Isaiah 11-12 Happily Ever After

Sun, 22/11/2015 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

“… and they all lived happily ever after.”

So ends the fairy tale. We all love a story that ends well. It’s heart-warming. More importantly, we’d all like to be living in a story that ends well. Living where we do, with the story of life, the universe and everything still unfolding, there is much that is not good. So we need the reassurance that, for all the current struggles we face, we are at least living in a story that ends well. Do we get to live happily ever after?

The book of Isaiah was written for the people of Judah as they were going through some pretty hard times. But the book as a whole moves from sadness to song. It’s true of the whole book. Take Isaiah chapter 1, when Isaiah summarises the people’s sin, and God’s judgement on them. Then compare chapters 65 and 66, with their grand themes of hope. And it’s true of the section we’re in, chapters 7 to 12.

The nation of Judah was living in a pretty turbulent time. They’ve faced not one, but two enemies. First, they were attacked by an alliance of the two nations of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the nation of Aram – which is modern Syria. God promised to look after them, to deliver them from that threat. All they had to do was trust God.

But they refused to trust him. King Ahaz decided it was far safer to look to the mighty Assyria instead. They sought their security in Assyria, taking refuge under the protection of the mighty Assyrian army. That may have worked for a while, but God was not pleased that his people refused to trust him. So after the Assyrian army had dealt with Israel and Aram, Judah would be next in her sights. Judah leaned on Assyria for support, only to find that she became the next threat.

And so we meet enemy number 2. The formidable and terrifying Assyrian army. Assyria would reduce the nation of Judah to rubble, and the people to a tiny remnant. All because they refused to trust God in their much smaller crisis.

Which means they’ve actually not got two enemies, but three. Their God was the one who could have delivered them from all of these threats, if only they had trusted him. Instead, they refused, and so they made an enemy of God as well. And you don’t take on the Living God and expect to win.

That’s why Assyria would succeed when they turned to attack Judah. Because Judah had really picked a fight with God, and Assyria was his instrument to show them that it never pays to take God on.

And yet, for all of that turbulence and trouble, this was not the end of the nation of Judah. God had made many promises to bless his people, and he always keeps his promises. In particular, he had promised the great King David that there would be another great king from his family line, only this one would rule the whole world and would do so forever.

So Judah was cut down. Just a few of them remained. But God would judge Assyria for her arrogance. We learnt that last time. And God’s purpose for his people would triumph. Would win.

The story really would live happily ever after.

And this morning’s service we find ourselves in chapters 11 and 12. We round off this unit of chapters 7 to 12. The movement is indeed from sadness to song. God transports his people to how the story ends, so that they can start to sing tomorrow’s song today. And so he builds their hope.

He does the same for us. Only, now that Jesus has come, there’s a sense in which this isn’t just tomorrow’s song. With the coming of Jesus, the new age is dawning. Tomorrow has broken into today. God is going to build our hope by showing us the great tomorrow he has planned. But he’s also going to build our joy by showing us the reality we now live in.

After the people of Judah have been exiled and decimated, God’s going to do something new. Let me chart 4 new things God promises in these chapters.

New king

First, he promises a new king. A new king.

Verse 1: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

King David’s father was a man named Jesse. David was known as Jesse’s son. The kingly line is going to be cut down. We’ve seen that in Isaiah. But the stump will still have some life in it. A new shoot will sprout. God hasn’t finished with David’s family just yet. His promises still stand.

But this new king will be far greater than just a son of David. We get that in two ways in these verses. Firstly, the new king will be a son of Jesse. Other Old Testament passage look forward to a son of David. But only David himself is ever called the son of Jesse. And second, glance over to verse 10. Now, the shoot of Jesse is also called the Root of Jesse. The promised king doesn’t just come from Jesse’s line. He’s in some way before Jesse. The new king is the real one, and King David is only great because he’s the forerunner for the Messiah, the greatest king of all, the root of Jesse.

