In Chapter Nine of his book, the prophet Isaiah recalls that the northern lands of Israel – Zebulon, Naphtali, and Galilee – have all suffered under Assyrian oppression. Although Israel walks and dwells in darkness, one day these lands will see a great light. Isaiah promises that God will raise up a descendant of David, who will reign without end and establish peace and justice forevermore (Isaiah 9:7).
At the same time, Israel has been punished for idolatry and oppressing the poor. Isaiah records four afflictions that have been brought upon Israel. First, because of their pride, the Lord stirs up enemies against the people of Israel (Isaiah 9:8-12). Second, because the people did not seek the Lord, the Lord will cut off Israel’s elders and false prophets, who instead of leading the people to the Lord have led them astray (9:13-17). Third, because of the wicked who commit injustice, brothers will turn against one another: Manasseh against Ephraim and Ephraim against Manasseh and both (Israel) will plot against the southern kingdom of Judah (9:18-21). Fourth, those who make unjust laws and decrees and oppress the poor will not be able to flee on the day of punishment (10:1-4).
The passage we read today recognizes Assyria as the instrument of God’s punishment of Israel, a kingdom of idols. Assyria is the rod of God’s anger and the staff of God’s fury. In her pride, Assyria thinks that it has accomplished this due to its own power and wisdom (10:13). Assyria thinks that it can also destroy Jerusalem (10:11). Assyria, however, is just an instrument – an axe, a saw, a rod, or a staff (see 10:15) – and because of her pride, the Lord will humble Assyria.
Isaiah foresees the day, when a remnant of Israel will return to the Lord God. He also encourages Jerusalem not to fear the Assyrians: for in a very little while God’s indignation will come to an end and his anger will be directed to the destruction of Assyria (10:25). The burden that Assyria has placed on Judah’s shoulder will be lifted and the yoke it has placed on Judah’s neck will be destroyed (10:27).
Isaiah promises that one day, a branch from the stump of Jesse will come forth. This branch is a descendant of King David who will be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. He will judge rightly and establish peace. He will gather the remnant of his people exiled to foreign lands (11:11). All nations will seek this king, the root of Jesse. This humble king, this root (Isaiah 53:2), will be despised and rejected by men, will make himself an offering for sin, and, through his suffering, heal us and intercede for us (53:3-12).
On that day of salvation, God’s people will give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name, making known his deeds among the nations and exalting his name. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:1-6).
In the Gospel, Jesus also offers up a prayer of praise. He praises his Father as Lord of heaven and earth. He praises him for his gracious will, for hiding his plan from the wise and learned and revealing it to the childlike. All things have been handed over to Jesus, the root of Jesse, our humble king. Jesus has been given authority and accomplishes his Father’s will and plan of salvation. This plan is that Jesus make himself an offering for our sin and through his passion and death heal us and bring us into communion with his Father. This communion is a communion of knowledge and love: through grace, Jesus reveals to us the Father and gives us his Spirit of Love.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at email@example.com.