Giambattista Pittoni, Annunciation, 1757

Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 1:26-33

Isaiah 9 expresses a great sigh of relief on the part of the beleaguered people of Judah. Their darkness has crumbled before a great light, and now they exult and rejoice because the warriors they had feared have been destroyed.

What explains their dramatic reversal of fortune? “A child has been born to us, a son given to us” (v. 5). The prophet anticipates that all of this will soon come about because of the coming of a new Davidic king.

When Isaiah first spoke these words in the eighth century BC, he no doubt had in mind an ordinary king of the line of David. Hezekiah, the righteous king who succeeded his father, Ahaz (see Isa 7), and who ruled Judah near the end of Isaiah’s life, is a strong contender.

Of course, Christians have long seen in this passage hints of the coming of Jesus as the true and ultimate heir of David. This interpretation is not wrong, but it is secondary. That is to say, interpreting the “son” as Jesus only works because of the expectations that the people of Judah had already placed upon the Davidic monarchy.

The history of Judah’s kings is mostly a study in moral failure. Only two—Hezekiah and his great-grandson Josiah—receive a positive evaluation in the book of 2 Kings. For the most part, the people of Judah longed for a king who would one day establish a reign of peace and justice the way God intended. When the kingdom fell to the Babylonians, this longing for a righteous Davidic king shifted to a future hope that, in God’s good timing, the kingdom would be restored, and a new heir of David would finally get it right.

And so, we turn to our second passage. Luke 1:26-33 recounts the annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Echoing some of the themes from Isaiah 9, the angel Gabriel declares that Mary’s child will rule an everlasting kingdom of peace and justice.

Discussion

• How does this passage challenge private or individualized expectations about Jesus and his work?
• How do peace, justice, and righteousness figure into Jesus’s mission?
• What does it mean to call Jesus “King”?
• What light does Jesus bring into the darkness of our own lives?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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