We talk, don’t we, of someone’s family tree. Well that’s the metaphor here. God promises a new king, and he’s anchored for us in King David’s family tree. He dominates the whole diagram. He’s descended from David, so he comes down the line from David. He’s the son of Jesse, so he occupies the same space as David. And he’s the root of Jesse, so he comes at the top of the tree, as if Jesse and David were descended from him, derived from him.

Jesse and David were the shadows. Jesus is the real thing.

A new king. This new king will be great because he’ll have God’s Spirit. That’s verse 2. A number of Old Testament figures were given God’s spirit as a temporary gift. The Spirit will rest on him. You may remember the testimony of John the Baptist. John chapter 1, verse 33: “I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

Permanently endowed with the Spirit. And so given perfect kingly qualities. Wisdom and understanding. Counsel and Might. Knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

He’ll be the perfect king. He’ll know what to do. He’ll know how to go about it. He’ll have the strength to carry out his plans. And he’ll be motivated, both inwardly and outwardly, by a desire to see God honoured.

Which means, verse 3, 4, 5: That he’ll be perfectly just. And under his gracious rule, the world will know perfect justice. Nobody will be exploited. The poor will get justice, but not favouritism. He’ll be marked out by doing what is right and fair. They will be his clothing.

The world over, we see people abuse power, we see tyrants, and we see exploitation. We long for perfect government, that genuinely does what is best for its citizens, free of prejudice and corruption. As we long for government like that, we are asking for something super-human.

And yet it’s exactly what God promises here. Another David, permanently endowed with God’s Spirit to be that perfect ruler that we all long for.

A new king.

New World

Second, a new world. A new world.

This is what the new king will usher in. He’s marked out by the knowledge and fear of the Lord, verse 2.

Under his rule, people also get to know the Lord their God. Until, verse 9, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The waters fill the sea to capacity. And one day, from east to west, and from north to south, all over the globe will be people who know their God. That’s what happens when you get a king who’s marked out by knowing God.

And as that spreads, something quite wonderful happens. Verse 6: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.”

There’s a progression here. In verse 6, old enmities are resolved. Carnivores and herbivores live at peace. Small children are not threatened by them, but instead can lead them. Then in verse 7, nature itself is changed. Carnivores change their diet and start to eat plants. Back in the Garden of Eden, everything was herbivorous. It’s back to those days.

And verse 8 is the climax. It’s very specific. Snakes will no longer pose a threat to children. You remember the garden of Eden. The snake leads Adam and Eve to doubt God’s word, and as a result our first parents disobeyed God. But the snake is not let off lightly for his part in all this. God judges the snake with these words: “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal.”

Human history will be marked out by a struggle between us and evil. That struggle is symbolically pictured as a war between the women’s children and snakes. The future foretold in Isaiah chapter 11 is a wonderful one. Children playing safely where there should have been a poisonous snake.

The reversal is complete. The curse of the fall in the Garden of Eden has been reversed. And so with that, we get the reversal of all that came from that. Isaiah is promising the end of all pain and suffering, all futility and frustration, all sickness, all sadness and death. The rule of this new king will spread and spread, and the climax will be the end of everything that is wrong.

If we long for the perfect king, we also long for the perfect world. A world where people don’t die young. Where they don’t die at all. A world where relationships between people never go sour or spoil. A world free of suffering and pain. A world where we are at harmony with nature. A world that is perfectly safe. Where we’re free to play, and nothing could go wrong.

Once again, we long for something super-human. And once again, this is precisely what God promises here.

A new world.

New Exodus

A new king. A new world. And third, a new Exodus.

That’s verses 10 to 16 of chapter 11.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the first Exodus. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. But God literally moved heaven and earth to get them out. He dried up the Red Sea so they could walk across on dry land. And he adopted them as his chosen people, to worship him, and to live for him.

But then his people rebelled, and Isaiah chapters 7 to 10 picture them being taken away into foreign captivity, exiled to a foreign land. If God’s going to restore his people, he’s going to have to bring them back from where they’ve been scattered. Which is exactly what Isaiah promises here. And he promises it in language echoing that of the first Exodus.

