Christ Came From the House of David

Introduction

Another Christmas season is here in America and the focus of it is already the same as usual. Black Friday touched the season off with its Christmas bargains and the throngs of wild-eyed shoppers that lined up to get them. We are told on the news that this is a good thing for the economy, for the stores look to this season to make the bulk of their yearly sales in it. Whether they manage to do this or not has nothing to do with the reason for Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be a time of remembrance of the birthday of the most important person in history ever to be born, Jesus of Nazareth. How the gift of a Savior to the world from the God who made it turned into a season filled with crass materialism, I’ll never know. Wasn’t Christmas supposed to be a religious holiday, or so we have been told for generations?

Actually, the idea of celebrating the birthday of Jesus on a particular day of the year is not even commanded in Scripture. I defy anyone to show me where it is in Scripture, and what day it is supposed to be. Christmas as a high holy day is Catholic in origin and not Protestant. Even so, Protestants have managed to import it into their regular church observances too. It is quite understandable though. After all, the birth of Jesus Christ is recorded in Scripture and no one can argue the importance of this event for the world. The Son of God taking our nature upon Himself and entering this world through the virgin birth is nothing less than astounding. Truly, no greater words have ever been spoken than “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).

That not withstanding, Christmas is a human invention and not a biblical day to be observed once a year. The only high holy day that Christians are commanded to observe is the Sabbath day which occurs one day in seven. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20:8). If Christmas is not a holiday commanded in Scripture, but merely a human invention, should anyone be surprised then that it has become nothing but a holiday of materialism? Retailers salivate at the thought of their profits going up. People love to go out and spend money they don’t have to buy the good opinion of their family and friends. It is a rather fitting situation isn’t it? Spending money on someone has become the way that you show your love for someone, and so Christmas has become the cultural context for this to be done. As America has become less and less observant of religious duty, it has at the same time turned more toward materialism. Christmas originally centered on the advent of Christ as the Savior of the world. Now, it is nothing more than an idol to be worshiped.

The meaning of Christmas as a cultural holiday can only be regarded as a form of cultural redemption. This is why people fight over such things as manger scenes in the public square. As far as the issue of the separation of church and state goes, those who contend for manger scenes on public property are essentially asking for an exclusive endorsement from the state for their brand of religion. This is asserted because universality is always claimed for cultural Christianity. Often this is the desired position of those who claim it in reference to the manger scene. That it should be in exclusion of all other brands of religious expression. From the perspective of freedom in a society which holds to a first amendment right of speech, everyone’s idol belongs in the square together. This is fitting too, because cultural religion is always syncretistic in nature.

But all of that being said, let us move to the issue at hand in all of this. We have said that a cultural Christmas has a cultural redemption as expressed in the events surrounding the image that a manger scene conjures up in the mind. This brings us to the very reason that Christmas is not a holiday commanded by the Lord. The birth of Jesus Christ, ie, the entrance of the Son of God into this world, is only one aspect of a much larger theological picture concerning redemption.

Easter has been made a religious holiday too, which purports to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. This too, is only one aspect of redemption concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. What about the death of Christ, why do we have no holiday for this? After all, the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the central theme of salvation, the very ground of redemption and purpose of the New Covenant (Eph. 1:7; Matt. 26:28). You might very well say then, isn’t that included in the Easter celebration? Some Protestants try to tie this together with Easter in having Maundy Thursday services, but all in all Easter as a holiday is primarily concerned with resurrection Sunday. And once again, this is nowhere commanded in Scripture nor do we know the day this actually took place on. The Sabbath which is commanded by God is on the first day of the week as can be determined by Scripture (Matt. 28:1). The Greek word that the English translators rendered “First day” in this and the parallel passages, is “Sabbaton,” the word they render Sabbath as well. In other words, the passage states two different Sabbaths in Greek, one that is Jewish on Saturday and one that are Christian on Sunday. Two different English words were used by the translators to distinguish two different days of the same name. Since the first day of the week is resurrection day, and is commanded as a perpetual Sabbath observance, why do we need a yearly holiday for this?

