Memorial Stump

Good morning!

I hope you like leftovers, because here’s some more Isaiah 6 that didn’t get et up Sunday during my sermon.

After Isaiah is charged by God to preach a message of condemnation, he asks “How long, O Lord?” (cf. Psalm 79:5, 89:46), which is a very understandable question. I think I’d ask this question if I were told to preach a message of condemnation so my people wouldn’t hear, turn, and be saved. And God’s answer to his question seems to exclude the possibility of hope for Israel:

“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13)

Though God pronounces a terrible judgment for Israel, he is still the God of hope, and he does not leave Isaiah (or Israel) without hope even in the midst of this fiery judgment, for the very same fire which destroys also purges. “‘And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.’ The holy seed is its stump.” The remnant will be purged, but a stump will remain, and in the stump is a holy seed. Isaiah 11 tells us that a shoot will spring forth from that stump (Isaiah 11:1), and we know that the shoot is Christ, who grew up like a young plant, like a shoot out of dry ground (Isaiah 53:2).

What’s interesting is the word used for stump in Isaiah 6. This is not the same word used in Isaiah 11, but is instead a word translated as “pillar” the only other time it is used in the Old Testament, when Absalom sets up a memorial stone to keep his name in remembrance, since he has no children (2 Samuel 18:18). Now, in Isaiah 6:13 it’s evident that this is a stump being talked about and not a pillar, since the text says it is like a terebinth or an oak when it is felled.

Perhaps Isaiah just felt like using one word for stump instead of another, but perhaps the usage is deliberate. The stump of the old Israel has been burned down to the holy seed, a remnant which becomes a standing stone to God’s holiness and mercy and out of which an eschatological shoot will grow to form a new Israel, a tree of life bearing fruit in its season, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

I’m no Hebrew scholar, so be a good Berean on this one.

-Daniel

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