You’ve heard about a forest that your grandpa used to hike. The trails are beautiful. The forest is thick with lush green trees in every direction. The animals are lively and flourish in their perfect home. This forest is the epitome of life, strength, and abundance. You decide to go see this forest for yourself. When you get there, you think there must be some mistake. Surely you’re not in the right place. You look out and as far as you can see, only stumps are visible. There are no animals, no trees, no green to be found. Just dust and what seems like a sea of rotting stumps. You begin to walk this barren forest in hopes that you will get a glimpse of what your grandpa had described. You almost give up hope when at a distance you spot the slightest sliver of green. As you draw nearer, you see that there is a single new branch shooting up from one of the stumps. It is the only sign of life in the entire forest. Yet, this tiny twig gives you hope that the forest may one day be what it was before, maybe even better.
This is the imagery Isaiah used to describe the coming Messiah. Israel had been a great nation. God chose them to be His special people. He gave them great promises and they worshiped and loved their God. But it didn’t take long for them to turn away from God and worship other gods and even themselves. This kind of idolatry and wickedness could not go unpunished, so like a good Father, God gave His children consequences for their disobedience. Other nations would oppress God’s people. They would be mocked and harassed for centuries. Isaiah 10:18-19 says, “And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body, And it will be as when a sick person wastes away. And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number That a child could write them down.” This great nation would be destroyed, with only a small remnant remaining. God’s chosen people would be like a forest of stumps, a sad memory of what was.
But Isaiah doesn’t stop there; the Book is full of hope and in the very next chapter we see new life. “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch from his roots will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). Out of God’s people, One would spring forth and revive what was dead and rotting. When things looked bleak for God’s people, when the forest looked like a barren wasteland, Jesus burst onto the scene like a fresh, vibrant shoot coming out of an old stump. He would bring the spiritually dead back to life and plant seeds for new growth throughout the forest. Just as a seed relies on God for rain and sunlight in order to grow, so we rely on His sustenance to grow our faith. The seed will become a young tree that will bend beneath strong winds and shed leaves during the harsh winters. Likewise, we will endure trials and suffering in this life. The trees will continue to grow and the forest will be made full and healthy again one day. We hold on to this hope, that we too will be made new - whole, perfect, holy, and pure just as Christ is.
This is the hope we have this Advent season - the branch has come to bring new life and He will come again. As we endure the storms of life, we wait expectantly for the return of Christ and the day that all things will be made new.