Phil Walker-Harding explores the way Jesus breaks seemingly unbreakable rules in this Advent Devotional for 2020.

On the seventh day of Advent, 2020, Phil Walker-Harding explores the way Jesus breaks seemingly unbreakable rules.

Unbreakable rules


A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

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.

Isaiah 11:1-10



In my work as a board game designer I am always thinking about rules. Rules are what govern the way the game world works. How do the different pieces on the board interact? How can the players affect each other? How do you win or lose? My job is to create a set of rules that, when followed, generate a fun social experience for everyone around the table.

So when I look at the real world, often I can’t help but observe things in terms of what rules I see in play. And it really does seem like in all areas of life - societies, governments, ecosystems - certain rules seem to be unbreakable. Take these few examples that our passage brings to mind:

  • Predators and their prey do not lie down together
  • Viper bites are really dangerous
  • When we judge others we end up doing it superficially
  • Even leaders who try to be righteous will fail their people, especially the most needy.

In Isaiah 11 the prophet sees a future where God’s ways have been brought to bear in the world to the extent that even these sorts of rules will break. A place where true and perfect knowledge of God can unravel the kind of violence, injustice and wickedness that seem completely entrenched and inevitable. Isaiah ministered to a people who knew first hand the worst of human leadership, the violence of warring nations and the hopelessness of their own failings. Yet he gave them a new picture of God’s promises fulfilled.

The Advent season is a reminder that when God comes into his world, he turns it absolutely upside-down. And as we wait for the coming of the messiah, Isaiah asks us to dwell on some of these previously unimaginable reversals:

  • Animals who once hunted each other finding rest together.
  • The leader who defies every expectation to deliver justice to the needy.
  • The vulnerable newborn who reveals the full extent of God’s power.
  • And the creator who becomes incarnate.



Phil Walker-Harding is a board and card game designer from Sydney, with over twenty of his games published around the world. Phil also helps pastor Cottage Church in Newtown.





This devotional is the seventh in a series of daily email devotionals for Advent 2020. This year's series reflects on the lament of the Advent story and the hope that we share. Would you like to receive the rest of this email series?

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Advent: For The Weary