The answer to the question is the same as Christmas. It is merely a cultural thing. So what is it about Christmas that the culture loves? Certainly it is not Jesus Christ as God and Savior, for then they would all be Christians. As it now stands, the Christmas season will see a larger number of people that will attend a church service one or more times, then when it is over they are gone. In the providence of God that may be a good thing for what it is worth. These “seasonal” Christians at least hear the gospel once a year if it is faithfully proclaimed in whatever context they gravitate toward.

What makes Christmas the popular cultural holiday that it is has to do with the babe in the manger. Everyone loves a baby don’t they? There is nothing more sentimentally endearing to the heart of a person than the sight of the baby in that manger scene, poor, yet, loved and cared for. To the world a new born child represents its future, its hope, its reason to exist, a name for itself in history (Gen. 11:4). There is nothing more religious in value than this to the world. But as we have said, the birth of Jesus represents only one aspect of the gospel message, which brings us to the last reason for which Christmas is made a holiday. This reason is contained in the message proclaimed by the angels, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13,14). Everyone loves the prospect of peace on earth. Couple this sentiment with the statement that God is disposed toward mankind in a goodly way and we have the perfect prescription for the holiday we call Christmas. This is what the babe in the manger means to western culture.

The Christ of Scripture is a Son of Promise

We must look to Scripture if we are to view Jesus in the incarnation and virgin birth aright. That babe in Bethlehem of which the Christmas holiday purports to celebrate is none other than God, the eternal Deity known as the Son of God, who took on our nature and entered this world. The moment we use the word “son” the idea which comes to mind is that of a human child, the product of a union between a man and a woman. This is not what the word “son” conveys in the Bible concerning Jesus. The Son of God is not the product of physical union, but rather the living reality of eternal generation within the Godhead. The Psalmist gives us a glimpse into the council of the eternal Godhead with this statement, “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘ You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” (Ps. 2:7). The Son of God which is Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father. In this case the word “Son” means one who has come forth from God. The Son of God who is the second person of the triune Godhead, has eternally come forth from the Father who is the first. The babe in the manger had a beginning in terms of its humanity, but not in terms of whom it is that was born.

The Scripture anticipated the coming of a Messiah into this world as a child from the very beginning of time when mankind, our parents both Adam and Eve, fell from fellowship with God in the Garden through sin (Gen. 3:1-14). It was Eve who was tempted first and deceived by the serpent, but not so with Adam, he followed suit with his wife in her sin making it his own. A promise of salvation was given to them by God in the form of a Savior who would be born of the women (verse 15). This Seed God promised the woman was to come from her through child birth and crush the head of the serpent who had tempted her to sin. Of course, it is not hard to imagine that Eve thought that the promise of this son would be fulfilled in the very near future to her circumstance, but it was not to be. From the moment that this promise was uttered to Eve, and following her descendants in every generation, they looked for the coming of this child. In every generation every woman of faith hoped that they would be the one chosen of God to be the mother of the Messiah. And from the moment that the promise was given, a countdown had begun which anticipated its fulfillment, one which ended at the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.

The person of this Messiah, or, Savior, would eventually find its identity in a fuller sense in the family of Abraham with the promise of a special son. To him, many children would be born in a land God gave to them. Not only would the family of Abraham be blessed through this promised son, but the entire world would as well, each and every family or nation (Gen. 12:1-3; Gal. 3:16). In order to emphasize the nature of this promise that it was of miraculous origin, God gave the promise of children to Abraham and his wife in their old age (Gen. 18:10-14). But it was not this son, nor his son’s son that was in view to be that one special child, the Redeemer. God did indeed make Abraham a mighty nation comprising a multitude of his descendants. And God directed this nation called Israel among the nations in preparation for this promised son, the Messiah.

As we said, every godly woman who looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, hoped and prayed that it would be their son that would fulfill the promise, that they would have the privilege of being the bearer of this child. As part of this preparatory process the Lord brought other children to some of these women, who, though not being the Child itself, yet, typified in their person the One who was to come. One such child was born to a woman named Hannah in the early stages of Israel’s history. This woman had been childless too, just like Abraham’s wife Sarah. She pleaded to the Lord in prayer, asking that He would give her a son. The Lord was pleased to do so and she dedicated him to the service of the tabernacle, showing her desire in prayer for this son was consistent with the promise (I Sam 1ff).

