Advent IV: Jesus Davidson

The theme that unifies our four Scripture lessons into one polyphonic song is the idea that Jesus is born into the world as the Son of David. By pointing out where Jesus came from, we learn who He is going to be. Here’s a Davidson: he’s going to be just like his father. This is very good news for scattered sheep who need a shepherd, and for oppressed people who are crying out to God for a king to save them.

That’s what we hear in the first reading, in our call to worship from Psalm 80: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel”. The plea is for the Shepherd to deliver the sheep, and in particular (v. 17), the Psalmist’s hope is in “the man of God’s right hand, the son of man whom God made strong.” That man will be the instrument of salvation who gives life to God’s people. In other words, “Send us another David to shepherd and save us!”

Our melodic line is filled out by the harmonic themes of fear, faith, and salvation, beginning in Psalm 80, but deepening in Isaiah 7. In this chapter, Ahaz Davidson is on the throne, but he’s a faithless, ineffective shepherd. He has just found out that Ephraim has joined up with Syria to form a Goliath-size army that threatens Judah, all that’s left of David’s kingdom. Ahaz unfortunately acts like a son of Saul, not David. With pretend piety he refuses to test God by seeking a sign. But since God had freely offered a sign, Ahaz’s refusal to test is actually a refusal to trust, and so God wearily sends another child to fight the king’s battles. In the face of a massive invading army, God sends a baby named Immanuel as a sign of His presence with His people. God is making a point: it doesn’t matter how big and strong your enemies are; you’ve got Immanuel! Saving Judah from Syria and Ephraim is no more impossible for God than bringing a baby out of a virgin’s womb. If God is with you, who can stand against you?

Jumping to Romans 1, Paul sets out the gospel that was promised through the prophets concerning the Son of God, who was descended from David according to the flesh, and proven to be the Son of God by rising from the dead. Jesus Davidson won a great victory for God’s people and sent Paul to spread the news in order to bring about the obedience of faith (v.5). Jesus came to be with humanity, and as a man, He defeated sin and gave His Spirit to men to enable them to rout sin as a defeated foe. Remember, the obedience of faith is where Ahaz lost interest. “I don’t want your sign, because then I’d have to obey.” But Paul is proclaiming that God sent Jesus anyway. The sign has come, descended from David according to the flesh, bringing salvation for His people.

Finally, listen to Matthew’s gospel. Matthew records the events that are the foundation for Paul’s preaching: why should you put your trust in Jesus, put away your fear, and walk in obedient faith? Because the birth of Jesus took place in this way… Joseph Davidson, like Ahaz, was afraid, although Joseph feared shame more than enemies. But God gave the same answer to his fears: God’s messenger reminded Joseph of God’s promise through the prophet Isaiah, and what’s more, the angel tells him that the promise was finding ultimate fulfilment in Mary’s virgin womb. And unlike Ahaz, Joseph responds to the sign with the obedience of faith. He takes Mary as his wife and names the virgin’s child Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

The virgin birth of Jesus Immanuel Davidson is the sign of God’s saving presence. This is God’s answer to the cries of His people from Psalm 80. It quiets our fears by proving that He is with us (Isaiah 7). It gives us the foundation for the gospel we celebrate in Romans, and it is the engine that drives our faith-filled obedience. Why do we obey? Because we have faith that Jehovah saves. What is this faith founded on? The fact that what God promised by the prophets came true through the womb of the virgin Mary in the birth of Jesus Davidson, the sign of Immanuel, as Matthew records.

The name Jesus Immanuel Davidson means that God keeps His covenant promises to raise up a shepherd/king to rescue us. Stop piously doubting God’s Word! It means that God is with you. Don’t fear Ephraim and Syria, or the shame of following Jesus! It means that Jehovah saves. So “rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel has come to thee, O Israel!” God’s Shepherd-king is with you to save you.

Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 by CJ Bowen