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
The origins of this Advent hymn “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” references Isaiah 11:1 that we heard in the reading for lighting the Advent Candle —“And there shall come forth a root out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots”. Some controversy arose as to the original word in the first line of the hymn: Was the German word “Ros” (rose) or “Reis” (branch)? Isaiah 35:1 suggests the image the rose: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Although today we are focusing on the Root of Jesse, so it’s hard to know. This recording is of ALL of you singing a year ago December in our sanctuary. We are grateful to Don Morgan for painstakingly recording ALL of our worship services in the sanctuary. Who knew that these recordings would become gold by allowing us to use some of them in our virtual worship.
HYMN Lo How A Rose references the lineage of Jesse
Scripture about Key of David
Isaiah 22:22 – “I will place on His shoulder the key to the house of David; what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”
Isaiah 9:6-7 – For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.
Rev. 3:7,11-12 – “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens: “I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven.”
Luke 1:26-33 – In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
For the Word of God in Scripture, For the Word of God Among us for the word of God within us. Thanks be to God!
We sing the Advent hymn Hail to the Lord’s Anointed almost every Advent. This hymn traces the lineage of Jesus back to David.
HYMN Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
We heard Vic & Leslie Ann read a portion of the genealogy from the Gospel of Matthew. These long lists of names are joined by the word “begat” in the King James Version or “became the father of” in other translations. If you read all the who begat whom, your eyes would start to glaze over from boredom. But I know some of you are fascinated about genealogy and tracing your own family tree. That is what the Gospel of Matthew is doing as well. As the ancient Israelites waited for the Messiah, they recalled that the Kingdom of David would come from Jesse’s family “tree” – thus mapping the messianic line. Matthew’s genealogy traces Jesus’ lineage through his adoptive father Joseph back to the house of David & the tree of Jesse.
We continue our theme of exploring the ancient spiritual liturgy of the O Antiphons that the verses of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” are based on. This hymn and the O Antiphons use images from Hebrew scripture to depict who the Messiah would be and what the Messiah would do. Last week we looked at Wisdom & Adonai. Today we explore the Root of Jesse & the Key of David.
One of the messianic titles for Jesus is the Root of Jesse from Isaiah 11. Jesse is the father of David, who was considered the greatest of all of Israel’s kings, a man after God’s own heart, despite the many failings he had. David receives promises from God that someone from his lineage would sit on the throne of Israel forever. However, like David, the kings that followed down the line didn’t make the wisest of decisions or rule with a heart for justice. Israel fell apart leaving God’s people in ruins.
300 years after David’s reign, about 100 years before the Babylonian Exile, Isaiah is given a promise about Jesse’s lineage. In Isaiah’s time, the line of kings had been less than honorable. They were corrupt, they forgot the ways of God, and countless times we read that they did what was “evil in the sight of the Lord”. Favors were handed out to the highest bidder and the people suffered. You don’t have to go far in history to see how relevant these scriptures are – even today, especially today.
The Davidic kingdom lasted about 400 years. In the 6th century BCE the Davidic royal line was cut off, when the people and the King were taken into captivity in Babylon. The lineage of Jesse continued, but they were no longer reigning as kings in Jerusalem. It’s a story of the rise and fall of empire. We hear how other powers continued to defeat Israel after Babylon; Persia, Greece, Rome.
Isaiah’s prophecy foreshadows a devastated forest with a single stump remaining of the once-great nation. The royal line cut off, like a tree cut down, with no prospect of revival. Just a dead-looking stump. Miraculously life remained within the stump.
Isaiah’s prophecy reads in 11:1 – 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 & understanding, the Spirit of counsel & might, the Spirit of knowledge & the fear of the LORD. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Identity is central to the prophetic tradition, and so the people of Israel waited for God to send a Savior – an anointed one—a Messiah — the One who would come from the stump of Jesse. From the perspective of the Jewish Faith, the Book of Isaiah was not meant as a foretelling of Jesus’ birth, so we should hold the tension that Jewish people still wait for the Messiah. Christians read the prophecy of Isaiah through the lens of NT writers and believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and the answer to the Antiphon prayer – “O Root of Jesse, come!”
