Worth the Wait: Advent Scriptures and Devotion for December 15

          Our preparations are moving forward as we reach the Third Sunday in Advent. During these days of study, we read many prophecies about the coming of the Promised One. The authentic Messiah (Anointed One) would necessarily have to fulfill every one of them. To this point, our studies of prophetic passages concerning the Messiah have revealed that Jesus is indeed the Promised One. In our readings for today, we will add to our findings. Look for a kingly covenant connection in the passages below.

Genesis 49:1-2, 8-10

          Then Jacob called for his sons and said: ‚ÄúGather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. ‚ÄúAssemble and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel. ‚ÄúJudah,your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father‚Äôs sons will bow down to you. You are a lion‚Äôs cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness‚Äîwho dares to rouse him? 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler‚Äôs staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongsshall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

          Genesis 49 offers us a very early glimpse of what will transpire once the Children of Israel arrive in the Promised Land. Verse one sets the stage. ‚ÄúThen Jacob called for his sons and said: ‚ÄòGather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.‚Äô‚Äù Jacob‚Äôs place within the timeline of Salvation History is widely known. As the grandson of Abraham, Jacob inherited the covenant promises made to Abram (later Abraham) in Genesis 12:1-3. Three promises were made by God to Abram: God would make him into a great nation, give him a great name and bless all the nations through him. These promises were upgraded to covenant status in chapters 15 (great nation), 17 (great name), and 22 (blessing to nations). As we have discovered, covenants create family. In establishing the three-fold covenant with Abraham, God was entering into a family relationship with Abraham and his offspring. In fact, in Exodus 4:22, this family relationship would be clearly stated by God. ‚ÄúThis is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son‚Ķ‚Äù As Jacob gathers with his sons, he offers prophetic utterances over each of them. Of special interest to our study is what Jacob says to Judah.

          Judah was the forth son of Jacob. His mother was Leah. You may remember that it was Judah who prevented the murder of Joseph by his brothers. Instead, following Judah‚Äôs suggestion, Joseph was sold to Arab merchants who took him to Egypt (Genesis 37:26-27). As we know, Judah‚Äôs influence led the Children of Israel to settle in Egypt. Some 400 years later they emerged as a great nation of twelve tribes, fulfilling the first covenant promise to Abraham.

          Jacob‚Äôs blessing and prophecy for Judah is instructive for us. He tells Judah that his brothers will praise him and bow down to him. Jacob says that Judah‚Äôs hand will be on the necks of his enemies, that is, he will be a victorious warrior.  Jacob describes Judah as the family of a lion. The ruling scepter will not depart from him until the One to whom it belongs comes and all the nations will give allegiance to Him.

          These prophecies would not come to pass in Judah‚Äôs lifetime. But, when the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the Tribe of Judah settled in southern Canaan (for further study, see Josh 15:1-12, 20-62). It was from Judah that the Messiah would emerge. Matthew 2:6 quotes the prophecy of Micah 5:2. ‚ÄúBut you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.‚Äù Jacob‚Äôs prophecies would come to pass in two future fulfillments. The first concerns King David. Indeed, Judah‚Äôs brothers would bow down to his descendent, David. 2 Samuel 5:1-3 states, ‚ÄúAll the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, ‚ÄúWe are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‚ÄòYou will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.‚Äô‚Äù When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.  In the acknowledgement of all the tribes of David‚Äôs military prowess, and in declaring that David was God‚Äôs choice to be their king, Jacob‚Äôs prophecies were coming true. Through their descendents, Judah‚Äôs brothers did bow down and praise him. Represented by David, Judah did become a military force. The symbol of the lion was of one who is strong, bold and courageous (Judges 14:18, Proverbs 28:1). David, in defeating Goliath, and Israel‚Äôs enemies, proved this Lion analogy to be an apt description. Jacob‚Äôs prophecy again rang true.  What about the scepter resting with Judah? In 2 Samuel 7:16, God institutes a covenant with David which fulfills the prophecy with Judah. God says to David, ‚ÄúYour house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.‚Äù  In David, a descendent of Judah, we have an unqualified fulfillment of Jacob‚Äôs prophecy to his son. But, there is yet another fulfillment to come!

