About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

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The First Noel


Every Christmas we sing or hear being sung "The First Noel".  My favourite line from that song is "born is the King of Israel."  Here's how I understand these words.  


Part of what the angel Gabriel told Mary is as follows.  "The Lord God will give Him (Jesus) the throne of His father David.  He will reign over the House of Jacob (Israel) forever (Luke 1:31 - 33 HCSB).  Although it's not known for sure, the words "born is the King of Israel" might be inspired by this passage of Scripture.


Gabriel said that David was Jesus' father.  How is that so when God is Jesus' father and when Joseph was His adopted earthly father?  In Hebrew culture a grandfather, great grandfather, great great grandfather, and so on, were considered to be one's father.  In this respect David was the father of Jesus.  


Gabriel also told Mary that Jesus would
rule over Israel forever.  2 Samuel 7:12 and
13 predicted this very thing.  "When your time
(David's time) comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendent, who will come from your body, and will establish His kingdom.  He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever (HCSB). 


In theological terms, God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 is called the Davidic Covenant.  It's one of those prophecies that have a duel fulfillment.  It was first fulfilled in David's son Solomon but since elements of this prophecy have eternal implications we understand its ultimate fulfillment to be found in Jesus.  Solomon was David's son, but according to Hebrew culture Jesus was also David's son.  Like Solomon, Jesus was born in the lineage of David, thus fulfilling the second fulfillment of this prophecy.     


When David heard this promise he was the king of the great nation of Israel.  It was probably easy for him to understand how this promise would be realized in his son Solomon.  When Mary heard the same promise Israel was not a nation.  Many Jews lived in the Roman province of Judea where Jews had limited governmental autonomy.  Since Israel was not a nation for Jesus to rule, Mary would have understood this promise to be another Messianic prophecy predicting the restoration of the nation of Israel to its former glory that her son would rule forever.      


Israel never did become a nation in Mary's lifetime.  Jesus never did restore Israel to its former glory.  Jesus never did rule as Israel's earthly king.  The hope of Israel's return to nationhood died in the hearts of many Jews with the execution of Jesus.  This hope was buried when Roman soldiers destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.  It seemed buried for good when Emperor Hadrian drove Jews from Judea and renamed their Jewish province Palestine in 135 AD.  The name "Palestine" was associated with the name "Philistine", the lifelong enemy of Israel.  This name change was a slap in every Jew's face.  This and more pushed God's promise to David and Mary into the future.   


If the rebirth of Israel in 1948 means anything to this issue, which I believe it does, the realization of the promise made to David and Mary could be around a few prophetic corners.  So, when we sing "born is the King of Israel" we're not only singing about Jesus' birth into humanity, we are singing about His physical return to a restored nation of Israel where He will sit on David's throne forever.  Israel will finally fulfill its original calling to be the priest of God to the nations (Exodus 19:6 - Isaiah 49:6).  This is my understanding of the phrase "born is the King of Israel."


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