Hannah’s prayer of thankfulness and dedication to the Lord concerning His answer to her is most revealing about the Messiah.“And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the LORD; The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed. “Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.” (I Sam. 2:1,10).

The Messiah would be not only a Redeemer but a judge and a king, “The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.” As yet however, there had been no king in Israel, but the Messiah to come would fill that role abundantly. This was the hope of all godly people within Israel.

Now Hannah’s son though not the Messiah, still played an important role in Israel regarding Him. Hannah’s son Samuel became the priest of the tabernacle replacing Eli and his wicked sons (I Sam. 2:12,34,35). Samuel also became a judge and a prophet as well as a priest, typifying the role of Messiah, by the exercise of the three functions of Prophet, Priest, and King (I Sam. 7:15-17; 3:19-21). The true office of a king however, does not find its fullness in a mere judge of the affairs of the people, something more than that is needed and signified in the meaning of the word. A king is a moral and spiritual leader of a nation. A king more or less embodies the character, the culture, the hopes and aspirations of the nation he heads. A king is responsible for the welfare of a nation, its prosperity, its discipline, and its protection. Moreover, a nation needs and wants such a leader as this that it can look too in fulfillment of these things.

A king is also someone that God raises up and appoints to the position. This is generally a son who hails from the nation he becomes the ruler of. In the course of its history, Israel too, was destined to have its own king, from one of its own sons appointed by God. But before the king of Gods choosing came to Israel, another one arose in it who had the distinction of being Israel’s first monarch. This was king Saul, a worldly man who was most appealing to the people and yet, one who fell far short of the ideal embodied in a king after God’s own heart. And so it goes with sinners in the world. People claim the right to choose their own leaders democratically. When they get the opportunity to do so, it is usually one that is styled after them and what they are, rather than one who is above them in character.

After the dismal failure of Saul, Samuel was tasked by the Lord to preside over the calling and anointing of Israel’s next monarch, king David. David, unlike Saul, was a man of God’s own choosing. “Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (I Sam. 16:1). The first clue to Israel that Saul was not really their true king, should have been in his lineage as a son of Benjamin (I Sam . 9:1,2). There was no promise given to the tribe of Benjamin concerning a son who would be the Messiah, the Seed of the woman. It was the tribe of Judah that had this distinction, for Jacob prophesied of this on his deathbed to his sons (Gen. 49:8-10). The scepter Jacob spoke of represented God’s rule among His people. The physical sons of Judah were to hold this scepter in their midst until the Messiah appeared, then He would take hold of it from there.

King David was the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah. And it was from David’s family that the Messiah would come. Isaiah prophesied about this saying, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Is. 11:1). This “Branch” Isaiah referred to is the Messiah, and it is from Him that the entire spiritual tree that comprises God’s kingdom comes from.

David’s future son would sit upon his throne (II Sam 7:12-16). God said “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever; And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (verses 13,16). The word “forever” tells us there is something about this promise of a kingdom that goes far beyond David’s immediate son. There was certainly an earthly component to the promise, but the true nature of its fulfillment is something eternal, not temporal.

The son of David would be a king with a permanent rule over God’s kingdom which extends far beyond the borders of ancient Israel. Remember, the promise to Abraham of a special son, included a blessing not only to his immediate family, but to “all the families of the earth” as well (Gen. 12:3). So we understand the “Shiloh” of Jacob’s prophecy to mean the Savior and King of God’s people throughout the entire world.

Isaiah gave further indication of the eternal and universal nature of this reign when he said in another place, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. The significance of the child is in who He is, the son of God incarnate. It is none other than God Himself who was to come and assume the place of King upon the eternal throne of David.

We understand from Scripture that this did not happen immediately. Many kings were born to David over many years. Eventually, the kingdom of Israel was overthrown by neighboring powers. In fact, several large empires came and went over a period of several hundred years following these promises. Israel became nothing but an ethnic district within these empires. But none of this overthrew the purpose of God. He is the One who gave the promise, and He is the One who fulfills it. When Israel had been destroyed and many of its people captive to a foreign land, God gave these words to the prophet Daniel“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44).

