What an intriguing section of Scripture . . . a wolf peacefully co-existing with a lamb . . . a little child leading wild and domesticated animals (11:6) . . . a Rod and Branch of Jesse (11:1,10). What does it all mean? It is a prophecy of the coming kingdom of the Christ – a prophecy which the prophet made about 700 years before Jesus’ birth. This chapter may not be as familiar to us as some of Isaiah’s other predictions, but there are some wonderful lessons to be learned from it. Let us highlight a few.
- Definitely a Messianic prophecy – “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1). Jesse was the father of King David, who already was dead at the time Isaiah wrote this message. The simple point is that the Messiah will be from the lineage of Jesse through David. Jesus certainly fits that criteria, as we read in the very first verse of the book of Matthew. In the writings of the prophets, it is common for the Christ to be pre-pictured as a Branch (11:1; Zechariah 6:12,13). In Jeremiah 23:5,6, the Christ is described as “a righteous Branch . . . THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is identified as Lord, Jehovah (Isaiah 6:5; John 12:37-41), and our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). He alone fulfills the foretelling of Jesse’s Branch.
- Reign of righteousness – With the Spirit of the Lord resting on Him, coupled with His own fear of the Lord (11:1,2), the Messiah would not judge according to outward appearance (11:3). Instead, He would judge “with righteousness” (11:4), having righteousness as the girdle of His loins (11:5). Any judgments which He would make and any actions which He would carry out would be done in harmony with God’s standard of righteousness. How refreshing to learn that at least one Ruler and Judge will carry out His judgments properly and not be swayed by the positions, power, or money of men. The Lord’s Kingdom is not a material-oriented plan for carnal-minded humans, “but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Jesus is, indeed, “the righteous judge” (2 Timothy 4:8), and His final judgment on the world will be done “in righteousness” (Acts 17:31).
- Reign of peace – How does Isaiah portray the peace of the Messiah’s rule? By using animals and showing activities that would never occur under ordinary circumstances. Isaiah speaks of a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, and a calf with a young lion. And the irony is, these creatures, which normally would never dwell together peaceably, live side by side without conflict or carnage (11:6). To top it all off, a little child will be their leader (11:6). And, there will be no danger for a child in the presence of a cobra or viper (11:8). All of these thoughts are used as symbols to show that during the reign of the Christ, peace will prevail. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), His message is “the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15), and for His followers, there is a blessed happiness for those who are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
- Definitely fulfilled during the gospel era – Is the Messiah now reigning in righteousness and peace, or will that occur only in the future? Many believe that Jesus’ peaceful reign will not take place until after He comes again, at which time literal animals will live together on the earth in the fashion which Isaiah foretold. If the animals living on friendly terms with one another is to be interpreted literally, then we also should interpret the “stem” and “Branch” of Jesse literally (11:1). It is absurd to think of Jesus as a literal stem or Branch.
Second, Jesus is reigning as King now, as His Kingdom has already come (Colossians 1:12-14). Third, the Holy Spirit nails down the time element of the fulfillment of this Isaiah 11 prophecy. In Romans 15, we read the apostle Paul’s quotation of several Old Testament passages about the Messiah, in each case showing that they were fulfilled in Jesus. Start in Romans 15, verse 8 – Jesus; verse 9 – Jesus and Gentiles; verse 10 – Jesus and Gentiles; verse 11 – Jesus and Gentiles; verse 12 – Jesus and Gentiles. This last verse, Romans 15:12, is a quotation of Isaiah 11:10, where it is written, “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.” Conclusion: in the Christ, the Gentiles are now the recipients of the Messiah’s blessings, and the message of Isaiah 11, including the picture of peace in the Christ’s Kingdom (non-friendly animals living together in a friendly, non-warring fashion) is being fulfilled right now in the Lord’s church! In the Christ, we have peace in our hearts, peace with one another, and peace with God (Ephesians 2:13-18).
- World-wide knowledge – Isaiah foretold that during the Messiah’s reign, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (11:9). What a fascinating thought! Can you imagine a world in which the whole world knows of Jehovah and His will? God not only imagines it, He wills it to be so! How is it possible for the world to be filled with the knowledge of the Almighty? Via the most important education system ever – God’s children teaching the gospel to every person on the planet. That is exactly what King Jesus told His followers to do (Mark 16:15). Let’s plan. Let’s propose. Let’s pray. Then, let’s get busy and preach, preach, preach. Precious souls need to be educated about the Christ and His Kingdom!
— Roger D. Campbell