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The Promise of Jesus, One Wonderfully Equipped by the Spirit of the Lord

Isaiah 11:2 (ESV)… “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

From a tall cedar the focus now shifts to a stump with a shoot. We are no longer thinking about a nation but a person. And we are no longer thinking about the immediate aftermath of Assyria’s downfall; we are once again looking down the centuries to the coming of a very special descendant of Jesse. What we find out here is how he will be equipped, what he will do and what the scope of his work will be.

The Spirit will rest upon him (11:2). That is precisely what happened with Jesus. Just as he was embarking on his ministry, ‘when Jesus was baptized … he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him’ (Matt. 3:16). Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit would endow this descendant with wisdom, understanding, counsel and knowledge (Isa. 11:2). And that is precisely what happened with Jesus. That is why the people in the synagogue asked about him, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom?’ (Matt. 13:54), and why the people in the temple ‘were amazed at his understanding’ (Luke 2:47). Another aspect of the Spirit’s work is strengthening. This ‘branch’ (11:1; see also 4:2) will be strengthened by ‘the Spirit of … might’ (11:2), Isaiah tells us. And Jesus was. ‘How are such mighty works done by his hands?’ the people of his day asked (Mark 6:2). Isaiah’s answer was, ‘By the Spirit.’ In addition, when the Spirit is at work in someone’s heart he imparts a deep sense of reverence towards God: ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Isa. 11:2). The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the Lord Jesus exhibited just this characteristic in ‘the days of his flesh’ (Heb. 5:7).

While the Father ‘[gave] the Spirit without measure’ (John 3:34) to his beloved Son, he gives some measure of the same Spirit to us. This reminds us that Jesus didn’t cheat when he became a man: he did not use his divinity to avoid the difficulties of life in a sinful world. He relied upon the help of the Spirit of God just as we need to do, and he received the help of the Holy Spirit just as we can. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might receive ‘a spirit of wisdom’ (Eph. 1:17) and that the Colossians might ‘be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding’ (Col. 1:9). He also prayed that the Ephesians might be ‘strengthened with power through [God’s] Spirit in [their] inner being’ (Eph. 3:16), and that the Colossians might be ‘strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might, for all endurance and patience’ (Col. 1:11). The early Christians knew what it was to walk ‘in the fear of the Lord’ at the same time as they were enjoying ‘the comfort of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 9:31). Not only do we need the Spirit’s wisdom and strength, we also need help to grasp just how much he can do for us. The ‘immeasurable greatness of his power’ is ‘towards us who believe’ (Eph. 1:19), just as it was ‘upon’ the Anointed One.[1]

[1] Thomson, A. (2012). Opening Up Isaiah (pp. 51–53). Leominster: Day One.

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