Isaiah 11:1-10 (NRSV)
Chapter 11A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Verse 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Verse 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; Verse 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Verse 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. Verse 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. Verse 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Verse 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. Verse 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Verse 10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
At the time of the writing of this Isaiah reading, people didn’t have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. Their country had been overtaken by Assyria, their dreams of a united and powerful kingdom crushed by oppression and warring. They felt like a stump of a mighty tree, cut off and worthless. But the prophet Isaiah paints a picture of hope—a branch growing out of that stump, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, actions of mercy founded on words rather than weapons. We too, have been through hard times, facing natural disasters, a pandemic, and war. Isaiah’s words encourage us to remember that God has acted in the past to make new beginnings out of that which we thought would be the end, and that God will do so again. What images come to your mind when you dream of a time of new beginnings?
Oh God of new beginnings, sometimes it is difficult for us to trust in the hopefulness of your presence when so many things around us are falling apart. As we go through our day, help us to see glimpses of your creative power, bringing new life in unexpected ways. Amen.