1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1–2, NKJV).
Wicked kings had ruled the northern kingdom of Israel since its inception at the revolt against king Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). God used the kingdom of Assyria as the rod of His anger to punish Israel and her wicked rulers (Isa. 10:5-11). A remnant of Israel returned to the land from captivity, foreshadowing a second and more incredible remnant, gathered by the gospel (“a remnant according to the election of grace,” Isa. 10:20-22; 11:10-16; Rom. 11:5). Isaiah predicted and described God’s righteous king who rules over God’s kingdom (“My holy mountain,” Isa. 11:9) in today’s passage. Springing forth from the roots of Jesse, this Rod and Branch would reign and execute righteous judgment on the evil and the good (Isa. 11:3-5; Jer. 23:5; Heb. 1:8-9). He is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of God (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:30-35; Rom. 1:3-4). God’s Spirit would abide with Him, signifying heaven’s fellowship and approval (Matt. 3:16-17). His character would be stellar, marked by divine wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (v. 2). As God’s Servant, the Messiah brought “justice to the nations” as He preached the gospel of the kingdom, proclaiming freedom from sin’s bondage and God’s vengeance against evil (Isa. 42:1-4; 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21). God’s king, Jesus Christ, has come, received His kingdom, and reigns at God’s right hand (Psa. 110:1-2; Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 2:32-36; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3, 13). All hail the King (Matt. 21:4-11).
12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16, NKJV)
The whole world was in darkness when the Son of God arrived on the scene (Jno. 1:4-5, 9). Here, by dwelling in Capernaum, Jesus was fulfilling Israel’s prophetic anticipation of liberty and light (Isa. 9:1-2). Numerous invaders had pillaged and oppressed the Galilean region throughout Israel’s history (Syria, 1 Kgs. 15:20; Assyria, 2 Kgs. 15:29). Now, the first to be crushed by oppression and death would be the first to see the Messiah’s light of truth. The promised kingdom was near, so Jesus called the Galileans to repent (Matt. 4:17, 23). His kingdom has now come (Mk. 9:1). All who come to His light and follow Him are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of marvelous light (Jno. 8:12; 12:35-36; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Jesus is shining for you. Escape sin’s darkness and death. Follow Jesus, the light of the world, and have eternal life (Jno. 8:12).
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:14–16, NKJV)
Jerusalem was besieged and it appeared the city would soon be captured by Assyria. God’s prophet assured king Hezekiah that God would overthrow the Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:1-7). Now, messengers from Assyria’s king delivered a letter of intimidation and reproach to the king of Judah (Isaiah 37:8-13). Hezekiah’s faith remained in the Lord, and he brought the threat before Him. In verse 16, Hezekiah honored three attributes of God that we do well to remember when we come to God in time of trouble. He honored 1) God’s holiness and mercy (“the One who dwells between the cherubim” referred to the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple), 2) God’s sovereignty as the One true God (“You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and 3) God as Creator of all things (“You have made heaven and earth”). When the enemies of truth and righteousness press down upon Christians, we assure our hearts and our faith with these eternal truths. Let us follow Hezekiah’s good example of faith. God does not forsake the faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).