Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Son of David

I would like to start a series that will work through the book of Matthew. This may be my favorite book of the Bible right now. My New Years Resolution for the past couple of years has been to memorize the book, so I am trying this year to start by mapping the book out. While doing that I decided to write out a series of almost verse by verse pieces working their way through the book. So, without any further comments…Matthew.

Matthew 1:1 - A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David

So the evangelist starts out the story of Jesus’ life by calling him the son of David. So often we gloss over this statement by thinking only of the prophetic and messianic aspects of what it would mean to be the son of David. In the text who is the literal son of David? The answer of course is Solomon.

Now Solomon was the third and the last king to rule the combined 12 tribes of Israel. He assumed leadership over the nation after his father crowned him in Jerusalem. David was known as the warrior, Solomon was known for being a peaceful man. In the early years of his reign, he begins to build the temple of the Lord. In I Kings chapter 10, the queen of Sheba comes and is given a tour of Jerusalem, and her reaction is telling. She is amazed with everything she sees, to the point of prophesying that all of his splendor and majesty has been given to him so that he my promote justice and righteousness.

Solomon, at the height of his rule, is described as the defender of justice and righteousness. Sadly, this is not the entire story. The two chapters that bookend this story give a damning picture of Solomon. In chapter 9 we see Solomon building up the city of Jerusalem using slaves, and in Chapter 11 he marries foreign women, worships other gods and becomes an arms dealer.

At the start of the story, the children of Israel find themselves in slavery to Egypt. Because of their suffering under the heavy hand of their slave masters they cry out to God and he brings them up out of slavery. So when Solomon begins to enslave his own people to build the temple, he seemingly is forgetting the story of his people. The people who were once slaves are now using slaves to build their empire.

It is Solomon who builds the temple of the Lord-a beautiful elaborate literally gold plated building for the people to worship God at. It is also this man who begins to build temples to other gods. Thus at the highest point of the Hebrew kingdom, we are seeing their king compromise. The people of God fail to be the people of God.

The author also seems fit to describe Solomon’s other activities. He begins to accumulate weapons and horses. He becomes an arms dealer of sorts gaining much wealth as a result. The author describes Solomon’s tribute that is brought in every year: 666 talents worth of tribute money. It is the final touch in painting a picture of how far from the trajectory laid before him, Solomon had moved.

Maybe one way of understanding this book is to say that Matthew starts out his Gospel contrasting Jesus against Solomon. Once again Israel is at a high point. Jesus like Solomon before him has a chance to show the world what the promise of the nation of Israel is. How will this story end? That’s what the rest of the book is about.

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