Rooted in God
O Radix
19 December 2017

We humans often feel a strong desire to "get back to our roots," as Alex Haley's epic novel, Roots, proved. This is a nagging concern in our rootless American culture. Most Americans are cut off from their past. Yes, the old people came from "over there," but we really don't know much about "there." We care primarily about "here." We feel rootless in our hearts and minds. That rootlessness is often magnified at Christmas and especially for people that have been uprooted from their immediate families by divorce or distance or conflict. Human, traditional connections are the stuff of real, daily life.


We dismiss our past by describing it as "baggage" or "issues." This is true when we feel that our past or our family history is embarrassing or too humble or even too foreign. First generation American-born people tend to be dismissive of the "old country," and gung-ho for all things American: baseball, hot dogs, careful English, apple pie, etc. That's OK, because it is a sign of assimilation. However, the past must never be repudiated, and we try to do so only at our peril. We must take into account who we are through appreciating our past and the meaning of our history. We need to go back to our roots.


Even our Lord Jesus Christ had a root, a source, a history. His source from eternity was His heavenly Father from whom He was ever begotten, without beginning or end. Late in time, He comes as the offspring of the Virgin's womb. He comes from the root of Jesse. Perhaps there was something embarrassing about this human lineage. Isaiah declines to identify the Messiah's source with the name of King David, who was the son of Jesse. He names instead his lesser known and distinctly non-royal father. He identifies Him with the stump that appears dead. Isaiah is intending to say that the sign of the King's return is humble, unexpected, even foreign. No one looks at the shoot that comes from the root of Jesse and declares His glory or names Him King. His background, His roots do not attract us to Him. He is of the cut down house of Jesse. What's the big deal? And for some people His humility means, "no deal."


He is not rootless. He comes from humble stock. He comes from human stock. Like us. Ah, His roots tell us how much like us He is. My Lord is true man born of the Virgin Mary. He comes from God as God of God. His root is fixed in eternity. He comes from God and returns to God, so that we might know who is born of Mary and comes from the stump of Jesse. This root of Jesse is the eternal Son of the Father. It is good for us to know what our roots really are. If we are in Him, then we are rooted in God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"'In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples - of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious' (Is 11:10). This passage shows the Gentiles agreeing and becoming one body with the Jews in Christ and Christ's kingdom spreading throughout the world. This applies rightly to us, just as Paul also cites it for the Gentiles. Therefore he hints that all Jewish ceremonies and rites should be abolished and every trust in any other righteousness whatever be given up for the purpose of establishing and erecting Jesse's Root alone, that is, the real David, Christ, whom the Gentiles seek and on whom alone they rely, which is the only righteousness before God. So Christ Himself explains this passage in John 12: 'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.' (Jn 12:32), and in Luke 11: 'Whoever is not with me is against me,' (Lk 11:23). But to seek means in sincere faith to cling and to rely and to be careful that He alone will be kept.
"'In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples' (Is 11:10). First the root must be made ready and lifted up, so that the nations may then seek it. As 1 Corinthians 2 says, none of the rulers of this age knew it (1Co 2:8). But its elevation aroused the nations to search out what the preaching of the Gospel is. Therefore it stands and is lifted up by the Spirit through the Word. But Christ is called 'signal,' that is, a banner and military ensign, that His reign stands up in the daily battle and its attacks. Those who serve God are called the army, and God is called God of armies. Their enemies are Satan, flesh, sins, world, and death. And the Gospel is called the Word of the cross (1Co 1:18). Therefore the nations look for it, as that merchant spoken of in Matthew 13 looks for precious pearls. He 'went and sold all that he had and bought it' (Mt 13:45-46). Thus if they repudiate all their own wisdom and righteousness and cling to Christ and His righteousness alone, they are eager to possess Him.
"'His resting place shall be glorious' (Is 11:10), that is, death, the end of life, the departure from this life. The death of all other kings is the end of their reign. But Christ will reign gloriously from His death forward, and this signifies His resurrection from the dead. In Ps 8:4 we read: 'What is man etc.?' The prophet calls death a rest and cessation from labors, glory after shame. To the world He seems dead and mute and inglorious. But He lives and reigns in glory. Therefore we have three elements here: (1) the raising of the ensign through the gospel; (2) the act of seeking, receiving, and believing; (3) the object of faith, the Root, that is, Christ, who reigns though dead. When the prophets speak of Christ's reign, they speak of His humanity and of His divinity. The Root of Jesse points to the man. The fact that the nations seek Him shows that He is God. Earlier the prophet wrote: 'Should not a people inquire of their God' (Is 8:19)? Glory and faithfulness belong to God alone, who alone helps and saves." 

 Martin Luther, Lectures on Isaiah, 11.10
Isaiah 11:1-10

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And 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 the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples- of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. (ESV)
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 and deliver us. Amen.
For Ed Jutzi, who is shut in, that he might repose all of his cares in the gracious hands of his Savior
For those who are struggling to find the joy of Advent, that they might hear of the birth of the Savior for them at the joy that he brings
For those who have become unemployed just before Christmas, that they would have the peace that surpasses human understanding and look forward to a new year of greater opportunity
Art: JANSSENS, Jan  The Annunciation (17th c.)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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