Hand of God leedsacukThe ancient tradition of O Antiphons has characterised Vespers recited between December 17 and December 23, during the Octave before Christmas Day.

The Bible readings for these eight days help us to meditate on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together, the first letters of these traditional meditations spell SARCORE, which is the reverse of the Latin phrase ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses of SARCORE express the following:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

The Octave verses are referred to in the haunting Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

On December 19, we contemplate the ‘R’ — ‘Root of Jesse’.

Last year, my post for that day discussed the principal verse, Isaiah 11:1 from the King James and English Standard versions, respectively:

1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

1There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
   and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Today’s entry looks at a second verse on ‘The O Antiphons’ page from Hymns and Carols of Christmas, Isaiah 11:10:

11 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

In the King James Version ‘ensign’ appears instead of ‘signal’. ‘Ensign’ is the word used in the commentaries cited below.

Isaiah 11 prophesies peace over Judah, which fell under God’s judgement — despite the prophet’s warnings to repent. The Assyrians invaded the region, although as we saw yesterday, God’s people, by turning to Him, receive His protection and eventual victory over their enemies.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains:

The prophet, however, is more occupied with an event preliminary to Israel’s sovereignty, namely the return from exile. His large and emphatic assertions remind the not yet captive Judah through how much captivity she has to pass before she can see the margin of the blessed future which he has been describing to her. Isaiah’s words imply a much more general captivity than had taken place by the time he spoke them, and we see that he is still keeping steadily in view that thorough reduction of his people, to the prospect of which he was forced in his inaugural vision. Judah has to be dispersed, even as Ephraim has been, before the glories of this chapter shall be realised.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to this captivity and exile:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us about this period in history:

We have here a further prophecy of the enlargement and advancement of the kingdom of the Messiah, under the type and figure of the flourishing condition of the kingdom of Judah in the latter end of Hezekiah’s reign, after the defeat of Sennacherib [the Assyrian].

I. This prediction was in part accomplished when the great things God did for Hezekiah and his people proved as an ensign, inviting the neighbouring nations to them to enquire of the wonders done in the land, on which errand the king of Babylon’s ambassadors came. To them the Gentiles sought and Jerusalem, the rest or habitation of the Jews, was then glorious, Isaiah 11:10. Then many of the Israelites who belonged to the kingdom of the ten tribes, who upon the destruction of that kingdom by the king of Assyria were forced to flee for shelter into all the countries about and to some that lay very remote, even to the islands of the sea, were encouraged to return to their own country and put themselves under the protection and government of the king of Judah, the rather because it was an Assyrian army by which their country had been ruined and that was not routed. This is said to be a recovery of them the second time (Isaiah 11:11), such an instance of the power and goodness of God, and such a reviving to them, as their first deliverance out of Egypt was. Then the outcasts of Israel should be gathered in, and brought home, and those of Judah too, who, upon the approach of the Assyrian army, shifted for their own safety.

Henry offers us this advice:

When God’s time has come for the deliverance of his people mountains of opposition shall become plain before him. Let us not despair therefore when the interests of the church seem to be brought very low God can soon turn gloomy days into glorious ones.

With regard to Christ Jesus, the Messiah, he calls our attention to the following (emphases mine):

Romans 15:12, There shall be a root of Jesse and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust. That is a key to this prophecy, which speaks of Christ as the root of Jesse, or a branch out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1), a root out of a dry ground, Isaiah 53:2. He is the root of David (Revelation 5:5), the root and offspring of David Revelation 22:16.

1. He shall stand, or be set up, for an ensign of the people. When he was crucified he was lifted up from the earth, that, as an ensign of beacon, he might draw the eyes and the hearts of all men unto him, John 12:32. He is set up as an ensign in the preaching of the everlasting gospel, in which the ministers, as standard-bearers, display the banner of his love, to allure us to him (Song of Song of Solomon 1:4), the banner of his truth, under which we may enlist ourselves, to engage in a holy war against sin and Satan. Christ is the ensign to which the children of God that were scattered abroad are gathered together (John 11:51), and in him they meet as the centre of their unity.

2. To him shall the Gentiles seek. We read of Greeks that did so (John 12:21, We would see Jesus), and upon that occasion Christ spoke of his being lifted up, to draw all men to him. The apostle, from the LXX. (or perhaps the LXX. from the apostle, in the editions after Christ) reads it (Romans 15:12), In him shall the Gentiles trust they shall seek to him with a dependence on him.

3. His rest shall be glorious. Some understand this of the death of Christ (the triumphs of the cross made even that glorious), others of his ascension, when he sat down to rest at the right hand of God. Or rather it is meant of the gospel church, that Mount Zion of which Christ has said, This is my rest, and in which he resides. This, though despised by the world, having upon it the beauty of holiness, is truly glorious, a glorious high throne, Jeremiah 17:12.

4. Both Jews and Gentiles shall be gathered to him, Isaiah 11:11. A remnant of both, a little remnant in comparison, which shall be recovered, as it were, with great difficulty and hazard. As formerly God delivered his people, and gathered them out of all the countries whither they were scattered (Psalm 106:47; Jeremiah 16:15,16), so he will a second time, in another way, by the powerful working of the Spirit of grace with the word.

Life seems dark for many of us right now. We long for the Light of the World, whose birth we will be remembering and celebrating in a few days’ time.

May we remember that whatever temporal trials we suffer nationally, globally or individually, our Saviour and Redeemer will deliver us from harm, not only on earth but in the life to come.