‘but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.’ (Isaiah 11:4 NIV)
At first sight, when it says a shoot who comes from the stump of Jessie
(Isaiah 11:1) is going to judge the needy, it appears that he will condemn them, as that’s the way the word ‘judge’ is usually used in English. But Isaiah’s intent is that this shoot will make things just and put things right for the needy.
The word ‘poor’ also doesn’t come out well in English. Here it means ‘downtrodden, people without power.’ To give decisions for them means he’s going to identify with the poor, give decisions on their behalf and use his power to make things right again for them.
Who is this referring to?
A shoot that comes out of a stump means you have descended from someone. It’s saying the messianic king will come out of Jesse, who is the father of David. It’s a metaphor for saying this will be a physical descendant of Jesse. But notice verse 10,
‘In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples.’ (Isaiah 11:10). This messiah is not only a shoot but he’s also the root of Jesse. Your root is something you’ve grown out of. What it’s saying is that Jesse came from him.
How can someone be both a shoot, a descendant of Jesse, and at the same time the root, the source of Jesse? There’s only one answer: the Creator God, who is the root and source of all of us, was born into the world as a weak human being, and he came as a descendant of Jessie. He’s the God-man: Jesus Christ.
It’s only when Jesus was born and lived his life on earth that we see the lengths to which he went to care for and identify with the poor. The Son of God was born into a poor family. His parents, when they went to get him circumcised at the temple, gave two birds as the sacrifice, which only the poorest people gave
(Luke 2:24). Look at his priorities: he didn’t just preach the gospel, he also fed the hungry, was compassionate towards the sick, and inclusive of those on the margins of society.
What does that mean for us?
Simply that has to be our priority too.
We cannot just be concerned for the poor and needy from afar. Jesus’ concern meant he left his Father’s throne to participate in humanity’s plight, and in some non-judgmental, non-patronizing way the Christian church needs to come alongside and be involved in the lives of the poor.
It’s quite a challenge, but as followers of Jesus we are called to join with him in ‘judging the needy and giving just decisions for the poor of the earth.’
Father, Help me to see the poor and the needy through your eyes and to show compassion and love to them the way you do.
Have a good week judging the poor and needy.