keep an eye on the shoot


Keep an Eye on the Shoot

I love the season of Advent. I love the way it marries the world’s present longing for Jesus’ Second Coming with the former longing of Israel for Jesus’ first coming. In the mournful notes sounded as Israelites sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” we Christians can hear the overtones of our own present desire for Christ’s return, for God to be with us again and forever, for the world to once and for all be rid of all pain and sorrow and suffering and shame.

One of my favorite Advent texts–and a perfect example of this sort of marrying of longings–comes from Isaiah 11.

Throughout his book, Isaiah relays a dual message to Israel: one of judgment and one of hope. An image Isaiah utilizes to make this dual message clear is that of a tree. Israel, he says, will be cut down to nothing but a stump. This is, of course, a message of judgment.

But from that stump, Isaiah says, a Shoot will emerge. A message of hope.

From the stump of Jesse, a Shoot, a small and fragile thing–not unlike an infant–will emerge. Of course, as a small and fragile thing, it could be easily overlooked. This tender Shoot, however, comes forth from the stump of Jesse, which is to say, it emerges out of the deep and rich roots of God’s covenant people. Therefore, this tender Shoot will grow and grow strong. Its branches will stretch and stretch wide. And in its shade, universal peace will reign forever on earth.

Isaiah says it this way in his eleventh chapter:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples;
the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-10)

Isaiah’s message is clear: Judgment is coming, yes, but the faithful are not to lose heart. Instead, they are to keep their eyes on the tender Shoot which will emerge from the stump of Jesse. For as small and fragile as He may at first appear, He is the One who will put the world back to rights. He is the One who will lead creation into true and lasting peace and harmony. He is the One who will inaugurate the day of glorious rest in the place of God’s unmediated presence.

Later, in chapter 35, Isaiah describes what life in that peaceful place will be like:

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. (vv. 5-7a)

In that place, those who are viciously at odds on earth—the wolf and the lamb, the lion and the yearling—will exist in perfect harmony; all fear will be gone forever. All wrongs will be righted, all brokenness healed, and all limitations forever lifted. The world will be as it was always intended to be.

That day is coming, Isaiah promises. Israel’s task, in the midst of their longing–and our task in the midst of our longing–is to keep an eye on the Shoot, that small and fragile thing emerging from the stump of Jesse. For, believe it or not, as small and unimpressive as He may appear upon His initial arrival, He is the fulfillment of all longing, not just Israel’s and not just our own. That tender Shoot is the hope of the world.



Keep an eye on the shoot
Watch for when it breaks through
Green its tender leaves will appear
but strong is its root

He will stand up
from the dead stump
As a banner
for the nations
He will gather
what’s been scattered by sin

In the shade of
his raised branches
He’ll embrace all
he has gathered
From the dead stump
life will come and fill the earth

Keep an eye on the shoot
Watch for when it breaks through
Green its tender leaves will appear
but strong is its root

We’ll see the lion
lie near the
Young lamb
and the yearling
Peace will reign
as the babe leads the way

And the blind
will see clearly
The deaf will hear
as the mute sing
Fast approaching
is the dawning
of that day

Keep an eye on the shoot
Watch for when it breaks through
Green its tender leaves will appear
but strong is its root

Keep an eye on the shoot
For in time
all who hunger for truth
will forever
feast together on its fruit



Words & Music: Bill Wolf
Vocals: Chloe McCarthy, Kenny Moore, Bill Wolf
Piano: Keaton Stone