Text: Isaiah 10:5-34, Isaiah 11:1-16, Isaiah 12:1-6, Romans 8:19-22
It is a barren landscape we stumble upon in Isaiah 11.
In the previous chapter, God has struck down every kingdom that comes against Judah, using the imagery of an axe taken to all the trees in the forest. It is stumps and dryness as far as the eye can see, with the exception of one small sign of life:
“Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
- Isaiah 11:1
Jesus, born of the bloodline of Jesse, David’s father, is the only surviving hope in an otherwise hopeless world. He is a shoot, or branch, that will come back, bear fruit, and establish a kingdom of peace.
Were I an Israelite in the southern kingdom of Judah, oh, how I would have clung to those words. And, oh, how I want to cling to them today as I look around at the forest I’ve grown.
The trees in my forest are shaped like idols and they grow to stifle the work Christ is doing in me. I water these trees and trim their branches, in search of the life they promise to give. But every time—every single time—I find they bring emptiness instead. I know what it’s like to grow a forest, and I know what it’s like to see every tree cut down, for my idols to be stripped away, one by one by the gracious hand of my Father. When the painful work is done, I look up and see the true Source of the garden, the only remnant of life.
When the things of our lives are torn down, a visual path is cleared that reveals Jesus in a way we couldn’t see Him before the trees fell. This stripping gives us the strength to cling to the True Vine.
Jesus said it Himself. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:5).
Sometimes everything must be torn down in order for us to see that Christ truly is at the center of it all, the reason for everything, the source of our life and all life. Even in a seemingly barren land, He rises up. The root and the branch, the Alpha and the Omega. He was never absent. He has always been here. Through every story and circumstance, a vine running throughout all of history. Christ is in every last inch.
One day this will all be so evident. We will gather together under one banner and the entire world will know. “The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). Until then, we wait, knowing that no matter how bleak or despairing the landscape appears, the One True Vine grows still.