Davidís Son who was Davidís Lord
Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:17-25
Reading: Lord’s Day 14
Suggested Songs: 308:1-3; 59:3,6,9; 346:1,2,3,6; 348:1-3; 282:3
Sermon by Rev. Harry Van Dyken
Minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 21, No. 4
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation, beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Our confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, continues to look at the Apostle’s Creed as the summary of all that we must believe as Christians. In the midst of a confessing church one does not stand alone. That is one reason why it is beautiful that we may take this confession as a guide to the proclamation of the Word of God in the midst of the congregation. Truly, one would think that a particular understanding of the Word of God would come to be almost perfectly known in a congregation where that Word has been preached for many years under the guidance of this same confession. And yet, we must face the fact that, in spite of such constant use of the catechism, it has become largely unknown in the very churches that own it as their confession. God’s Word makes clear that repetition is a key to instruction. In page upon page, God, in His Word, repeats His revelation to His people. In instance after instance, God repeats the truths He has given to His covenant people, to His church. Time after time, we find that the same people have somehow managed to know little or nothing about that truth, that revelation, even as God is speaking to them. God again and again cries out about the fact that His people do not hearken, do not respond to His speaking.
Can we face honestly that it is not easy to accept the whole thrust and meaning of the Word of God as sinners? Can we face honestly that we too have a strong tendency to adapt the Word of God to our lives rather than to come under the power of that Word to have our lives changed, transformed into harmony with that Word? Then we will find it meaningful and comforting to continue to listen to our confession, the one that was written for the instruction of the churches, week after week.
Now our confession asks the meaning of the conception and the virgin birth of Christ, and what it means particularly to us. In considering this together, please look with me at "David’s son who was David’s Lord," noting as we do, that He was:
1. Born by the power of God;
2. Born as the Son of man; and,
3. Born to bring true peace.
He was born by the power of God.. We face the glorious truth, congregation, that God’s truth is always far greater than our comprehension. I know that man usually finds this truth unpalatable. He does not like it by nature. All the miracles recorded in the scriptures proceed from and, at the same time, lead up to this great miracle of God that His Son became flesh and dwelt among us. John, in speaking of this in the first chapter of his gospel says that those who believe in Him are born, "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." And then, in telling us of the incarnation, he says, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The understanding of these miracles, and particularly of the great miracle, is only possible for those who have believe d by the power and will of God. I mention this fact particularly because I want to see with you the great wonder of the work of the triune God. In the birth of Christ, all three persons were fully involved and powerfully present. One might be led to think that the second person was completely passive in this great event. But here too the Word of God tells us what is surely beyond our understanding.
The conception and birth of Christ are by the power of God. God the Father sent His Son into the world by way of incarnation, by way of virgin birth. In a moment we will hear the catechism asking why the Son came by this route, that is, what benefit do we receive by His coming this way? But first we note that it as not an accident. Just as man did not accidentally evolve from animal life, so also the coming of Christ was not an accident of birth. It is true ¾ wonderfully and amazingly true ¾ that this birth by a virgin is unrepeatably unique, but not an accident. He was conceived and born by the power of God. Science would like to put it in a test tube and thus, by controlled experiment to prove or to disprove its scientific validity as historical fact. But this is by the power of God and science cannot find it, cannot lay their hands on it to put it into their test tube. It is the mighty work of the Father that His eternal Son, while continuing true and eternal God, would in this way come into the world.
The Lord says concerning that coming in John 3:16 and 17, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved." He was sent of the Father and sent in such a way that He might continue to be the eternal Son and yet become our brother. Christ said to the disciples by the well in Samaria, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." (John 4:34). There are 38 more instances in the gospel of John alone in which our Lord says that He was sent of the Father into the world to do the work for which He was thus prepared and for which the Father had sent Him.
It is by the power of God. Our confession states that His coming is by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Lord makes this very clear in the passage which we have read, "...that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Matthew 1:18). The angel also said to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, a great and wonderful miracle which God did in keeping His promise of life for His people.