After close to 600 years of no king, 600 years of foreign domination, 600 years of apparent silence from God, there would come a vibrant shoot would rise up from the seemingly dead stump of Jesse, and become a fruitful tree. 600 years puts 4 weeks of Advent or 40 days of Lent or 400 days of a pandemic into perspective. Life coming out of death, causing restoration and revival, when it looked like all hope was lost. That’s how God works, bringing life out of death.
This branch of Jesse, this shoot, will also be the root of Jesse. V10
“In that day, the root of Jesse, shall stand as a signal for the peoples–of him shall the nations inquire.”
That is the promise of this antiphon – O come thou root of Jesse. Jesus is the shoot springing forth from the stump of Jesse as well as being called the root of Jesse. How can he be both shoot coming forth from the stump as well as the root of the stump? In terms of earthly lineage and timeframe, Jesse comes first, but in a theological sense, we understand that the eternal Christ is the root of Jesse and the root of all humanity.
Last week I talked about Wisdom/Sophia being present with God from the beginning of creation from Proverbs 8, as well as the Logos/Word in John 1 being present with God from the beginning. Paul expresses this idea in Colossians 1:15 as well:
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
This is the mystery of Jesus, as sung about in the hymn Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming – the hymn states that Jesus is both true man, yet very God from tender stem hath sprung. He is Son of David and Son of God. In the beginning with God and the incarnation of God at a specific point in history. The one who is coming is first called “a shoot from the stump of Jesse,” and then called “the root of Jesse”–the one who “shall bear fruit.” In this context Jesus is the shoot, root, & fruit of Jesse.
Good fruit will come from this righteous branch from what seemed to be a dead and hopeless stump, with Life and vitality for every one. Isaiah 11 continues with another well known passage of the “peaceable kingdom.” Wolf & lamb, leopard & goat, calf & lion, predator & prey, lying down together. Dwelling in harmony. No more violence and death. It’s an image of returning to the Garden. Paradise restored. This peaceable kingdom is the fruit of what the root of Jesse will bring. Creation brought back in order.
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.” v9
This kingdom will include not just Israel but people of God from every tribe, nation, language and people. v10
“In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples – of him shall the nations inquire.”
In Romans, Paul cites this passage: “
The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”
King David & King Solomon and other kings ruled politically in a material world; Jesus, would rule in spiritual realm. David and Solomon’s kingdoms rose and fell; Jesus’ kingdom lasts forever. Jesus is the one who brings in the peaceable kingdom of Paradise restored. A kingdom that extends to include the Gentiles. All this is the fruit coming from the one who is both shoot and root.
The second antiphon we are exploring today is O Come thou Key of David. The key and scepter are ancient symbols of power and authority. Kings appointed a steward to serve as palace administrator. In the Davidic Kingdom “carrying the key” was a symbol of sacred stewardship over the house of David to act on king’s behalf. This steward carried a visible key from his shoulder, and held the authority to determine who would be allowed to enter into the presence of the king.
In this context, early Christians understood that Jesus was both the Key of David, the heir of David, who would become a King who lays aside his sovereignty, taking on the role of a servant. In this role of servant, Jesus opens the gates of heaven. In the 5th verse of O Come, O come Emmanuel we sing –
O come Thou Key of David, come, and open wide your heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path that leads to misery. Come rescue those who are in the shadow of death.
We possess a number of keys in our lives. A key to the house, key to the car. Some say that they have discovered the key to happiness or the key to success. You may have the key to someone’s heart. Keys open and shut. Keys unlock and lock. Keys protect and give access. But what key will open your heart to the heart of God — to enter fully into the presence of God and God’s peace and joy?
Early Christians looked to Jesus to use his key to open heaven to us. As Jesus was the key to their lives, he can also be the key to our lives, too, opening the door of God’s love and grace. Jesus is the One who can set us free, free from prisons the ones we create for ourselves, and the ways we cut ourselves off from the heart of God or others. Jesus has the key to unlock abundant life within us and for us. This Advent, our response is to discover the key to open our hearts to Jesus. Oh, Come, Thou Key of David, come! Open wide our heavenly home! Amen.
Setting up verses 4 & % of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. For centuries the church has chanted the O Antiphons, invitations for Jesus to come into our world. As we prepare to sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, it is good to pay attention to the ways these words were translated for different hymnals, especially in verse 4. Some hymnals have: O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree, an ensign of thy people be; before thee rulers silent fall; all peoples on thy mercy call. Other hymnals have: O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny; from depths of hell thy people save, and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.