We are loved by a God who always keeps his promises. The Old Testament is rich with promises concerning our coming Messiah, and from the opening lines of Matthew, we begin to see those promises perfectly fulfilled, starting with the most intimate details of Jesus’ birth. Back in 2019, we invited you and your teenagers to join us for a centering around Messianic prophecies. This year we will round out that series with eight more posts, so you’ll have one for every day of the Christmas season.
We pray your heart will be encouraged and your faith strengthened as you and your teenagers meditate together on the game-changing truth that our God says what he means and means what he says. O Come Let Us Adore Him!
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-3)
A couple years ago, I went on a beautiful hike that started from the rim of a mountain. The first part of the walk involved stepping down lots of rocky, root-strewn steps. The tops of the trees were beneath me at the start, and then their branches began to swipe at me as I descended further and further. After a while, I was hidden amidst the brush, and I could no longer see where the twisting path ahead was leading. I’d turn a corner and all of a sudden, giant house-high boulders would appear, looming over me. They were fascinating to me, evoking my curiosity and my desire to climb. One of them, in particular, caught my attention.
As I looked up, I saw a sapling growing from the side of the boulder. Life had sprung forth from a rock. The impossible had happened.
It brought to mind the passage in Isaiah that describes a shoot coming up from the stump of Jesse. Imagine a tree that has been axed down to a stump. It is dead. It isn’t good for anything but grinding up for mulch. It’s a bit of a hopeless sight.
Yet this is the metaphor scripture uses to describe the origin story of Jesus, the One True King. In a seemingly impossible place—the nearly-dead family line of King David—God brought forth life.
The genealogy we read at the beginning of the book of Matthew tells the tale. Long ago, God had promised his people that a descendent from David’s family would rule forever (2 Sam. 7:16). And the people longed for the flourishing and freedom that came with living under a good king. They’d faced enslavement and exile, famine and war. They’d become a smaller and smaller group. The future looked bleak. Yet God’s promise rung in their hearts: a Messiah was coming to bring an end to all evil and make peace with the whole world (Isa. 11:1-11).
In the person of Jesus, the Son of God born to Mary in Bethlehem, a shoot sprouts up from the dead family tree of David—just like the tree growing out of my craggy boulder. God brings life from the impossible.
As the Messiah (the promised rescuer of God’s people), Jesus will go on to continue this pattern. In his crucifixion and resurrection, he forever ends the curse of death by conquering it all together. His empty tomb becomes a sapling-growing stump that brings the hope of eternal life for all who believe in him.
It is a beautiful thing that our God uses death to bring life. The ugly, painful, sometimes unbearable stumps in our lives are never without hope, because our Living Lord, the Messiah of Israel, is reigning on his throne.
This means our broken friendships are not without hope. Our embarrassing failures are not without hope. Our lack of popularity, or athletic skill, or desired body type—none of these is without hope. In fact, these are the very places our God is at work. Growing us. Healing our hearts to make them more able to give and receive love. Showing us more of the goodness of life that is safe under his loving rule. No injustice goes unseen. No evil will prevail. Peace is guaranteed, thanks to our Good King.
Questions for Reflection
When else in Scripture does God bring something from nothing?
What is something in your life that seems like a dead stump?
Can you think of someone else’s stump story—in which God brought healing, change, or something beautiful from a seemingly impossible situation?
King Jesus, you are the One who wastes nothing. You are able to bring life from death, sight from blindness, and beauty from pain. We pray that you would meet us in our stumps, and that you would help us to offer them to you for your kingdom’s sake. Would you use them to make your love, peace, and glory even more present in this world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Click here for a downloadable pdf to share with your teenagers.
Click here for the entire series as it is posted.