For weeks, as a family and as a church we’ve been hanging ornaments on a tree called a “Jesse Tree”. But why? Why would we name a tree that is supposed to tell the story leading up to Christmas, the story of Jesus, after a man who is only named a handful of times in the Scriptures?
Because it is a reminder to us that our God is a sovereign God, who has had a plan in place from the very beginning to redeem and rescue His people from sin and death.
The Old Testament is full of prophecies that tell of the Deliverer who would one day rescue the people of God, rituals that foreshadow His life and death and resurrection, and stories of heroes of the faith who were just a whisper of the coming Messiah.
No passage is pointless.
And no story stands alone.
Every word points us to Christ.
And so we began with a promise. That out of the stump of Jesse, the father of King David, would come forth a shoot, and a branch from his roots which would bear fruit. Christ.
And we saw that from the very beginning, God had a plan. Creating man in His image, knowing we would doubt His goodness and provision and would seek our own way above His perfect way. Providing a way of escape to Noah and his family through the Ark, and making a promise to Abraham. A promise that through him would come a great nation of people who would be HIS people.
So imagine the potential for confusion when God would later call Abraham to offer Isaac, his only son who had been born long after child-bearing years were over, to offer him up as a sacrifice.
Genesis 22: 2-14 The Lord said to Abraham, “take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When they came to the place which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The Lord will provide…isn’t it striking that Abraham told his servants to wait while he and his son worshiped and they would return again.
THEY would return again.
He didn’t know how, but he knew that The Lord would provide a sacrifice. After all, He had made a promise that from Isaac would come a great nation. Oh that we would have such faith in the provision of the Lord!
But as we’ve seen already, our hearts are prone to wander. Prone to doubt. Prone to do things our own way. Which is why the Lord so graciously gave us the gift of His commandments. Ten laws. Ten perfect boundaries that would protect us from ourselves. And ten reminders that we were completely incapable of maintaining holiness.
Completely incapable of even the slightest morsel of righteousness…at least on our own.
Deuternomy 5:6-22 The Lord said, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
These ten precious safeguards should have been like a balm to the people of God. A resting place where they would find safe haven from their sinful tendencies. But instead, they were a yoke of slavery. A constant reminder of the perfect holiness of a perfect God, and their inability to even come close in their own strength. Our inability to even come close in our own strength.
But remember, God had a plan. He knew we could never keep the law perfectly on our own. He knew we would need a substitute. Someone who could keep the law perfectly and would become our Righteousness. We needed a Kinsman Redeemer.
Much like Ruth, the nomadic widow who had left her home and her people to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Also a widow. They left to return to Naomi’s home of Bethlehem. There was famine in the land where they were living, and they were hopeful to find food and family in Bethlehem. Someone to rescue them. And sure enough, there was Boaz. Ruth required a kinsman redeemer, a family member who would take her on and provide for her. But God provided so much more than she could have ever known through Boaz.
Ruth 4:13-17 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him. Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Matthew 1:5 and 16 And Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the King…And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Over 40 generations from Abraham to Christ. Oh yes…God had a plan! A plan to redeem and rescue His people. A plan to redeem and rescue us! And we continue to wait, in hopeful expectation of His coming.
Not as a triumphant king…but as a babe in a manger.