Summary: Fourth Sunday in Advent, this sermon sketches the Christmas solution to an ancient OT mystery: How God’s promise of an everlasting throne to David is kept after God also punishes David’s line with virtual childlessness.
The Mystery of the Childless King
Do you like murder mysteries? Do you like detective stories? I know that I do. And, evidently, so do a great many other people. Mysteries – whether they are about murders, or bank robberies, or political conspiracies – are exceedingly popular.
In today’s lectionary we have the beginning and the climax of the greatest mystery ever conceived. but, it is not a murder mystery. Compared with all the fictional mysteries you can find in the literature of dozens of nations, this mystery differs from them all in two respects. The mystery itself does not involve a murder, or any other crime. It involves a birth. And, secondly, this mystery is proclaimed by all its publishers as historical fact, not a literary fiction.
We see the beginnings of this mystery in the Old Testament lesson for today. The background to the reading we heard a short while ago is the establishment David as King over God’s people in Jerusalem. In gratitude for God’s blessing, David purposes in his heart to build a house for the Lord. He sees that he himself dwells in a palace, while the Ark of the Lord dwells in a tent. So, David wants to build a great temple in which the Ark of the Lord may rest.
However, God intervenes and sends David a message by His prophet Nathan. “… the LORD tells you that He will make you a house,” the Lord says to David. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. … My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”
This portion of Scripture is what Bible teachers and theologians call the Davidic Covenant. It is a unilateral promise from God that David’s throne will be established forever. Moreover, God promises that he will not abolish his promise to David and his descendants, as He did with wicked King Saul. Three times, God uses the word “forever” as regards David’s throne, David’s house, and David’s kingdom.
The psalm appointed for today is typical of many psalms found in the Old Testament Psalter, Psalms which are sometimes referred to as Davidic Psalms, not because David composed them, but because they refer to this promise God gave to King David. Psalm 132 is one of the Psalms of Ascent, a psalm that was sung by pilgrims who were going up to one of the three annual feasts in Jerusalem. In this psalm, there is a prayer, based on God’s promise to King David, and it begins in verse 10:
For Your servant David’s sake,
Do not turn away the face of Your anointed.
11 The LORD has sworn in truth to David;
He will not turn from it:
“I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.
12 If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I shall teach them,