Perhaps the clearest place to see this is in verse 15: “The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the River Euphrates. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.

God’s going to re-make his people. But please don’t think of this in nationalistic terms. Verse 10: The nations will rally to him. Verse 12: A banner for the nations. Verse 12 again: From the four quarters of the earth.

As God restores his people, this won’t just be those from the tribe of Judah, or even those descended from Abraham. This will be people from the four corners of the earth, people from every nation. God’s going to create a people who can be his special, chosen people. A people who can know and worship him. And this time, his people will be exceedingly numerous, taken from every nation on earth.

A new Exodus.

New song

Let’s take stock of where we are. God’s going to raise up a new king, who will in turn usher in a new world, and there will be a new Exodus as God calls out a people for himself.

The other side of that will be the people of God. Taken from every nation. Ruled over by the Spirit endowed second David. Living in a world that is governed by his perfect justice. Living in a new world that is freed from the curse of the fall. Free of pain. Enjoyed as God always meant us to enjoy it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up one day and find that that’s the world you’re now in?

Which leads to the fourth new thing that God will create. New king. New world. New Exodus. And fourth, a new song. A new song.

That’s chapter 12. It’s a wonderful song. And it’s the perfect reversal of the predicament the people have been in up to this point in Isaiah. The people have refused to trust God, so God has been angry with them, and life has been miserable. But now God’s anger is turned away, the people trust God, and they are marked by joy.

The main thing they will praise God for is in verse 1: “Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away, and you have comforted me.” God’s anger is our biggest problem. None of us is perfect, so God has every right to be angry with us. Our deepest need is for someone who can turn away God’s anger.

This verse anticipates Isaiah chapter 40, where God announces comfort for his people. It anticipates Isaiah chapter 53, where God’s anger falls on his own servant in order to save his people. But most of all, it anticipates the death of the Lord Jesus. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. When Jesus died on the cross, in darkness, on Good Friday, God’s holy anger fell on him, so that his anger might be turned away from us.

And so God’s people in glory will praise him forever. God was angry with us. But his anger is turned away, and now we know God’s comfort.

News this good cannot be kept to ourselves. Verses 1-3 describe us praising God for his salvation. Verses 4-6 describe us praising God to the nations. We sing to everyone who will listen about how great God is and what wonderful things he’s done. When you’ve got first-hand experience of God and his goodness, you want to tell anything that moves.

You know this with other good news, don’t you? When something really amazing has happened in your life, you just have to share it. A new grandchild. A new job. A long term illness cured. Or even a simple act of kindness shown to you on the way to work. “I’ve just got to tell someone”.

And so we sing God’s praises, not only to him, but to everybody else as well.


A new king. A new world. A new Exodus. A new song.

That’s the future that keeps Israel going through the dark years of Assyrian threat. It’s the future that will keep us going through the dark times as well. But it’s also the present. The future has broken in.

Where does this leave us for today. Three things as we close.

First, it leaves us living in hope. This future was given to God’s people of old to keep them going. IT remains the certain future for everyone who knows and trusts the Lord Jesus. We’re meant to look forward to this day, and to look forward to it with absolutely certainty.

Second, it leaves us trusting in God. One day, we’ll look back, and see that God did not let us down. We trusted in him, and it paid off. Judah needed to learn to trust God through the crises of their day, not to lean on other supports. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the lord himself, is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.” Let’s trust this God.

And third, it leaves us singing for joy. Verse 3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Verse 6: “Shout aloud and sing for joy.” God is good. In the future, everything will be perfectly good. But he’s still good today. And if we know this God, it’s an experience of deep joy. Joy that cannot be contained, that spontaneously bursts into song. But this is the hallmark of the person who knows their God –they’re marked out by joy.


And so they all lived happily ever after. And so we shall. One day there will be a new king, a new world, a new Exodus, a new song. We live in the days when those things have already begun.

And so today we hope, we trust, and we rejoice.

Website Section: 
Sermon Series: 
Additional Terms