Rev. Mark Buetow
"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. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men." 2 Samuel 7:12-14
When I was a kid, my parents used to read me bedtime stories from a Bible storybook. I heard the main stories about Adam and Eve and Noah and Moses and King David and Jesus, but I never understood how they fit together. What does David have to do with Jesus? I suspect if you ask most Christians, they're not sure either. But the fact is, the Old Testament is all about Jesus in a very important way. When Jesus was born, He was born in a particular time and place from a particular family line. When the eternal Son of God became man in the womb of Mary, He was choosing a particular woman from a particular family tree. That family tree, as it turns out, went all the way back to Abraham (according to Matthew's genealogy) and all the way to Adam (according to Luke's). And Jesus' family tree was traced through King David.
The birth of the Son of God on Christmas means that God the Father keeps His promises. And that's really what the Old Testament is all about. It begins with the promise of a Savior to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) and then it tells the story about how the Lord kept that promise by choosing a particular man, Abraham, and his family to be the family in which the Savior would eventually be born (Genesis 15). Seeing the connection between Jesus and these Old Testament saints helps us to understand how the Lord unfolded all these things to bring about the birth of Jesus to save the whole world—past and present—from sin.
Jesus is often called the "Son of David," a reference to the fact that He was born from King David's line. If you go back and read about David in 1 and 2 Samuel, you'll see that his life is one picture after another that points to Jesus. He was a shepherd boy. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He defeated Goliath the Philistine. Jesus defeated the devil, our giant enemy. David conquered the enemies of God's people and established the kingdom of Israel. Jesus defeats our enemies, sin, death, and the devil by His death and resurrection.
David also wanted to build a house for God. He built himself a nice palace and then decided the Lord shouldn't be living in a tent (the Tabernacle which was a movable tent) but in a nice house instead. But the Lord had better plans for David. He said, "No, you won't build me a house. But I'll build yours and it will last forever," (the words I referenced above). What the Lord meant was, "The Savior is going to come from your ‘house,' that is, your family. And that Savior will be an everlasting King."
King Solomon, David's son, did end up building a more permanent house for the Lord. It was a mighty temple in which the Lord Himself lived. Within that temple there was the Ark of the Covenant and all the sacrifices. That temple got torn down. When Israel returned from exile in Babylon, they rebuilt the temple. It wasn't quite as big and awesome as before. Later, that temple got torn down, too. A Gentile king named Herod rebuilt it again with loads of money, making it the most impressive temple yet. That's the temple that was there in Jesus' day. But remember what Jesus told them? "Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again." But He was talking about His body.
The Romans eventually destroyed the temple Herod built. And there has not been a temple ever since. But the Lord kept His promise. He kept His promise by sending His Son in the flesh. King David's family and the temple were pictures and foreshadowings of something greater: Jesus. Jesus the Good Shepherd. Jesus the King of Kings. Jesus the One greater than the Temple because He Himself IS the temple, the very bodily dwelling of God on earth (John 1:14).
David was from the town of Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was born there because that's where David was from (and so Joseph and Mary had to return to the town of their ancestors). But He was also born there because "Bethlehem" means "House of Bread" and Jesus is the Bread of Life.
The more we read and hear the Old Testament, the more the New Testament makes sense. The more we read and hear the New Testament, the more we see what the Old Testament is about. All of it is about Jesus. The Old Testament points to Him. The New Testament is the eyewitness testimony about Him and the preaching of repentance unto the forgiveness of sins in His Name. What at first seems like stories that aren't really connected, is really a complete and consistent message: God keeps His promises. He keeps those promises in Christ, through the family of real people—in this case King David's family.
As we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus, we are seeing God keeping His promises. He kept His promises to David and Israel. He keeps His promises to you. The promise is that you have a Savior, born in the City of David, to be One even greater than David and the temple—to be the King of Kings and God-in-the-flesh, all so that you and I are now made a part of that family of God, too. David wanted to build God a house. But the Lord built a house for David and you and me—an eternal dwelling whose cornerstone is Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!
Rev. Mark Buetow is pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in DuQuoin, Illinois and serves as the deputy and media services executive for Higher Things. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.