Isaiah 11: 1-10
Jesse… who? If we turn to the book of Ruth, at the end we find that Ruth and Boaz have a son, Obed, who is the father of Jesse, who is the father of King David. So Jesse’s grandmother (and King David’s great-grandmother) was Ruth, which means that David is just three generations from Ruth. That is relevant because Ruth was a Moabitess, and in Deuteronomy (23:3-6) we read this: “No… Moabite shall come into the assembly of the Lord even to the tenth generation… You shall never promote their welfare or their prosperity as long as you live”.
When Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi return to Bethlehem from Moab they are welcomed and treated with respect, courtesy and kindness by Boaz. It is a story of tolerance, despite that injunction in Deuteronomy; of welcoming a stranger despite her race. It is a story with an extraordinary outcome, because, that child, that was a third generation from a Moabitess, nevertheless became king.
In Isaiah 11 we read that, despite the fear that “the good old days” of the Davidic line have long since gone, the prophet can see that new life is coming and that hope is on the way; and the one who is to come will not judge by human standards, but with righteousness and faithfulness. There will be equity for the poor and the meek – there will be peace. “On that day, the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples.” Don’t just think back to David, think back to where he came from: what lesson does that story teach God’s people?
Our Advent hope, as we wait for another child to be born in Bethlehem, is rooted in this reading, which is rooted in a story of welcome, respect, courtesy and kindness for the stranger; a welcome to a community where all are welcome.
God of Advent, grant that we may live in the hope proclaimed in Isaiah,
opening our hearts and lives to welcome you and all people. Amen.