Just A Twig.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,
Free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; 
From depths of hell Thy people save 
And give them victory o’er the grave.

As I was getting ready for church this morning I was listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wogelmuth’s podcast Revive Our Hearts. Nancy discussed the carol, Oh Come Oh Come Immanuel. Little did I know I’d be singing that song a couple hours later in church. I’ve been thinking on this song all morning and the lines above continue to stand out to me. All my thoughts on this song are inspired by the study Nancy Wogelmuth presented in her podcast. 

Rod of Jesse is a name for the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. When I first hear this stanza, I picture a powerful, kingly warrior who vindicates his people and vanquishes Satan’s forces of darkness, granting victory to his beloved people. However, that’s not what “Rod of Jesse” implies. First of all, Jesse is referring to King David’s father. While David was a magnificent king, he came from a very simple and unassuming lineage. There was nothing royal or powerful about being in the line of Jesse. Yet, that is the line that Jesus, the King of Kings, was born from. 

I would also think that “rod” would be some sort of scepter or sword used as a symbol of power and authority. That’s not the case. Oh Come Oh Come Immanuel was originally written in Latin and rod can also be translated to mean “branch” or “shoot”. The plant reference is likely referring to the family tree concept as Jesus is a branch on the tree of Jesse. Nancy says this:

“That reminds me of another passage in the book of Isaiah that’s familiar to most of us. Chapter 53:2 tells us, ‘He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’ He was as a tender shoot, a rod, and branch, not a great kingly scepter who comes in triumph to rule over His enemies—just a shoot, a tender twig, if you will.”

Nancy Wogelmuth

In Isaiah 10 the enemies of God are compared to strong and lofty branches that tower over the earth, which provides a drastic contrast to the fragile shoot that represents the Lord Jesus. We are told that tiny shoot will topple and destroy those mighty branches. Further study into scripture, including Isaiah 11 and II Thessalonians 1:7 reveals that Jesus will triumph over Satan. The battle is already won. 

Hebrews 2 gets us to the point that we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus took on human flesh, became a twig, so that He could render the Devil powerless. Hebrews 2:14-15 NASB says, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” WOAH! How amazing! We are the people who were “subject to slavery all [our] lives”, yet Jesus became a twig to free us from captivity. 

Why does this matter? Nancy summarizes it well.

“He saves us, as the song says, from the jaws of hell. He rescues us. He conquers death. He delivers us from Satan and hell and death. How does He do it? In the power of the Spirit He comes to save us from our sin. That’s Emmanuel. That’s why we rejoice at Christmas—because the Rod of Jesse has come to deliver us from our sin.”

Nancy Wogelmuth