Isaiah 16:4–5 The Nativity of Our Lord—Christmas Day (Series: Await God’s Future)
“The Righteous King on David’s Throne”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 25, 2020
Our text is from the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 16:4-5:
“Let my outcasts sojourn in you [O Jerusalem]. Even Moab—become a hiding-place for them from before the devastator. When the oppressor will have ceased, (when) devastation will have ended,
(when) they will be finished from the earth, namely, everyone who tramples others, then will be established a throne with steadfast love, and One will sit enthroned upon it in David’s tent with trustworthiness, a Judge and Seeker of justice and One very swift at righteousness.”
Today is Christmas! What a glorious day of celebration. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the fulfillment! But the fulfillment of what? The fulfillment of every human wish? The fulfillment of every utopian dream? Over the years people have treated Jesus like clay, shaping him into their own image, as the answer to their own self-determined needs and desires.
Just think of all the images put on Jesus. Is Jesus the teacher of liberal morals? That was the view of Thomas Jefferson. In terms of politics Jefferson was very bright. But in terms of theology he was a heretic. He created his own Bible and snipped out of it Good Friday and Easter. Or is Jesus a hippie? Is Jesus the Hindu sage? Is Jesus the Nazi who promoted the supremacy of the Aryan race? Is Jesus the Marxist revolutionary who will help people overthrow the government and establish communism? Is Jesus the greatest therapist who will help people get in touch with their inner psyche? Is Jesus the greatest businessman who will help people succeed in the business world? Is Jesus the Hollywood superstar? And the list goes on and on and on.
Who is Jesus of Nazareth? He is the fulfillment. The fulfillment of what? Not the fulfillment of what we concoct in our own imagination, but the fulfillment of Moses and the Prophets. He is the mediator of the new and greater covenant. He is the new and greater high priest after the order of Melchizedek. He is the all-sufficient atoning sacrifice. He is the new and greater Temple. He is the new and greater prophet. He is the fulfillment of the BC Scriptures.
And Jesus of Nazareth whose birth we celebrate today is the new and greater Davidic King. He is the King promised by the prophet Isaiah 2700 years ago in Jerusalem. In order to understand Jesus of Nazareth and what he came to do we need to study the BC Scriptures. The BC Scriptures reveal what he came to fulfill. They give us his job description. The prophet Isaiah announced in several places that there would come a new and greater Davidic King, a new King David. And today we celebrate the birth of the new and greater Davidic King.
But you protest. We’re Americans. We don’t need a king, and we don’t want a king! Our standard is “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Yes, in terms of this-worldly politics that is the best system. But before God you need a king, a righteous king. Ancient Israel discovered this during the time of the judges, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, not in the eyes of God. They needed a king to lead them in God’s ways. Their BC kings never lived up to this standard, but Isaiah promised that one day Israel would be given just such a king. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment given by God himself. Jesus is “the Christ.” The word “Christ” is not a name. It is a Greek word meaning “Anointed One.” It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means in Hebrew “Anointed One.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed King, promised by Moses and the Prophets.
In several passages Isaiah made this promise. Our text comes from chapter 16. Moabite refugees were fleeing the devastation experienced by the land of Moab. They sought refuge in Jerusalem, the BC Zion. God then told Jerusalem to receive them and give them shelter. Even though they were Gentiles, the God of ancient Israel considered them his own.
“Let my outcasts sojourn in you [O Jerusalem].
Even Moab—become a hiding-place for them from before the devastator.
When the oppressor will have ceased,
(when) devastation will have ended,
(when) they will be finished from the earth, namely, everyone who tramples others,
then will be established a throne with steadfast love,
and One will sit enthroned upon it in David’s tent with trustworthiness,
a Judge and Seeker of justice
and One very swift at righteousness” (16:4–5).
Through his prophet Isaiah, God promised that the day will come when every wicked oppressor and every form of devastation will come to an end. When that happens there will be a new king from the line of David, and he will sit enthroned upon David’s throne. That throne will be established by God’s steadfast love and trustworthiness to remain forever. And the king will rule with steadfast love and trustworthiness. The future promised king will rule with righteousness. And both Israel and Gentiles will enjoy the blessings of his righteous rule. Therefore at the time of Isaiah God exhorted Jerusalem to shelter Gentiles already then, in anticipation of the day when oppression will come to an end and the future Messiah will rule on David’s throne.
Isaiah gave a similar promise in chapters 9 and 11. We read in Isaiah 9 these well-known verses, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Is. 9:6–7 ESV). There will come a righteous king who will sit enthroned upon David’s throne, establishing peace and ruling with righteousness. He will not be like the corrupt kings of ancient Israel’s past, or the corrupt kings of the ancient Near East. Ancient Israel had seen their share of those kinds of kings. Every generation since has suffered under such rulers, self-inflating and self-exalting and self-enriching and self-glorifying, who constantly victimize others and seek their own coercive power. This future king promised by Isaiah will not be just another corrupt and oppressive king of the world. This future king will rule in righteousness, in steadfast love, and trustworthiness. To live under him in his kingdom will be a blessing and joy.
Isaiah promised that the future messianic king will sit enthroned on David’s throne. The angel Gabriel declared the same thing to the Virgin Mary, as recorded in Luke 1:32–33: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to 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.”
Jesus of Nazareth did sit on the throne of David, but it took the shape of a cross. Above him was written “King of the Jews.” By dying on a Roman cross Jesus was ruling, not ruling like a Caesar or king of this world but ruling over sin itself and conquering it for Israel and for all Gentiles. He was bodily raised from the dead on the third day as the ruling Victor over death itself. He was exalted to the right hand of God. David’s throne has been exalted with him to God’s right hand. And now for 2000 years Jesus of Nazareth has been ruling on David’s exalted throne, ruling over all authorities and powers and rulers, both seen and unseen. He rules as the new and greater Davidic King, promised by Isaiah the ancient prophet. He rules to the benefit of his Church, to your benefit. Through Holy Baptism his Spirit brought you under his blessed rule. Jesus of Nazareth is now your King and your Lord, and that means eternal life with him in his kingdom with his Father and Spirit. Through the Gospel and the Lord’s Supper he continues to exercise his saving rule. You are not autonomous, and it’s a good thing. You have the blessing of living under the saving rule of Israel’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. And the rule of this new and greater Davidic King will never come to an end. Even the last chapter of the Bible reminds us of this truth, when the exalted Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16).
Isaiah promised that the future messianic king would rule in righteousness. Jesus has fulfilled that promise in a superlative way. He did that by becoming God’s righteous servant as promised in Isaiah 53. God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. In 53:11 God says, “The righteous one, my servant will make the multitudes accounted righteous.” Jesus the righteous king and servant took your sins upon himself and gave you his righteousness. He rules with righteousness in a superlative and surprising way by giving sinners his righteousness in order to make them the citizens of his kingdom. He rules in righteousness by giving you his righteousness. You now stand righteous before his God and his Father.
Today we celebrate the birth of the messianic king of Israel. He rules on David’s throne with righteousness. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of Moses and the Prophets. He is the king promised by Isaiah, the mighty seer of old. That means good news for you and me. Rejoice! Jesus, Israel’s messianic king has been born, the righteous king who sits enthroned on David’s throne. He rules now and will come again in visible glory. Then will come to an end every oppressive rule of this age. Then the promise of Isaiah will reach its future consummation. Glory be to the Christ who rules now and forever. Amen.