Anticipating Jesus in the Historical Books

Christ Pantocrator Deesis Mosaic, Hagia Sophia; accessed at Wikipedia

Advent Week 2: Anticipating Jesus in the Historical Books

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall 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. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-16

There are many passages in the Old Testament that anticipate the Messiah. Now this word, Messiah, means anointed king, and we see more anointed kings in the section of our English Bibles called The Writings. We have this sliver of hope with each king saying, ‘This is the one we are hoping for,’ and this sliver of hope dies out by the end of that king’s life. We could think of Saul: he was taller than others and Israel seems to have really liked him. He seemed humble; he tried to avoid his appointment by hiding in the baggage. He begins his rule by falling among the prophets and prophesying. In the end it is a sham. His falling among the prophets is his ultimate downfall. At the end of his life he, like Simon Magus, uses his supposed access to God to his condemnation when he uses the witch of Endor to conjure up Samuel from the dead. His prophetic gift became his condemnation and shame. We could go on through the list of kings, and see similar tales. Uzziah was a good king and ruled for 52 years! He built up the military of Israel but as he grew powerful, this strength led to his downfall. 2 Chronicles 26.1 says, ‘But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.’ He offered incense even though he wasn’t a priest. His arrogance led to his downfall. If ever there was hope for a redemptive Messiah, wouldn’t Uzziah be in the ranks? But no.

Perhaps the most hopeful of kings was Josiah. Many of the other kings worshiped God, but it seems that the book of Kings is careful to point out that they didn’t tear down the high places. They felt it would have been political suicide, and perhaps they thought it was the shrewd way: I’ll worship Yahweh, and the Israelites can choose whomever they want to serve. But Josiah tore down the high places and put away the mediums and necromancers. 2 Kings says, ‘Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.’ But it wasn’t enough. He died in battle against Egypt, and his life was tragically cut short. He only ruled 31 years, and his sons and grandson were the end of the Judahite kingdom. Babylon came and destroyed the nation and deported them to Babylon.

What is the point of telling the stories of these kings? The point is this: the first devotion in the series mentioned Genesis 49 which looked forward to deliverance coming through a king in the line of Judah. Of course Saul didn’t meet this test and even the kings with potential don’t cut it. Where is the fulfilment of hope? God promised King David that he would establish his throne forever, and in this there is a latent hope of redemption from the curse of God in the garden of Eden. When Josiah’s grandson, Jeconiah is deported to Babylon and then Jerusalem is destroyed, it seems like there is no hope for the perpetual rule of David’s line and there is no hope for the curse against Adam and Eve to be remedied.

When we come to the New Testament, the authors are quite clear that the remedy comes in Jesus. Jesus is called the Christ. For us regular readers of the New Testament, it might just seem like that is his last name. We don’t take in the importance of the name. Jesus’ name was Jesus bar-Joseph or something similar. No one talked about him like this: ‘O yeah, I know that Jesus Christ kid, he lives over on Tiberias street now-a-days in Capernaum.’ That would have been blasphemous. Christ was not a title or last name but a title of major importance given to anointed kings. Jesus is the Christ because he is the king who would rule forever and also the person through whom the curse of the garden would be remedied. In his death, the serpent bruised his heel, in his death and resurrection, he crushed the head of the serpent. In his death, resurrection, and ascension, he entrusts his messianic, kingly authority to his people as ambassadors to go and make disciples of all nations.

So now we see the fulfillment of the hope of a good, eternal king who won’t die haphazardly in a misguided military action against Egypt. Jesus Christ won’t wantonly offer incense improperly. Instead, because he is also a priest (in the line of Melchizedek), he rightly offers a sacrifice, a sacrifice of his own life. But he is not dead. He is alive and is sitting right now at the right hand of the father ruling the world and praying for us. In this King, Jesus, we put our hope and trust. May our trust in this Jesus be firm and unchangeable because his rule is forever.

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