church sign

Isaiah 11:1-5 NET

1 A shoot will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud will sprout from his roots.
2 The LORD’s spirit will rest on him — a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom, a spirit that provides the ability to execute plans, a spirit that produces absolute loyalty to the LORD.
3 He will take delight in obeying the LORD. He will not judge by mere appearances, or make decisions on the basis of hearsay.
4 He will treat the poor fairly, and make right decisions for the downtrodden of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and order the wicked to be executed.
5 Justice will be like a belt around his waist, integrity will be like a belt around his hips.

During this advent season, we have been looking at some of the things predicted about the coming Messiah. Last year we focused on some of the things we usually associate with Christmas. But this year we are looking at some predictions about Jesus that we normally don’t talk about at Christmas. In today’s text, Isaiah described the coming Messiah as a shoot that will grow out of Jesse’s root stock, a bud that will sprout from his roots.

The prophet Ezekiel used similar imagery to describe the coming Messiah. He predicted that God would put an end to the kingdom of Judah, but that he would pull a sprig from Judah, and replant it on a very high mountain. That shoot would grow into a huge cedar and birds of every kind would be protected under it (Ezekiel 17:23). This coming king from the line of Judah would rule over not just Judah, but birds of every kind.

We now know who that king is, and what Ezekiel meant by the birds of every kind. When we celebrate the newborn king, the wise men from the east join in the celebration. They realize that the Messiah is not just a Jewish king. He is everyone’s king.

Now, Isaiah’s message about this coming Messiah emphasizes not the ability to rule over all people, but his ability to judge all people fairly.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word justice? Maybe you picture the image of a woman with a blindfold on, carrying a scale. That is actually a good image because it portrays some of the aspects of justice that we have come to expect. It is a woman, so we would expect justice to have compassion for the weak and helpless. She has a blindfold on because she is not influenced by prejudice or greed or the color of a defendant’s skin. She carries a scale because she is interested in doing the right thing exactly.

Jesus has the wisdom to judge everyone fairly (2)

During his earthly life, Jesus demonstrated all those abilities we would expect in the perfect judge. He came from humble circumstances, so he has compassion for the needy. He treated people with decency no matter who they were. He was able to deal with others without prejudice or chauvinism. When others wanted to stone the adulterous woman, he saw beyond the sin and treated it with the proper balance. When his own disciples wanted him to call down fire, he rebuked them.

Jesus demonstrated what the Bible calls wisdom. Isaiah predicted that “The LORD’s spirit will rest on him — a spirit that gives extraordinary wisdom.” That is what we need in a judge. We need someone who can look past the things that we get hung up on, and find the root of the problem. We need someone who cares about everyone the same — who does not play favorites.

God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world and its inhabitants and has given us a wise judge who will do the judging.

Jesus has the compassion to bring justice to those who have been mistreated (4a)

I love that time in Jesus’ ministry when he looked over the crowds coming to him and the Bible says that he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless. He knows things like that. He not only knows our strengths, he knows our weaknesses. If I am being mistreated, I want a judge who understands that.

Isaiah predicted that the Messiah “will treat the poor fairly, and make right decisions for the downtrodden of the earth.” Jesus came preaching the gospel — and he made it a point to reach the poor and downtrodden with that gospel message. The kingdom is open to everyone, but Jesus knew that the ones whom life had treated unfairly would be looking for a chance at making things right. His gospel proclaimed that.

Jesus defined his mission when he quoted “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1-2 quoted in Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus has the authority of a judge to execute the wicked (4b)

Isaiah says that the Messiah “will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and order the wicked to be executed.” That’s his call. Religion says that God made us so that we cannot be unmade. But God says differently. He will not only condemn the wicked, he will execute them. There is a reason that the book of Revelation talks about a lake of fire, and calls it the second death.

So the Old Testament tells us that our Messiah will judge the world. But when Jesus came to this earth for his first advent, he did not come as judge. John said that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him” (John 3:17). Paul told the Athenians that God “has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). That is one of four normative texts in the New Testament that explain about the coming day of judgment.

The other three texts are 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:16 and 2 Timothy 4:1.

2 Corinthians 5:10 NET For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.

Romans 2:16 NET on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:1 NET I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

Let me summarize for you what those four normative New Testament passages teach about the coming day of judgment.

They teach that Christ is the means of judgment.

St. Peter is not going to be standing at the pearly gates letting people in or telling them to go you know where. Jesus is the judge. The one who has set a day has also designated a man to judge, and that man is the one he authorized by means of raising him from the dead. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”

They teach that Christ will judge us all.

He’s going to judge the world. We “must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” He “will judge the secrets of human hearts.” And all means “the living and the dead” so there will have to be a resurrection.

Revelation describes that courtroom. It mentions a large white throne. It says “Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small {That’s everybody, folks}, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened — the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to his deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death — the lake of fire. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15 NET).

They teach that Christ will judge on the Judgment Day.

The timing is important. There is a popular teaching among the religious that people are judged when they die. That is not the case. God has set a day, and that day corresponds to Christ’s appearing and his kingdom. So, until Christ returns, the judgment will not take place. If you have unsaved loved ones, they are not suffering in hell. They are doing the same thing your saved loved ones are doing. They are waiting for the judge. Just like in a modern courtroom, the judgment doesn’t start until the judge arrives.

Revelation talks about that judgment day. It says “the time has come for the dead to be judged, and the time has come to give to your servants, the prophets, their reward, as well as to the saints and to those who revere your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18 NET). God has set a day for both judging the lost and rewarding the saved, and that day corresponds to the day of Christ’s appearing. No one suffers the lake of fire until that day. No one goes to their reward until that day.

Isaiah predicted that the coming Messiah would be a judge. He would not be wearing a blindfold, because he will know all things, and be able to judge with wisdom. Instead, he will be wearing justice as a belt around his waist, and integrity as a belt around his hips. He will judge fairly. But really, the only thing we need to know about judgment day is whether our name is listed in his book of life. He has a list, and he does not need to check it twice. It is not a list of nice boys and girls. It is a list of those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Only the righteous will be rewarded and righteousness comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Our judge will be the one who went to the cross for us. We will be in good hands.