Read Isaiah 11:1–5 and Jeremiah 33:14–16.
I have three daughters, and I often consider them in wonder. I simply cannot wrap my mind around how whole worlds—my daughters’ lives and identities and futures—are generated from a microscopic, fertilized egg. How is the miracle and mystery of human life possible? God only knows.
From the prophet Isaiah’s time on down through Jeremiah’s time, generations of Israelites in the northern and southern kingdoms experienced destruction of their land, lives, families, and livelihoods as God’s judgment for their sins. All hope for a good outcome was lost. Too many generations had experienced death in a thousand different ways for them to believe their circumstances would turn out any differently. And yet they still ached for a savior to rescue them, for a messiah to snatch them from the clutches of their enemies.
When hope vanished, when they were living as oppressed aliens in empires of destruction, the prophet Isaiah and later the prophet Jeremiah both spoke hope. Through them, God communicated this promise of hope, described as a tiny shoot coming “up from the stump of Jesse,” like a “righteous Branch” sprouting from “David’s line” (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 33:15).
Generations passed before God’s promised hope appeared. And yet fulfill his promise he did, through the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. As generations of God’s people wondered if God would ever show up, at just the right time, Jesus came. Jesus, who is “Our Righteous Savior” (Jer. 33:16), the one on whom the Spirit rests, the one full of righteousness and justice.
In his humanity, Jesus sprang from the divine seed entrusted to Joseph and Mary. Jesus: a tiny shoot sprouting from the stump of Jesse who contains all worlds and possible worlds—for in him and “through him are all things made” and “in him all things hold together” (John 1:3; Col. 1:17). Again, I pause in wonder, in awe.
Just as I cannot fathom the nature of my daughters’ miraculous existence, I cannot fathom the mysteries of God’s salvation or the whos, whats, wheres, and whys of God’s timing. But I do know that God keeps his promises—in history, to his people, and to individuals. God always shows up. Always. He shows up when we least expect it and in ways we don’t expect—when all hope seems lost. Indeed, our God shows up like a tiny green shoot in a forest that has been burned to the ground. Watch for it.
Marlena Graves is a doctoral student and adjunct seminary professor. She is the author of several books, including The Way Up Is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself.
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