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Son of David (March 9, 2014)

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: Psalm 89:35-37; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:18-23

The story of God’s people is a story about a developing covenantal relationship beginning with creation and continuing until the reign of God will be completely realized. Noah and Abraham came early in the story. David and Solomon added a royal dimension as Israel’s kings. In today’s lesson the psalmist, the prophet Isaiah and the gospel writer Matthew add their perspectives as the covenantal story continues to emerge.

Psalm 89:35-37 — God’s holiness guarantees the promises to David

It is God’s very nature to be relational — in the three-fold unity of the trinity and in covenant with humankind. That is who God is. And the good news, ultimately, for all people is that God has solemnly declared perpetual covenantal love for King David and his heirs, no matter what. There are no conditions or expectations placed on the recipient of this covenant. The sun and the moon are enduring witnesses to God’s unconditional covenantal love. Psalm 89 reiterates the same promises God made to David that are recorded in 2 Samuel 7.

Isaiah 9:6-7 — A royal child will assume David’s throne 

The prophet Isaiah also lifts up the promises God made to David and boldly announces that despite earlier losses of territory (Isaiah 9:1), a new day has come. God has provided a son to sit on David’s throne.

The new king will be crowned and honored with exalted titles sung in a coronation anthem: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Following the pattern of ancient Near Eastern coronations, Israel’s king is extolled with exaggerated poetic hyperbole. The promises of peace and an enduring reign given earlier to David are reconfirmed here for the new king. An added emphasis comes in the latter half of verse 7 where justice and righteousness will characterize the rule of the new king. And all of this will be the result of God’s determination to make it happen.

Matthew 1:18-25 — Joseph, a descendent of David, marries Mary, the mother of Jesus 

In the narratives of the birth of Jesus, Matthew and Luke very creatively make connections with the writings of the prophets, especially Isaiah. In Matthew’s account, King David and Joseph figure prominently in the genealogy of Jesus (1:16-17).

And in our passage Matthew emphatically notes that Joseph is a “son of David,” meaning that Joseph traced his ancestry back to King David. Moreover, Joseph is identified as a righteous man who marries Mary after accepting the angel’s explanation of her pregnancy as the work of the Holy Spirit. This goes well beyond history in the usual meaning of that term and presents us with a theological interpretation of what can only be understood as a miracle.

What holds this story together with the prophet Isaiah’s declaration and the psalmist’s account of God’s promises to David is God’s faithfulness. The birth of Mary’s child is the fulfillment of God’s promises to David. Jesus is “Emmanuel … God with us.” As the name Jesus makes clear, the purpose of the Son of God’s incarnation is to save God’s people from their sins.

God was with King David and his successors to sustain the nation of Israel despite its failures (and David’s). In an analogous way, Jesus would demonstrate by his life, death and resurrection the saving power of God to redeem sinners. And all this came about, Matthew says, in order to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son … .”

By designating Jesus as a son of David, which the Bible does no less than seventeen times, the Scriptures are affirming that God is faithful in fulfilling the covenantal promises to David. Jesus, the Messiah, is David’s son because his adoptive father Joseph came from the lineage of David, and his mother Mary entered the Davidic line by marriage. The kingdom that Jesus will establish will extend God’s love to all who embrace God’s messiah, the Son of David.

For discussion 

What does the nature of God’s unconditional covenant with David imply about the kingdom established by Jesus, the Son of David? Can you sense a different emphasis about the reign of God in our Presbyterian tradition compared with Methodist, Baptist or Roman Catholic views of the kingdom of God?

Jesus is described in Reformed theology as a prophet, priest and king. Does the association between David as Israel’s king and Jesus as a son of David help us understand Jesus’ kingly role? (See the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 31 on Jesus Christ as our eternal King.)