Christmas 1, 2018
Luke 2:33-40; Isaiah 11:1-5; Galatians 4:1-7
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
“And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
Who does “his” refer to? Who is he? Who’s this about?
In Isaiah chapter eleven verse three, “his” is the “he” referred to as the shoot that “shall come forth…from the stump of Jesse,” the “branch from [Jesse’s] roots [that] shall bear fruit.”
He’s the one upon whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest, 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” (Isaiah 11:3; cf. 11:1-3).
We know what every word in that verse means, but we may have a difficult time putting them together.
We delight in many things: music, love, getting mail. But no one delights in gunshot wounds or car trouble on the interstate, at night, when you’re traveling alone.
We fear, we are afraid, perhaps of many things: mice who say hello when you least expect it, the combination of the words “blowout” and “diaper,” and maybe even the dark.
And the last one’s easy: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
We know who the Lord is.
But do you delight in the fear of the Lord?
And I don’t mean, “Do you respect God?”
I don’t mean, “Is God awesome?”
I mean—fear means—as Jesus makes clear in Matthew chapter ten: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
So, do you fear the Lord?
And do you delight in that fear of the Lord?
You should. And here’s why:
“He [the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the branch from Jesse’s roots that shall bear fruit] 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” (Isaiah 11:3-4).
Maybe we’re too used to these reversals.
We’re not caught off guard when we hear this.
That the dead will be raised isn’t a surprise.
That “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
That “He” shall not judge by what his eyes see or decide disputes by what his ears hear should—actually—terrify us.
Honestly, who wants a judge that’ll decide things based on anything but evidence seen and heard?
Judgment based on evidence seen and heard by witnesses is what God originally established for His people.
From Deuteronomy chapter nineteen: “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two [or] three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15).
So it should terrify us that this “his” and “he” “shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,” because, if that’s the case, how can we defend ourselves?
It’s never universally been the case that you’re innocent until proven guilty, because if people don’t like you or the decisions given to you to make, they read the guilty verdict themselves.
How many of you have been talked about behind your back? Judged from afar? Or treated as guilty, wrong, or plain-old bad just because they heard about you?
That’s why it’s so important that this shoot from the stump of Jesse judges not by what he sees and hears, but “with righteousness [shall he] judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:4).
With righteousness he shall judge.
With equity he shall decide.
That’s better than evidence, because there might be evidence to convict you. There’s physical evidence, forensic evidence, digital evidence, statistical evidence, testimonial evidence—and all of it can be faked, interfered with, or fooled.
As good as evidence is—righteousness and equity as tools for rendering judgment are better.
This is why the shoot from the stump of Jesse delights “in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:3).
This is why we should delight in the fear of the Lord.
We should fear the Lord, as Jesus says, because He could destroy both our body and soul in hell.
But we should rejoice in the fear of the Lord, because we know He won’t.
We hold fast to the shoot from Jesse, the righteous branch, Jesus the Christ—that’s who the passage from Isaiah is about.
“He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4).
We fear the Lord, because He could destroy both our body and soul in hell.
But we delight in the fear of the Lord, because He won’t.
He’s reckoned us righteous by faith.
He’s given us His Word, and we’ve believed it.
He’s sent us His Holy Spirit. We’ve been called by the Gospel, enlightened, sanctified, and kept in the true faith.
We need judges who judge by what his eyes see and ears hear…we need a matter to be established on the evidence of two or three witnesses…because of sin.
But the shoot from Jesse, father of David, the branch from Jesse’s roots, the righteous branch, Jesus Christ, judges with righteousness and equity.
Your righteous judge has reckoned you righteous by faith in the Lord.
He’s heard each testimony.
He’s seen all the evidence.
And the blood of God shed for you on the cross avails for you every day.
Because He was found guilty—you are found innocent.
Truly, our delight is in the fear of the Lord.
Not because he could destroy both our body and soul in hell, but because we know He won’t.
This is what Simeon means when he says, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”
The shoot from Jesse, the righteous branch, Jesus Christ is born.
O come, let us adore him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!