God sets this kingdom up in it’s midst; God’s own King is the Ruler over all other kings on earth (Rev. 1:5). Daniel spoke of the permanence and scope of this new kingdom too, saying “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:14).

The Christ of Scripture is a King

The birth of Jesus of Nazareth was announced to Mary by the angel as the son of David.

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33).

Joseph and Mary were both from the house of David. This accounts for two different genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus derived His family heritage from Joseph, and His humanity from Mary. But Jesus was much more than simply an ordinary man, being “called the Son of the Highest.” Jesus did not enter this world by ordinary means, but through a most extraordinary circumstance announced by the angel, for Mary was to give birth to Him, though still a virgin.

“Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man? “And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34,35).

God the Spirit entered Mary’s womb, conceiving a child having the nature of God and the nature of man, unmixed, yet one person. Of course, the great hymns of the Christian church make this fact known, that it was God who was born of Mary.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King. “Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold him come, Offspring of the Virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

This hymn by Charles Wesley and many more like it by others conveys the theology of this glorious truth surrounding the incarnation and virgin birth of Jesus Christ. There was a time when caroling was a popular thing to do at this time of year, but it like so many other things has fallen into disuse in our culture. And it is easy to see why this has happened, when we see the emphasis of the season tilted toward materialism. These hymns that extol the Son of God used to remind people who had but a minimal attachment to Christianity that the birth of Jesus Christ was all about God, concerning the gospel and what it says about sin and salvation.

The public has never cared for such things because it makes them think about their own relationship, or lack thereof, to God. Being reminded once a year of these things with the expectation that they attend a place of worship, is torture to a sinner who is dead in their sin. What better way is there to shut out this painful experience from their thought, than to replace it with an idol?

The significance of the babe in the manger is that God assumed our humanity, and in doing so He identified with us in our nature; God’s glorious attributes became enshrined in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Scripture tells us that the appearance of the Son of God on earth is nothing less than God dwelling with man on earth (John 1:14). Those glorious attributes of God in Christ were displayed in His humanity revealing to the world His Deity. The Son of God became man in order to glorify God while in His humanity. He did this in keeping God’s law which man broke in the weakness of human flesh (Rom. 8:3,4; Heb. 10:5-7).

But Jesus also came to save His people from their sins by dying for them (Matt. 1:21). God is glorified in the death of Jesus because it is the vindication of His broken law and justice. Following His resurrection from the grave, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven where He currently reigns as Lord over the earth and its inhabitants. The apostles preached the resurrected, glorified Jesus as the son of David, who sits upon his eternal throne.

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘ The LORD said to my Lord, ” Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:29-36).

Christmas focuses the attention of a vast majority of people in the world upon that sweet babe lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth. The fact of the matter, is that Jesus is not only the King that sits upon David’s throne, but He is also the judge of the earth, for He will return some day to judge it. Therefore, we are told by the apostle Paul what God would have us think about the story of the birth of Jesus into the world two thousand years ago.

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31).

The unbelieving world cannot look forward to that day, so they must obscure the meaning of Christmas by turning it into nothing more than sickly sentimentalism. They replace the story of the advent of Christ announced by angels with stories of Santa Clause with elves. The gift of God to a sinful world is transformed into material gifts traded on the particular day chosen to commemorate this event.

But for those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Christ this day means something else. No one knows what day, nor even exactly what year Jesus was born. If it was something necessary to faith, God would have provided it. What we do know is the fact of its occurrence in history. We know this from Scripture which is the only ground of true saving faith. We know from Scripture that God assumed our flesh that He might know us in it that He might know our trials, our weaknesses, our troubles, something that could not be done without the incarnation.

“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:25,26).

And finally, Charles Wesley called Jesus “our Emmanuel” in his hymn, which translated from Hebrew means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Not only is God with us in the sense of sharing our humanity, but with us through His Spirit sent into the world in and among His people. The incarnation of Christ was predicted long before making this event not only a fulfilled prophecy, but a certification by God of everything predicted and intended by Him in Scripture.

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