Stumps and New Beginnings

Stumps. Sprouts. The prophet Isaiah offers the words of God with rich imagery. For instance, last week’s passage from Isaiah 7 had a back story wherein Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub (Remnant Will Return) tell King Ahaz the threatening political situation is in hand, God’s hand. The worrisome alliance causing fear is best represented in a couple of “stumps of firebrands.” Pretenders. Instead of striking fear, Ahaz needs to be aware these two who plot ill will toward Judah will soon fade from the scene. Their power is pretentious.

Thinking about Shear-jashub accompanying Isaiah signals to the king there ┬áis a future. There will be a new beginning. The Voice that speaks to Isaiah in chapter 6 concludes by saying, “The holy seed is its stump.” Though the land will prove un-sustainable, one day from the ashes will rise a remnant. There will be a new beginning. Later in Isaiah 11 this same theme is noted. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse.” From the ashes of Judah will come a future hope.

Stumps. Surely we may see the fulfillment of this “return” partially experienced as the people return from captivity in Babylon. The amazing stories of rebuilt walls, rebuilt cities, and a rebuilt Temple prompt a good deal of national pride and hope that God has indeed caused things to be new. However, the return from Babylon foreshadows the story that would be bound up in the person of Jesus. The Apostle Paul interprets events in such a way that the future hope rests in the new beginning made real in Jesus. Christmas celebrations mark the “fulness of time” the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 4.

Stumps. Out of the ashes and hopelessness of an occupied state a young mother and her husband trudge to fulfill their civil responsibilities in Bethlehem. The baby that will be born on their sojourn will indeed envelop all images of hopefulness and the theme of “remnant.” Even more, the Apostle Paul presses the implications of just such an reality. Barriers and divisions give way to new beginnings in Jesus. No Jew. No Greek. No slave. No free. No male. No female. All are one in Christ. The human dividing walls that keep people silo’d and apart have now been subverted by the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.

These realities given glimpses in the past prompt the Songwriter and the Prophet to both exclaim the goodness of God. And, from the stump, we should be compelled also to give way to the new beginnings in our own lives under the Kingly reign of Jesus.

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Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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