It is by the power of God. "That God’s eternal Son... took upon Himself the very nature of man of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary." The Son took this human nature upon Himself. God says through Paul in Philippians 2:7, "But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."
In Hebrews 10:5-7 we read, "Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body Thou hast prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast no pleasure.’ Then said I, ‘Lo I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.’" And Hebrews 2:16, "For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham."
The Word of God is very clear in declaring that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary by the power of the triune God, the Father who sent, the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary, the Son who took upon Himself our nature and thus became like unto us in all things, sin excepted.
This One, born by the power of God, is born as the Son of man. The confession says, "That he might also be the true seed of David, like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted." One cannot help think of Isaiah 53 and yet, in thinking of this glorious passage, we seem to face a contradiction. For the confession says, "...sin excepted." This is surely also what the Word of God says in Hebrews 14:15. But Isaiah 53 portrays the One who is burdened with a load of sin. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed... yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days..." You have noticed, surely, that the sin with which He is burdened is our sin.
It is the perfect Son of man who is born. It is the true seed of David. We are brought face to face with the promises of God and His faithfulness. All through the Old Testament we have seen Him working His great work of redemption. We heard Him when David proposed to build a house for Jehovah, and Jehovah said, No, but I will build you a house and that house will be forever. And then that house almost disappeared. That house seemed to have lost its importance and significance. Even the Jews seemed no longer to attach too much importance to the promises concerning the house of David.
But God’s children of every age know that we need just precisely such a mediator who is the conquering King. We need such a Savior who can lead us against all the enemies and in every case lead us to victory. Please understand that we are not saying two different things when we speak of a Savior who came as a conquering King and at the same time One who came in fulfillment of the promise of God. These are one and the same. Always the promises of God are worked out, are fulfilled as God uses men to do His will. Psalm 89 says, "I have found David, My servant; with My holy oil have I anointed him: with whom My hand shall be established: Mine arm shall also strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; for the son wickedness afflict him." To speak of the victories of David is to speak of the wonderful working of the power of God. To speak of the power of God operative in the redemption of Israel after Saul’s failure, is, at the same time, to speak of the victories of David. The Lord insists that these are one and the same. Reading the whole of Psalm 89, from which we have quoted, does make that picture very clear. There is an easy transition from the one to the other because the Psalm is really saying the same thing from two different perspectives.
The Word of God and, therefore, also the confession, stress that He is the true Son of David because God must be true to His Word. We face again and again that Christ is bound in His coming and in His work by what the Old Testament says. Even of Christ, it is said in many instances that He did what He did that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Thus we see the Son of God, who became the Son of man by His birth from the virgin Mary, binding Himself for our sake to keep the Word of God in totality as well as in every part for His people.
The Lord wants us to know His promises and to plead on them. Such pleading is not a sign of doubt — it is rather simple obedience to our God who said that He wanted to hear such pleading. To plead, therefore, that God will keep His promise is not a sinful indication of lack of faith. It is rather a very real expression of faith, for it reaches out specifically to what God Himself has promised.
Looking back to the question we faced earlier in the catechism as to the kind of mediator we needed, we find that God’s provision always meets God’s demands perfectly. God demanded that man the sinner must pay the price for sin in full. God provided the great and glorious Son of man who was able by the power of God to do precisely that. He was born as the Son of man.
Finally the catechism asks, "What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?" And we propose that this question can be answered, "He was born to bring true peace." There is nothing that man needs more than true peace. In Adam man has made a declaration of war with God. In Christ that declaration is changed by God’s grace so that the enmity of God’s declaration is truly against Satan. As God’s children in Christ, that declaration becomes ours. And we know that David’s Son is on our side in this great conflict in which we are engaged.
