King Zedekiah looked over the wall surrounding and protecting Jerusalem. He had been king for nine years. For nine years Nebuchadnezzar had threatened and bullied him. But Zedekiah refused to bend his knee to Nebuchadnezzar, or to God.
Two years earlier, the trumpet blast called people to the city to escape the threat of the encroaching army. People filled Jerusalem, much like at Passover, but this time tension was in the air. Nebuchadnezzar was on the move. The city could hold the masses for a week, but much longer would strain the resources.
Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the city and set up his war machine. One week, became two. Weeks became months. And the bread supply dwindled. At first, the Jews tightened their belt and weighed their bread. But as months became years, people groaned for bread, bartered treasures for bread. Children begged their mothers for bread and then fainted and died in the streets for hunger. And tenderhearted mothers did the unthinkable, and boiled their own children for food.
Zedekiah looks over the city wall and sees Nebuchadnezzar with all his army returning from a brief foray to Egypt. But he smiles. He smiles because a breach in the wall has been discovered. This night he and his two sons will escape this hell.
In the inky darkness, Zedekiah leads his chosen soldiers and his progeny through the gate beside his garden. They make a run for it toward the wilderness of the Arabah.
But Nebuchadnezzar’s army is quickly upon them. Zedekiah and his troops are no match for this war machine. Soldiers scatter. Zedekiah and his sons are captured.
Bound, the three are brought face to face with King Nebuchadnezzar. Sentence is passed for rebellion, sedition, and treason. The last thing Zedekiah sees before his own eyes are gouged out is his two sons slaughtered before him.
As the sun rises that terrible morning, Nebuchadnezzar and his army return to Jerusalem to deliver the final blow. They pour into the once beautiful city tearing down walls and burning houses.
They ransack the temple breaking the pillars of bronze and the lamp stands. They plunder the temple and carry away even the pots and shovels and snuffers.
They capture Seraiah, the chief priest, and Zephaniah, the second priest, and servants, and officers, and men in the king’s council, along with 60 other men that still had a bit of strength and fire about them. Just as they did with Zedekiah, they deliver their trophies before Nebuchadnezzar. Without mercy, just as he had slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons, he slaughters these men.
But the story of Judah was not over. God promised. From this battered and beleaguered stump of a nation, a shoot would come forth.
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 widow and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord
The story of Judah was not over. A Messiah would arise. A Messiah in the line of Jesse, the father of David. A Messiah who would be the fulfillment of promise after promise after promise. God promised a shoot would come forth.
Over these coming weeks, these days of Advent, we will start at the beginning and see the promise unfold.
Because the promise of a shoot is for you and for me. A shoot came forth from the stump of Jesse. New life from a bruised and battered and burned-out stump. God promised a shoot would come forth.
Do you need the promise of new life in your life? Do you need the promise of Messiah? Would you join me this Advent as we trace the promise of the Messiah from creation to cradle? Because God promised a shoot would come forth.
If you would like, I have a Family Devotional Guide and template for Jesse Tree ornaments to correspond with our Bible readings. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send these out to you.