When the aged Simeon came to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, he saw a man and a woman dedicate their newborn son to God. There, in the presence of all the people, Simeon took the child in his arms and prayed: “Now, Lord, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon was one of the thousands of Israelites who were waiting for the consolation of Israel. According to the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Messiah (Luke 2:25-26).
The Messianic hope of the Old Testament is based on God’s covenant with David (1 Samuel 7:1-16). God’s unconditional covenant with David also provided a theological basis for Israel’s hope for the future. God said to David “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
The Hebrew word “Messiah” means “The Anointed One.” The Greek word for “Messiah” is “Christos.” The word Messiah is a title given to the descendants of David who ruled from Jerusalem. Since every one of David’s descendants fell short of the expectations of the ideal king, the hope for the ideal king, one who would lead the nation in righteousness, became the hope for the future.
God’s covenant with David assured him that his throne and his house would be established forever. However when the monarchy in Judah came to an end, God’s promise to David that his throne would be established forever became the promise for an ideal king who would come in the distant future.
The prophets of Israel speak of a descendant of David who would come in the distant future and reign in Israel as a righteous king.
Although the royal titles in Isaiah 9:6 are a reference to the enthronement of Hezekiah, Hezekiah never fulfilled the expectations the prophet had for his kingship. Thus, Isaiah’s language looks to a future king in whom all the ideals of kingship will be fulfilled.
The oracle in Isaiah 11:1-9 points to “a shoot” coming out from the stump of Jesse, and “a branch” growing out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1). This verse refers to the fallen monarchy and points to a descendant of David who will bring life to the house of David.
The promise of a new David is an affirmation of God’s covenant with David, that his throne and his dynasty would last forever. In pre-exilic time, Jeremiah announced the coming of a new David: “On that day, says the LORD of hosts, . . . [Israel] shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (Jeremiah 30:8-9).
During the exile, Ezekiel announced the coming of a new David: “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken” (Ezekiel 34:23-24).
The prophet Micah said that this descendant of David would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
The message that the angel proclaimed more than two thousand years ago, was the fulfillment of all the Messianic hope of Israel: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
What Simeon and thousands of other pious Israelites hoped for, the coming of the promised Messiah who would be the consolation of Israel and who would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), had been fulfilled with the birth of Christ.
Today, as we celebrate Christmas, we do so as heirs of the promise God made to David. The birth of Jesus Christ is “good news of great joy for all the people,” Jews and Gentiles.
As we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas. May this special day bring much joy and happiness to you and to those you love. As for me, I am fortunate to be associated with you, the readers of my blog. On this Christmas day I join you in celebrating the birth of the Messiah.
I take this opportunity to thank you for reading my posts. I also thank you for your words of affirmation throughout the past years. The greatest gift I have received from you this Christmas is your willingness to be faithful readers of my blog.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary