In the winter of 2021, on the coldest day of the year, I discovered a snake in my office at a correction center. Following a worship, a young man had asked for a Bible. So, he followed me into my office. I looked down and saw a snake by the bathroom door. I said, “Oh, look a snake.” He saw it and asked “Is it real.” Like I keep a rubber snake on the floor in my office just in case someone wanders in. It was real and it was alive. It was a little bull snake. Maintenance told me that snakes can come up through the toilet, but most likely this one came up through the hole in the bathroom floor by the register. For three months, I checked for snakes before I sat down to use the toilet. It was a fear response motivated by thoughts of a snake coming up through the toilet at an inopportune time. Kind of like the fear a lamb has toward a wolf.
Isaiah 11:1-10 is giving us a glimpse into the dream of God. We have been here before in Isaiah 2:1-4 with the mountain of God vision. Hold onto that thought. And a branch will come out of the stump of Jesse. Why Isaiah goes back beyond David to Jesse, I don’t know. Maybe geyza Yisa just sounds better than geyza Dawid. The important thing is that this is clearly speaking about a Davidic king. A sprout from Jesse’s root will bear fruit. It is important that this is not a brand-new tree. From the divided kingdom to the troubled years of the reign of Ahaz, the kingdom has been whittled away to a mere stump. Ah, but from that stump life will grow. And more than grow. The Spirit (the ruach) of Yahweh will rest upon this fruit bearing branch. This is not the Spirit coming upon a prophet so that he can deliver a word. This is a resting; a dwelling; of the spirit of Yahweh upon the branch of Jesse.
Then we are given three pairs of attributes of Yahweh’s spirit. Or, maybe better, four attributes the Spirit of Yahweh instills upon the Davidic king. The word spirit means, “wind, breathe, spirit, animation.” The king will have the animation of wisdom and understanding; counsel and strength; knowledge and the fear of Yahweh. You could say that this king will be moved by Godly wisdom (=skill in war, prudence, wisdom) and deep understanding; Godly counsel and valor; Godly discernment and fearful reverence of Yahweh. All of these attributed can be found in Proverbs 8, which is woman wisdom speaking about the abilities needed to reign as king. So, basically, a good king; a Godly king. A king that will smell with pleasure the fear of Yahweh. Reverential fear of God is not about the fear invoked by tyranny. It is a fear that is a delight to the senses.
This king will be a just king, not governing merely by what he sees or hears – senses that can easily be fooled by selfishness or trickery. He will govern the poor with righteousness and judge the afflicted from a level place. He will smite the earth with the club of his mouth and the ruach of his lips will kill the wicked. His word is law. Rightness or justice will be a belt around his loins. Faithfulness or steadfastness will be a belt about his waste. This king will be prepared to work with justice and steadfastness.
Verses 6-9 contain an idyllic image of the Garden of Eden. The wolf will sojourn or abide with the lamb. The leopard will lie down with the young goat. A calf and a lion will hang. And a small boy will drive, conduct them. The over all point is that it will be a time of peace. I mean infants will play with cobras. There is a very earthly lesson here: when the king is good, full of God’s ruach, the people can live in safety. But this is also about the dream of God. It is about the Garden life God created us for. Garden life that is full of the knowledge of Yahweh; Garden life where the root of Jesse is set up like a standard that will be sought out by the nations; Garden life of abundantly splendid rest; Garden life in which the residents are not motivated by fear. This is what God has always desired for his people; his king and kingdom.
And yes, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the dream. When Jesus is the king, there is peace and safety. Every cobra that enters his kingdom will be a playing with infant cobra. Natural enemies will hang out with each other. I wonder if the goat Matthew felt at ease sleeping near the leopard Simon the Zealot. Sheep Ananias may have initially questioned and resisted the idea of baptizing that ol’ wolf Paul, but he did it. Welcome to the Garden life; kingdom life. This dream may be hard for us to fully grasp because we live in a world of chaos. Ah, but we are citizens of the Kingdom of the Root of Jesse. Peace!