Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Advent and the holy stump

Eugene Peterson, in his wonderful book Subversive Spirituality has a chapter entitled, "The Holy Stump." This is taken from this passage in Isaiah 11:
1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 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—
This originates in a spiritually destitute time, in which at the end of Isaiah's faithful proclamation of the magnificient revelation he had received from God, due to God's judgment- all that would end up being left of God's people would be a nation of stumps.

God had promised Isaiah the same at Isaiah's commission after the life shattering and changing vision and the thrice proclaimed holiness of God (6):
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.
Wonderfully we find holiness, a holiness which changes us, bringing the real life from God in place of the counterfeit life pressed in on us from every side: from the world, the flesh and the devil. Wonderfully this life from God in Jesus appears at the most unlikely places. In seeming desolation and ruin often among those who are castoffs and of no regard to this world. And if we look, we can find it in the stump of our own lives.

Holiness in the form of judgment begins this process. Yes, Jesus took the judgment on himself, but we also read that judgment must begin in the house of God. We can receive this salvation from God only by acknowledging both God's righteous judgment against our sin, as well as God's gracious salvation in the Savior. From this the holy seed, Jesus, comes life, life that takes hold in the most unlikely places of our lives, as we submit to the Holy God- receiving the revelation of his presence and ourselves in light of that, and submitting ourselves to his just judgment on ourselves and his accompanying salvation in Jesus.

This is part of the Immanuel ("God-with-us") promise in Isaiah, fulfilled in Jesus, and coming true even in the most devastated, dead places of our lives, and likely especially there. Look for the life, the life of the holy, changing us surely, as we seek to worship and live faithfully, before him.

What does this bring to mind? Why should this encourage us?


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

because we are not and will never again be alone! that's such an encouragement to me, that I'm not in this alone, that I don't have to depend on my own wisdom or power or understanding (since I have little to none left to my own devises) - He is always there for me, always guiding, protecting, disciplining

Ted M. Gossard said...

Halfmom, Susan,
Good words. Important to remember that we're not left to ourselves.

Jesus is God with us: by the Spirit in us individually and together, as his people.


Anonymous said...

Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty.

Zechariah 1:3

Ted M. Gossard said...


A wonderful promise. Its simplicity makes it all the more powerful and profound. Thanks.

Every Square Inch said...


Merry Christmas to you and your family. May God meet your family with grace in this season.

I love the verses you're sharing from Isaiah - they are some of my favorite because they bring into view how redeeming grace works. It's in the least likely, least positive situations where God brings redemption to bear.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks much, and the same to you and your family.

Yes. Reading Peterson's chapter on it, brought it home to me in a new way.