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It’s too early to think about Christmas

When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them (1) like the morning light, (2) like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, (3) like rain that makes grass sprout from the earth.     2 Samuel 23: 3-4

 

The single sentence above was written around 970 BC. It’s included in a book known as the Second Book of Samuel preserved by the family and nation of Israel, the Jews, as part of their national archives.

 

The man whom God chose as the patriarch of the family was Abraham (around 2000 BC). All Jews regard Abraham as their ultimate “father”. Move forward a thousand years and they have a King – King David – ruling over Israel from Jerusalem. This David wrote the above sentence around 970 BC as his epitaph, his last words.

 

He was looking forward to Christmas. “Christmas is coming” is the burden of the epitaph that is David’s last words. How early can you start thinking about Christmas in Jersey these days? As much as 970 years beforehand?

 

But the words above don’t mention “Christmas”! Please explain.

 

The Jewish archives (in the same book – 2 Samuel – in chapter 7) record that King David, towards the beginning of his reign (around 1000 BC) was living in a palace of cedar and wanted to build a house for Almighty God, the God of the family/nation of Israel.

 

Through another prophet (Nathan) David was thanked by Almighty God for having that thought. Nathan said to him, “Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

 

Interesting, isn’t it, this play on the word “house”. God was promising King David the sort of “house” that we think about when we say, of our present Queen, that she belongs to the house of Windsor. Yes, David was to have a house and it would last for ever and ever and ever. “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me. Your throne shall be established for ever.”

 

Thirty years later, as David nears the end of his life, he solemnly declares that the words in bold above are to be his epitaph, his last words.

 

David has an amazing reign. He ruled in justice and his kingdom became highly successful. The name of his son – King Solomon – has become a by-word for a wealthy king. But David was an adulterer and he arranged the murder of the husband whose wife he took to himself. With amazing grace, the LORD forgave David and David wrote two of his many songs to praise the LORD for that forgiveness.

 

That’s why the words of David’s chosen epitaph cannot really refer to him as the “one rules justly over men...” They must refer to someone better than David – to someone from David’s house – who, much later, will “rule justly over men, ruling in the fear of God.”

 

David was looking forward to Christmas. Two of the biographies of Jesus of Bethlehem (those by Mathew the tax comptroller and Luke the physician) contain genealogies that trace Jesus’ family line back to David.....

 

But what’s this about “dawning on men and women”?When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like....”

 

Hamid Karzai today is a good example. He rules by vote rigging and he fears his exceedingly wealthy (but dishonest) brother and companions. What then “dawns” on men and women in Afghanistan is not (1) like the morning light, (2) like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, (3) like rain that makes grass sprout from the earth.” No.

 

One man in AD 32 or thereabouts experienced the just rule of Jesus of Bethlehem, Son of David. A blind beggar with no name (called simply the son of Timaeus) called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

 

King David’s son dawned on him for whom every morning had been dawning in total blackness - and he then followed this Son of David who was, to him, like the “sun shining forth on a cloudless morning”. For ever.

 
‘Godly fear shrinks from sin, worldly fear from punishment; the one influences our thoughts, the other only our actions.’ (Michael Ayguan, Bible teacher, 1340-1416)
 
‘As he that fears God fears nothing else, so, he that sees God sees nothing else.’ (John Donne, English poet, 1572-1631)
 
Richard Syvret

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