“When king David was seated in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet , ‘Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!’ Nathan answered the king , ‘Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.’ But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: ‘Go tell my servant David: Should you build me a house to dwell in? It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked be able to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm . I will be a father to him , and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (II Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a,16)
Sometime about the year 1000 BC, the Lord made a promise to David, King of Israel :
“Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne will stand firm forever.”
And for the next four hundred years there was always a descendent of David on the throne in Jerusalem. But then came the exile and for the next six hundred years there was no king in Jerusalem; indeed there would never be a king to reign in full sovereignty over the nation of Israel ever again. Had God’s promises failed? And if not, how could they explain the situation in which they found themselves? God had promised that David’s throne “shall stand firm forever”, but where was that king now?!?
One might have imagined that in these dark times of exile Israel’s faith would have grown cold and eventually died out. Who hasn’t felt the flame of their faith in God’s goodness dim to barely a flicker in the face of prolonged pain and suffering? Indeed, had it been founded on purely human ideas about God, Israel’s faith would have no doubt died during these unfathomably dark times.
But it did no do that. To the contrary, it is during these times that some of the richest prophecies were made, ones that would eventually point to the fulfillment of God’s promises in a far richer, more abundant way than they could have ever foreseen. The exile may have been a punishment for Israel’s unfaithfulness and it may have brought about a situation in which it seemed as if God’s promises had failed. But as the Angel Gabriel would say to centuries later to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “No word of the Lord shall ever fail.”
And it is precisely in this confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord’s word that the people began to trust that one day the Davidic line would be restored, but this Messiah would redeem not only Israel, but also all the nations, and not only all the nations, but all of creation itself. Listen to the beautiful prophecy in Isaiah 11:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse [David’s father] and the Spirt of the Lord will rest upon him…. With righteousness he will judge the poor, and decide with equity the for the meek of the earth …The wolf shall lie down with the lamb , and the leopard shall lie down with the kid….and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters that cover the sea”
Such was the fulfillment of God’s promise to which they were to look forward, a fulfillment beyond their wildest imaginations and infinitely greater than simply the restoration of an earthly dynasty. But it did not happen over night. It did not happen for 600 years.
Then, in the village of Nazareth in Galilee, the angel Gabriel appeared with a startling announcement to a young girl named Mary:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end”.
Some months later, that same Mary , expecting a child though still a virgin, set off on a journey with her betrothed husband Joseph:
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled…And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David , which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.”
And there in the City of David Jesus was born, the promised king so long expected:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it…The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!” (Isaiah 9: 6-7)
During those 600 years of waiting, the cry of every faithful Israelite must have been, “How Long, O Lord, How Long?” But no matter how great the darkness, no matter how impossible the situation seemed, God did not fail in his promises. To the contrary he fulfilled them more abundantly than they could have ever imagined. He fulfilled them in Christ.
As you look to the Christ child this Christmas, see there not simply a babe in a manger, but the supreme and earth-shattering evidence of a God who does not fail in his word, even when we fail him. For he is the God is the God of Love, the God who keeps His promises.
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.