Formations 11.28.2021: Yet More Truth and Light

Isaiah 11:1-9

In 1620, John Robinson preached to a band of English Separatists who were about to embark upon the Mayflower to start a new life in North America. As part of his address, this “pastor to the Pilgrims” told his charges:

<blockquote>If God reveals anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth by my ministry, for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy word.

John Robinson understood that there may yet be more in Scripture than we have imagined. That’s a healthy attitude to embrace. How small and narrow the world would be if it were bounded by our own limited understanding.

But Scripture is brimming with meaning that even Scripture’s human writers could never have conceived of. And that is an important lesson to remember when we come to a passage like Isaiah 11. Christians have long interpreted this passage and many others strictly in terms of the coming of Jesus. This is not an invalid reading, but it’s a secondary one, an example of the “more truth and light” that has broken forth from God’s holy word.

As we enter the Advent season, we do well to reflect on how Jesus fills this passage with new and hopeful meaning, but let’s not overlook the relevance of the promised “branch” of Jesse for Isaiah and his times.

In a time of national crisis, Isaiah looks forward to a time when a new Davidic king will lead the people in righteousness. God’s spirit will rest on this king, imbuing him with characteristics such as wisdom, understanding, and might. His reign will be marked by peace and the knowledge of the Lord.

Where do we find hope today? Our age may be far too cynical to find hope in kings or dreams of patriotic greatness, and that may not be a bad thing. But maybe we can find hope in the vision of righteousness that Isaiah gives us. Where do we find wisdom and understanding? Where do we find peace? Where do we find knowledge of the Lord?

To be sure, we find them in Christ, whose coming we await on this First Sunday of Advent. But maybe we are also meant to find them wherever God shines fresh light and displays these graces to the world.

Discussion

• What people or activities renew your hope? How do they do this?
• What does it mean to be filled with God’s Spirit? How is this Spirit manifested in our lives?
• How do just laws and ethical leadership provide hope?
• For what do you hope as you begin the journey toward Christmas?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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