O Root of Jesse,
standing as an ensign before the peoples,
before whom all kings are mute,
to whom the nations will do homage;
Come quickly to deliver us.
“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.” Leave it to the Lord to make an homnely root his banner, the flag at which all kings will be silent and all nations will bow. Roots are best left unseen, underground, invisibly drawing up nutrients from the soil, feeding the branches which produce leaves and fruit. Expose the root and the whole tree dies. But cut down the tree even to a stump and it will return, as long as the root is alive.
The Root of Jesse is God’s Promise that David’s throne would stand forever. That a son of David would establish his kingdom and sit on his throne. That promise is the root of Israel. Even when the tree was cut down, when Israel was reduced to a lifeless stump, the Promise lived in the Root. “Then shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
Our sin goes all the way to the root. Not only the fruit, but the whole tree is bad, roots and all. The axe of the Law must be laid to the root. We must die and rise anew. It’s the only way to save us. We must be grafted to new rootstock. We must be joined to the stump of Jesse, fed by the Root of Jesse, nourished by the Promise of God to save.
God grafted His Root to our sin, nailing it to a cross. The Root of Jesse became a banner for the world to see. Jesus of Nazareth. David’s son, David’s Root, David’s Lord. “”I am the root and offspring of David,” Jesus said in the the last of His I AMs (Rev 22:16). He was lifted up on the tree of the cross, a banner for the nations to see. As Moses lifted up the bronze serpant in the wilderness as an emblem of healing, so the Root of Jesse was lifted up the cross. Here is how God saves from sin and death. He sets the axe of the Law against His own Root, His Son, and then joins you to His death. The cross is the meeting place of God and man, Law and Gospel, wrath and mercy. There the Root takes up your sin. There He feeds you His righteousness.
You were grafted to the Root of Jesse in Baptism. Don’t let the graft dry out; always keep it immersed in baptismal water. Draw on His forgiveness, His life, His salvation. You are living branches grafted to the living Root of Jesse. Jesus is your Vine and your Root. Apart from Him you can do nothing. Joined to Him, believing in Him, you bear much fruit.
Wait patiently on this Root of Jesse. He is the source of your life, who now feeds and forgives you, who nourishes and sustains you, and will come to raise you.