He brings true peace. The catechism is so eager to make this clear that it seems, almost, that the answer doesn’t fit the question. The question is, "What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?" And the answer seems rather to point to His life, His innocence, His perfect holiness. We know that it is, clearly, His perfect righteousness that is our righteousness before God. Here we see that the perfection of Christ reaches all the way back to His birth and conception.
Christ’s work does not begin when, at the age of thirty, He receives His baptism and anointing. His work begins with conception and birth. Well, yes, we could, of course, press this back all the way into the Old Testament for there too He was working. But, as the seed of David He comes into our history through the virgin Mary. And then it is well to note again Philippians 2:7, "But He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." Here, as well as in the other passages to which we have called your attention, the Son is active in this part of His work. Here too He is our Mediator. And here we have particular need!
David, having sinned against God in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, finds the source of his trouble in his conception and birth. He does so as he cries out for the cleansing power of God. Notice it in Psalm 51. David cries, "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest. Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."
There, says David, is the source of my trouble. But his cry for forgiveness, for washing, for cleansing is a cry that asks God to reach all the way back in His work. If God does not reach all the way back, it will not be truly effective. Notice how David continues his prayer in Psalm 51, "Behold, Thou desireth truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part Thou shalt make to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." The Spirit of God led David to know and to cry out that his trouble, his sin, lay in his very makeup, his being, his inward parts. Because it was the way he was born, it is the way he is.
Baptists will tell us that a little child is either sort of neutral over against God or is an inactive enemy. Sin and sinfulness only come with self-consciousness as the child grows older. And so children are not meaningful members of God’s covenant. Somehow the work of Christ does not reach them. Somehow they do not have a need of the work. Beautifully and gloriously our confession echoes God’s Word in saying that Christ’s work begins where our needs originate, that is, in conception and birth. Our form for infant baptism notes that the curse for sin came upon all men in Adam, including children. It is a covenant matter. So also the grace of God in Christ reaches on down through the generations. "I will be your God and the God and the God of your seed after you." Paul is speaking of this when he says in I Corinthians 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." This is not a teaching of universal salvation, or of universal atonement. Rather, true to the Spirit’s leading of Paul, it is a statement recognizing that all who are included covenantally in Adam are reached by death. Even so all who are included in Christ covenantally are reached by His great work of redemption. One who fails to understand that work might well, at this point say, "You see, you are simply assuming that all children born of believing parents and baptized are saved." But this is to fail to take the whole instruction of the Word of God concerning the covenant of grace in which God has placed His children. We do believe without hesitation that the covenant promises of God are to and upon our children as we bring them in obedience to our God, for baptism. We also believe that God calls these same children, as they grow up, to responsibility in covenant with Him. We also believe that, even though in many ways it is beyond our understanding, these same children, as they grow up, can break His covenant and be rejected. We believe that they are called to repentance and faith as His possession.
I have heard it asked in this connection, "Then, what is the difference? What is the advantage of being in the covenant? If those outside repent and believe, they will also be accepted as fully as covenant young people will." Paul faced that question concerning covenant membership in the Old Testament: "What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?"
Children, young people, rejoice with the church of Jesus Christ. Rejoice as part of the church of Jesus Christ, that Jesus began His work, His great work, right where you are and even before. Christ began His great work at His conception by the Holy Spirit ant in the virgin birth. As a little baby I needed someone to make peace with God for me. And Jesus Christ was there and could plead that His work covered that too. How wonderful is the grace of God. How wonderful is God’s covenant of grace. How wonderful is our heritage as Reformed people, that we have been given a covenantal understanding of the Word of God and have kept the heritage of this great confession, the Heidelberg Catechism in which we confess it.
Fathers and mothers, young people, children, do not let this confession be lost. Do not let it escape you, for it has been and is a wonderful instrument in God’s hand to keep these great and wonderful truths for us. Here lies our assurance that my only comfort in life and death does not begin when I am able to read that first question and answer and say, "It is mine." But my only comfort in life and death would reach even to my death if my covenant God had taken me away, even before I was born. Christ’s work reached there to make peace with God for me.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! Amen.