Thursday, December 30, 2010

David, Son of God

"Jesus is the Messiah, [that is,] the Son of God" (John 20:31). As I argued in my previous post, Son of God and Messiah were somewhat interchangeable titles; or at least they were understood to be synonymous for the person God would send to be King over Israel and the whole world and bring Israel's final glory.

Properly understood, the title Messiah (Christ) means "anointed one." To anoint someone with oil in Hebrew culture was to ceremonially set him apart for a special role. While there were many occassions for anointing someone with oil, in the OT there were three particular roles into which someone was baptized by an anointing rite: prophet (Isa. 61:1), priest (Exod. 28:41; 30:30; Lev. 16:32), and king (1 Sam. 9:16; 15:1; 2 Sam. 2:4; 1 Kings 1:34). The majority of OT references to an anointed person, though, refer to King David and his successors on the throne of Israel (or Judah, during the divided kingdom). Thus when the nations hate God's law and rage against his "anointed one," God derides them and proclaims the truth: "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill" (Ps. 2:1-6). This king is referred to as God's "son," and upon the day of his coronation, God becomes his "father" (2:7, 12). (Some translations of Psalm 2:12 say that God has "begotten" the king.) In John 5:19-30, Jesus is even explicitly revealed as the Son entrusted by the Father with all judgment, wielding his Father's scepter. There is an intimate connection between divine sonship and regency.

This motif is echoed elsewhere in the Psalms. Psalm 89, which implores God on that basis of his covenant made to David (see 2 Sam. 7), records God as saying, "I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him . . . He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.' I will also appoint him [as] my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth" (vv. 20, 26-27). It is through the just and righteous reign of God's anointed "son" that God rules his people Israel and subdues the nations (vv. 22-29; cf. 2:8-12; 72; 110; Gen. 49:10). Yet when Israel backslid into the spiritual adultery of idolatry and apostasy and was carried into exile by godless foreign nations, it was made clear that no such exalted king had yet come. The truly righteous King of the house of David awaited a future era for the people of God (see Jer. 23:1-8).

So by saying that Jesus is the Son of God, the Bible is saying that Jesus is the definitive answer to Israel's hope for a king who would save them through his wise and just reign. He ist the ruler who would usher in an era of unparalleled peace and prosperity for God's people--and destruction for those outside of God's kingdom. In Jesus, the promised shepherd-deliverer had come (Ezek. 34). This is good news for those who will gladly and willingly submit to him, but terror for those who refuse him in this life. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not have eternal life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36; see the parallels with Psalm 2).

No comments: