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. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west; together they will plunder the people to the east. They will subdue Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites will be subject to them. The Lord will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea; with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that anyone can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt. Isaiah 11:10-16
This passage sounds like a mixture of prophesy about events in the relatively near future and a time yet to come. The root of Jesse is understood by both Christ’s early disciples (Romans 15:12), and modern day Christ followers, as a reference to Jesus. Paul, a person of Jewish descent, also interpreted “all peoples” to include both Jews and gentiles. Are all followers of Christ honorary “people of Judah” and part of the “remnant” that this passage is talking about? That is my understanding and I think most of the early followers of Jesus would agree. So what is God telling all who choose to faithfully follow Him in this passage?
First a little rumination on the word “remnant”. When I hear the word remnant I think of something left over. For example, a piece of carpet or cloth. The meaning here is obviously different, but perhaps there is a useful metaphor in the idea of cloth remnants.
Scraps of cloth with many different patterns by themselves may not be much use, but sewn together they can make incredibly beautiful and useful quilts. I think that is what God is really talking about here. He wants to sew together the faithful remnant of the Jewish people and the gentiles who have chosen to become part of this remnant. We are all imperfect scraps of cloth but together we can make a beautiful thing.
On a secular level this passage seem to be describing the Jewish people successfully reassembling in the “promised land”. They will battle those around them and subdue them. They will move past the infighting and clan warfare that has characterized much of the history of the people of Judah up to this point.
God promises to “dry up the gulf of Egypt and the Euphrates River. The reason God gives for this promise is that a substantial barrier to the returning remnant will be removed. God will transform a mighty river, the Euphrates, into something that can be crossed by a person walking in sandals. This is where this passage speaks to me as a modern day follower of the Way of Christ. God is promising to make a way for all to return to Him. God is promising to knit together a quilt of many colors.
Upon His arrival on earth Jesus “dried up” all barriers keeping us from returning home to be with God. He also attempted to remove all the barriers keeping us from being with one another. The One River provided a bridge for all comers, Jew and gentile, rich and poor, sick and healthy. It is up to us to choose to return to the “promised land”. God has created “a highway” for the us. We need only acknowledge God the Father; the root of Jesse, His son Jesus; and the Holy Spirit, the “scorching wind” that helps dry up all barriers.
Prayer: God help us to love one another and appreciate the varied and beautiful quilt that we can make when we all come together for You.