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2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Our text from the Old Testament for Advent 4 is designed to draw a line between the kingdom of David and the kingdom of Jesus.  This line has been drawn for a number of theological reasons throughout history.  For one, it is something the Gospel writers, specifically Matthew, did in their explanation of Jesus.  It is also a way of understanding the Israel’s political situation in the early first and second centuries of the common era.  Additionally, it is one of the spaces where theologians and biblical scholars have looked for connection and consistency between the two parts of the Christian canon.  Specifically, in this text, we see why David is looked upon as one of the greatest kings in all of ancient Israel.  In the historiography of which 2 Samuel is a part, David is viewed as the king who is chosen to establish God’s kingdom and complete the covenant made with Israel in Deuteronomy and become a blessing to the nations.

In this significant text of David’s story, we are reminded of the covenant God made with David.  David’s ascension to the throne was not by his own might or intelligence, but by God’s power.  One of the things we might want to consider is how we conceive of power and our relationship to it.  Far too often it seems that people are attracted to what power offers: status, opportunity, and ability to achieve one’s agenda, without considering what power costs.  In our text, David is consistently reminded that he came from nowhere, he had little status, and his kingdom would only be established by God’s continued presence.  In fact, one of the important verbs in the text is the “to be” verb:  “I will be with you” which harkens to another Advent text, Isaiah 7:14, where a similar phrase “God with us” reminds a later Judean king that it is only because God is with God’s people that they have a chance of surviving the political power struggles of their times.   In our rough and tumble world of power struggles, perhaps what we can hear in this text is the good news that it is not striving for power that establishes us, but “I will be with you” that will enable God’s kingdom to be established in the way God desires.  Our role is to be open to the ways God seeks to employ us in that kingdom.

The author of Samuel also reminds us to consider that as David assumed the role of leader, he was directed to establish a kingdom of wellbeing.  This kingdom has two important facets.  First, God’s promised to help David establish a kingdom in which there will be rest from enemies.  Second, David would specifically establish a kingdom in which the “sons of injustice” will no longer have sway.  These two go hand in hand.  In the ancient world, removing enemies from the land meant that there would be space for the people of the kingdom to go about their daily life free from fear of ongoing raids from outside forces.  It also meant there would be stability in the monarchy because there would not be continued threats to the throne.  This rest would ensure that the people would be able to live out the covenant God had established with them in everyday ways.   Specifically, this ensured that justice, as outlined in the covenant, would prevail among the people of the kingdom and establish David’s kingdom as God’s kingdom of wellbeing that would bless the nations around it.

On this Sunday, we should also consider David’s inability to fully realize all the God desired for him.  The texts of Samuel and Kings relay a narrative for Israel that highlights both the ups and downs of the monarchy, especially that of David.  While David is acclaimed for much good, David’s monarchy is also associated with sexual immorality, murder, and civil war.  He was told that the sword would never leave his house because of his failed choices.  Ultimately, within two generations of his death the kingdom of Israel would split in two.  The history of Israel does not shy away from these clear failures and their consequences.  Thus, while David had great promise, he ultimately did not establish Israel’s kingdom as God had fully hoped.

As we think about connections between Jesus and David on this Christmas Eve we remember that Jesus came as a very different kind of king than David.  He came in a different kind relationship to power than David. Jesus established a kingdom that was not like the kingdoms of this world. Yet, Jesus is the one whose kingdom does bring about the wellbeing God desired David’s kingdom to bring in ancient Israel: rest and justice.  And Jesus’ kingdom is the one established forever.  As we preach this text this week,  one question we may need to ask ourselves is which kingdom do you live into do we really wish to live into: David’s or Jesus’?