Today marks the beginning of the Advent season. In light of that I have been reading over scripture which foretells the coming of the Messiah. I start with the word of the Lord through Nathan the prophet:
8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; 15 but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
(2 Samuel 7:8-17)
There are several things of note in this passage. The first deals with the promise that the people of Israel will not be disturbed. We of course know that much of Israel was later disturbed- whether carried off into Assyria or Babylon many were displaced. The whole region was in fact never truly settled afterwards. There was perhaps a small period during the Maccabean revolt, but that is it. In fact it is unsettled even to this day.
All of which leads me to two possibilities: that time has not yet come, or that the “place” mentioned here for the people Israel is not the area of land we know as “Israel.” The first would perhaps be the traditional Jewish interpretation. Certainly it would seem to have been the understanding of the Jews during the time of Jesus. However, I think, based especially on what Jesus tells us in the New Testament, that God here was speaking of the age to come. The age when we would see a new heaven and new earth. This the prophet Isaiah speaks centuries later:
17 “For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth;
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,
and her people a joy.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the child shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;[c]
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their children with them.
24 Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.”
Such a time has not yet come. It will not come until the end of the age, the Day of Judgement. Isaiah spoke of it, and John the Evangelist was granted a vision of it towards the end of his life:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; 3 and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life. 7 He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Notice the symmetry there? To both David and John we have reference to a son of God. For that son will inherit, and will be a conqueror, like his father David. Yet he will also be the son of God, and call God (and not simply David) his father. The promise to David is still in awaiting final fulfillment. It is for this day that we, all of us, await. This, ultimately, is the purpose of the Advent season- to prepare us for the coming of the Lord.