Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Son of David, Part 2

This lesson for Sunday school uses three scripture to illustrate the idea that Jesus is the descendant of David and to emphasize why that was important to the Jews.

Psalm 89 is a prayer to God to uphold and protect David’s kingship.  Some of it might have been written during the period of kingship in Israel, but it reached its present form during the Babylonian exile.  So picture that for a moment – the people are in exile, feeling separated from God, lost and abandoned.  The author of this Psalm is praying that God remember his promises to David.

The Psalm starts out with praises to God – verse one says, “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; and with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.”  The word for steadfast love is hesed and it can also be translated as covenant loyalty.  So right at the beginning, the psalmist is reminding God “you are loyal, remember?”  These first verses recall God’s promises to David.

As we move through the Psalm, we hear the Psalmist declaring God’s long term faithfulness, even when God’s people are unfaithful.  I can imagine, as the people were in exile, feeling punished by God for their unfaithfulness, that they were trying to remind God  that God is faithful, even when they are not.

As we enter verse 19, the Psalmist is reflecting words of God, as heard in a vision to “your faithful one.”  Verses 34 says, "I (God) will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips."  Then we get to verses 35-37:
Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David.  His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun.  It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies.
In these verses, the Psalmist recounts God’s promise to David, and the metaphor is an agrarian one:   David’s seed (his line, in our translation) will last forever.  This word is zera, and it is found in other places that will enhance our understanding of this verse:

  1. In Genesis 1:29:  I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds (zera) and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds (zera) within it.
  2. In a later chapter of Genesis, the same word to describe plants that can reproduce is used to describe human reproduction and offspring:  Chapter 12:7:  The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I give this land to your decedents (zera),’ so Abram built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him.  It is through Abraham’s family that all the world would be blessed (blessed to be a blessing – blessing through service).

The promise that is recounted in Psalm 89 is not just that David’s family will live on, but that that promise of blessing will live on.  “God was up to something more grand than exalting one family over all other families.”  Perhaps the Psalmist is asking God to remember this expectation he has given to them.

If we fast forward just a moment into the New Testament, we see the idea of seed carried on again – when Mary visits Elizabeth, Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  (Luke 1:42).  The seed of the promise is bearing fruit.

In Psalm 89, those in exile are asking God to remember them and to remember his promise to them, even during a time when they feel abandoned and alone.  It is a lesson to us - to remember that God has promised to stay with us.

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