By Dr. Hal Brady
Lesson Scripture: Psalm 89:35-37; Isaiah 9:6,7; Matthew 1:18-21
One of my late uncles simply had a passion for genealogy. He had an overwhelming concern for his family tree and ancestors. This uncle spent untold hours doing his research and at the conclusion produced several massive volumes, not only of his family’s history but also of his wife’s as well. Gratefully, my family and I were included because I was his wife’s nephew.
Today, our focus is genealogy, but it’s biblical genealogy that we are about. Specifically we are focusing on the genealogical connection between David and Jesus.
Before us there are three scripture lessons: Psalm 89:35-37; Isaiah 9:6, 7; and Matthew 1:18-21. Through these lenses of the psalmist, the prophet and the writer of Matthew we will look at the Son of David and how he is now revealed to be the Son of God.
Grasping the genealogical connection between David and Jesus
The psalmist recalls the promise God made to David when he was alive. Though David is prominent in all three passages, they were all written well after his death. At any rate, the psalmist recalls that David proposed to build a house for God, but that God responded by promising to build a house for David (that is, a dynasty). This significant Old Testament passage is the record of God making a covenant with David, according to which David’s throne was to be established in the line of his descendants.
The key word is “forever.” It is important to note that God’s plan and promise are not dependent on the perfect obedience of later generations. Even if these later generations do not follow God’s instructions and reap the whirlwind for their disobedience, God will still see His divine purpose through – a purpose that is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For it is Jesus Christ alone who will reign forever on David’s throne.
According to scholars, as we read Psalm 89 we should remember that a sovereign God is under no obligation to make promises to finite human beings. A promise is a voluntary way of binding oneself to another party, and it is absolutely uncanny that the Creator would do that with his creation. Yet still God makes promises. And in this instance, God makes a mammoth promise to David about his dynasty (89:4).
Though Isaiah’s glorious messianic prophecy (9:1-7) stands forever as his word to his people, Christianity has staked a claim on it. For to Christian faith, Isaiah’s prophecy has had its fulfillment in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Scholars inform us that in this passage, Isaiah sets the stage and tone for what he wants to communicate. By making references to places and bodies of water (v.1) (beloved names from the Gospels) taken together, people would recognize the site of Jesus’ ministry. Next, (v.2-7), Isaiah’s vision includes promising, developing images of light, hope, joy, celebration, and victory. Finally, Isaiah points to the main character. In this instance, the main character is identified as a newborn child who is described as royal, divine and eternal. The child is also associated with one particular person: David.
Thus, in the Isaiah prophecy, the throne and kingdom of David are clearly stated, even though there have been numerous other kings that have reigned since David. But it is specifically David’s kingdom that is expected to last. And David’s kingdom of justice and righteousness will be none other than the accomplishment of God through David’s special Descendant.
While the writer of Luke gives Jesus’ line through Mary, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ line through his father, Joseph. The earthly father of Jesus is seen as a man of integrity and honor in his response to the news of Mary’s pregnancy. We are told that the importance of Jesus is implied by the Angel’s instructions, the identity of Jesus as Messiah, in the stated role of the Holy Spirit, and in the salutation of Joseph as “son of David” (Matthew 1:18, 20 NSRV). Incidentally, the angel declaring Joseph as “son of David” is the only time in Matthew’s Gospel that the expression is of anyone other than Jesus.
Now these events of the supernatural conception of Jesus Messiah take place to fulfill what God had spoken through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Lord, the young woman is with Child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
For Matthew, two things should not be missed. First there is the theme of fulfillment here and throughout his Gospel. Consequently, he reminds his readers of a prophecy of Isaiah. Second, this is the name associated with the promised child: “Emmanuel.” Originally, in the context of Isaiah, it was a word of reassurance. But in the birth of Jesus it became an affirmation of actual truth: “God is with us.”
So, as scholars make clear, from David’s time forward, God uses David as a symbol for a perfect future that would make visible God’s reign. God would raise up one particular descendent from David’s line, and he would be the eternal and universal king who would execute justice and righteousness and reign in peace.
Hope through the Davidic Covenant
The hope promised by the Davidic Covenant is that God has bound himself to David and his descendants forever. This is astonishing as God was under no obligation to make this promise except by his own grace. As his people, though we may be less than perfect and suffer the consequences, God’s promise and purpose remain secure and will ultimately be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
A young couple took their newborn baby to see her great-grandfather. The older man had suffered a stroke and his ability to communicate had been drastically reduced. But he knew what was happening. When they placed the infant in his arms he caressed it tenderly and lovingly and said over and over again the only word he could: “yes, yes, yes, yes.”
The legacy we as a Church family hope to leave our descendants in the faith
In my earlier days at Sunday lunch, I would ask my children what I had preached about that morning (30 minutes earlier). The children would sit there with blank stares. Finally, one might answer, “Didn’t you say?” or “I think you said.” On the grounds of self-incrimination, I soon gave us that exercise.
The larger question, however, is, what do we as a church family hope to leave our descendants in the faith?
First, a sense of Covenant! We will emphasize the understanding of God’s covenant of unconditional love for his community.
Second, a sense of Compassion! God’s compassion includes our laboring for justice, righteousness and peace in the world.
Third, a sense of hope! A hope that is grounded in Jesus Christ – “Emmanuel” (God is with us).