          Though David seems to be the final fulfillment of the prophesies concerning Judah, there are two elements unfulfilled in David. First, Genesis 49:10 states that the scepter will belong to Judah until, ‚ÄúHe to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.‚Äù Second, by extension to the prophesies about Judah, David‚Äôs covenant with God dictated that his ‚Äúthrone would be established forever.‚Äù This covenant promise seemed to go unfulfilled after Zedekiah; the last Davidic King was ousted by the Babylonians. With two important prophesies left to be fulfilled, we must look to another King in the line of Judah.
 
Matthew 1:1-17
          This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah‚Äôs wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah,Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. 12 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, 15 Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
 
          Matthew 1 is the chapter that most folks hope is not the Gospel reading when they are asked to read in worship! All of those names are pretty intimidating!! Most folks, when they turn to Matthew, skip right over the genealogy that begins the book. But, this genealogy is not there to fill space. It is there to make vital connections. After our brief study of Genesis 49 and what flows from it, we should be very sensitive to Matthew 1:1-2.

          ‚ÄúThis is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:  Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah‚Ķ‚Äù These two verses are not just helpful, they are PROFOUND! What do we discover here? First, Jesus is the son of David. And, Jesus is in the line of Judah! So far, He qualifies. Could Jesus be the final fulfillment? Let‚Äôs look at the two prophesies left unfulfilled by David. First, Jacob said that a rightful owner of the ‚Äúscepter‚Äù would come to claim it and the world would obey Him. Two passages come to mind. In Matthew 28:18 it tells us, ‚ÄúThen Jesus came to them and said, ‚ÄúAll authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.‚Äù Jesus has all authority. He has the power to rule ultimately. That scepter could only belong to Him! How about the world obeying Him? Jesus came to break down the middle wall of partition that separated Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). So, in Christ, all nations could be reconciled to God. In this way, the world would be obeying Him. But there may be another way to look at this. Philippians 2:9-11 states, ‚ÄúTherefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.‚Äù One day, everyone on earth will recognize who is in authority! Every knee shall bow‚Ķto Jesus. Only He could be the answer.

          What about David‚Äôs throne being established forever? After Zedekiah, there was not Davidic King on the throne. There had to be someone in David‚Äôs lineage on the throne for this covenant promise to be fulfilled. Look again at Matthew 1:1. It establishes unambiguously that Jesus, the Messiah, is the son of David! But, is He a king? Jesus was born a King! The Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‚ÄúWhere is the one who has been born King of the Jews‚Äù (Matthew 2:2)? Pontius Pilate had the title ‚ÄúKing of the Jews‚Äù placed on the cross (Matthew 27:37)! If there was any debate, John, writing in the Revelation settles the issue. He writes, ‚ÄúHallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns‚Äù(Rev 19:6). ‚ÄúThe kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever‚Äù (Revelation 11:15). And he declares Jesus to be the, ‚ÄúKing of kings, and Lord of lords‚Äù (Revelation 19:16).
          From the very beginning, God had a plan. It unfolds through the pages of the Scriptures as a series of unfolding covenants. First with Adam and Eve, then Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David and finally, Jesus ushers in the New and Everlasting Covenant. I close with two thoughts. First, God‚Äôs plans will come to pass. We can learn His plan. Love His plan. And work within His plan to find our greatest purpose and joy in life. Second, after seeing so many prophesies come to pass, we can trust the Word of God for today, tomorrow and eternity. God is faithful, and what He says He will do.
          May your Advent waiting be bolstered by the fact that God is there. God is in control. And we can trust Him! No matter what we face.

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