In praying recently through my normal levels of anxiety, and bemoaning God why He hadn’t healed me of this cross yet, I realized something. There were so many parts of my heart, so many situations throughout the day, that I hadn’t given over to Him in prayer. I was trying to do all the small things on my own, even though I felt like I surrendered to Him on the big things. As soon as I opened up these other parts of myself to Him in trust, I felt my chest get lighter and the Spirit get to work. There is nothing insignificant to God.
This brings us to Jesse. The one whom this entire study and tree is named after. Mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, he is the father of David, grandson of Ruth, member of the Tribe of Judah, and farmer and sheepherder from Bethlehem.
For someone with such an impressive pedigree, the only time we ever really hear about him in Scripture is in 1 Samuel, when the prophet Samuel is sent by the Lord to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint one of his sons to become the next King of Israel in place of the disobedient King Saul.
When Samuel enters Jesse’s home, Jesse immediately presents to Samuel his eldest son Eliab. They are both sure he is the one. Yet the Lord reprimands Samuel, saying “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
In this fashion, Jesse presents seven of his sons to Samuel and each one is rejected by the Lord. Reminiscent of the Cinderella story, Samuel then asks Jesse if he has any other sons. He replies that the youngest is out in the fields, tending the sheep, and agrees to bring him into the house. This ruddy, handsome youth becomes the next King of Israel.
At first Jesse presented to Samuel, and to the Lord, everything that he thought was worthy of presenting. He looked with the eyes of man, not the eyes of God. Yet the Lord was waiting the entire time for him to present what Jesse thought was the least, the most insignificant, the most worthy of hiding - his youngest son who smelled like sheep.
And then, look what happened. By giving David over to the Lord, Jesse’s tree bore the most amazing fruit - including Jesus Christ himself, who is descended from David’s line. Just as David was a simple shepherd, so too was Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, born in a humble stable and placed in a feeding trough. This is why Jesse’s symbol on the Jesse Tree is a shepherd’s staff. This is how Isaiah could prophesy, after the Kingdom of David had already past, that “a shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah 11:1) What shoot was he talking about? He was prophesying about a new shoot, a new King that would restore Israel. We know his name. His name is Jesus.
As his spiritual offspring, it’s our job to remember our roots and shoot up as new creations in Christ. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes our roots feel dried up and we are more of a stump than a fruitful tree. Especially in this time of Advent, when the world is rushing by at a ludicrous speed, we can bring our stumps to the foot of Jesus, to the life giving water, and ask to be transformed. Then a new shoot will spring up.
It’s also our job to bring our hearts to Him. How many times do we present to the Lord in prayer all the things that we think are worthy? We pray for the big things. We hand over the
major decisions in our lives. Yet God wants everything. He wants us to tell Him about our day, bring Him into the smallest corners of our hearts. He wants us to see with His eyes, not our own. And He especially wants us to bring Him what is broken, what may smell foul. It’s the ruddy, smelly, simple things that turn out to be the most beautiful, raw, and glorious in His sight.
Reflect: What do you need to present to the Lord? How can you see with His eyes instead of your own? Where are your roots? Do you feel well grounded, or on shaky ground with your faith?
Act: Bring your stump of a heart to Jesus and ask for it to be made new, filled with the living water of Jesus’ mercy. Journal a list of things in your heart that you haven’t presented to Him in prayer that may be holding you back from growing your roots into a fruitful tree. Consider planting a seed and watching it grow (indoors, unless you’re blessed to live somewhere warm) as a symbol of this new growth.