In the Old Testament there is a prophecy that there will be a savior that comes to deliver his people. In some circles, many saw that savior to be David, the great king. As we know from further prophesy that he was not the “savior” but an incredibly powerful and cunning ruler who lead the people for the briefest of times in one of the only peaceful moments in their existence. As the story goes, under David, the people of Israel got, though brief, a glimpse of the glory of God, but for reasons we all know that was brief.
In the lore people knew this, but they also knew that when the Messiah did come somehow, someway, they would need to be linked to David. Hence the prophesy that we see here. Jesse is the Father of David and, as tradition labels, the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. He was fairly well off in that he was able to send gifts to Saul and we also know that he was respected within his community (1 Sam 16:20 and 1 Sam 17:12).
Though as the Father of David we also knew that he did not think much of his son (1 Sam 16:1-13) as compared to the fine other boys he had. This is a important literary parallel in that just as Jesse did not see David’s potential and ability to be called, neither did the people of Israel see and understand Christ. This is important because in many ways to the people at the time when they are looking to a savior, the mindset is to find and follow someone like David, but also someone that is more than David.
This explains the militaristic overtones that are found within this passage. We often don't see them because of the peaceful interpretations, but the peace that is achieved comes from an understanding that when this savior arrives, people will be unable to resist peace anymore. Unfortunately, as we know, humanity can look right into a gift horse and turn our back on it.
The important aspect of Christ is that upon His arrival, while some chose to accept him, many rejected him, and in that rejection we continue to live in the reality of our separation from God and in a world that is bent to destroy one another.
Interestingly, this leads to a place where we can begin to understand why the prophesy of Christ did not bring the peace that we long for. The finger points back to this very basic tendency of humanity to like and revel within our sinful life and instead of participating in the life of Christ and trusting God, we turn to our own selfish motive.
So as you prepare for worship this week, I ask you to look for places where the wolf and the lamb lie down together in peace. Where do you see that peace in your relationships, in your family or circle of friends, in the neighborhood, the city, the nation, and the world? Even within yourself, where has peace been forged between previously warring factions?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen