The King Who Brings the Blessings of David
Topic: Advent Passage: Acts 13:13–13:43, Isaiah 55:1–55:13
Earlier we sang a hymn by Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World.” It calls us to rejoice at the arrival of a Savior. Even all of creation should recognize him—down to the rocks and hills and plains celebrating.
But the celebration also becomes a prayer. The third stanza: “No more let sin and sorrow grow | Nor thorns infest the ground: | He comes to make his blessings flow | Far as the curse is found.” The people singing know things aren’t quite right. We still suffer from the effects of sin. Sorrows grow over cancer and earthquakes and broken relationships and harsh words and disobedient children and rumors of war and death of loved ones. Thorns infest the ground. The world groans under the curse.
We feel it, and sometimes to the point of struggling to sing Joy at all. But today’s passages, I hope, will help us sing these words with greater confidence. Even while sin and sorrows cloud life, we can be confident that Jesus came to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. Some of those blessings come by a covenant God made with King David over 3,000 years ago. As we return to Acts 13, we’ll see that God sent Jesus to bring those very blessings to us.
Acts 13: Paul Preaches Jesus as the Ultimate Davidic King
So let’s pick up where we left off in Acts 13. Paul is preaching to Jews. He summarizes God’s grace to Israel throughout their history. But his primary goal is to show God’s grace climaxes in the promised Savior, Jesus Christ. Verse 23, “Of [David’s] offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.”
That clues us in to where he’s going. God promised Israel a Savior. That Savior would come through David. That Savior came in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul then preaches Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, followed by three Old Testament quotes. Read with me starting in verse 32:
We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
Psalm 2 was our focus last Sunday. By resurrection, Jesus fulfills the portrait of God’s King from Psalm 2. But now Paul adds Isaiah 55:3 to the mix: “I will give you [i.e., you all] the holy and sure blessings of David.” But what are these “holy and sure blessings”? How does God give them to us? What do they mean for our lives now? I want to spend the rest of our time answering those three questions.
What are these “holy and sure blessings of David”?
Let’s begin with this one: what are these “holy and sure blessings of David”? If you look at Isaiah 55:3, you’ll notice different wording. That’s because Paul quotes the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew. But if you look at Isaiah 55:3 in your English translation of the Hebrew, you’ll have something like “steadfast, sure love,” or “faithful mercies,” or “promises assured.”
We really don’t have an English word that, by itself, captures the Hebrew term, hesed.[i] In a context like this one, it conveys God’s loving resolve to fulfill his obligations to the covenant. The thing is, hesed in Isaiah 55:3 is in the plural. So the idea is that we have many expressions of God’s loving resolve for David. Many expressions…
I want to explore those by turning first to 2 Samuel 7. God has revealed his purpose and will through a series of interrelated covenants. One of those covenants is the covenant he made with David. 2 Samuel 7 is the basis for the Davidic covenant. Some promises God would fulfill during David’s lifetime; others, after David’s lifetime. We’re interested in those he fulfills after David’s lifetime. Second half of verse 11,
Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.
Notice first that the Davidic covenant is wholly a work of God’s grace. David initiates nothing. It comes by God’s unilateral resolve. God will enact the promises quite apart from David’s doing. Soon David will die; so how could these grand promises really depend on him anyway? God will enact their fulfillment.
Also, in making the covenant with David, God advances his promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s offspring. Like Abraham, God will make David’s name great in verse 9. The notion of God raising up offspring “who shall come from your body” is the exact wording God uses in his covenant with Abraham. In other words, the way God will bless all the nations is by giving David a house (by which he means dynasty), a forever kingdom, and a forever throne. Dynasty has to do with an offspring. Kingdom has to do with place. Throne, with authority.
Now the question that remains open-ended in 2 Samuel 7 is how this will play out. The Lord makes it very clear in the father-son dynamic that loyalty was of utmost importance for the king. If the king in David’s line isn’t loyal, God disciplined him; he removed him. That’s the pattern with Solomon, and then Rehoboam, and then Jerobam, and so forth—all sons in David’s line. But even then, God was committed to his word to preserve David’s offspring, kingdom, and throne.
So, there’s really only two options: either God will perpetuate David’s throne by raising up an offspring who rules and then dies, and another offspring who rules and then dies, and another offspring who rules and then dies. Or, God eventually raises up a loyal offspring in David’s line who lives forever. Keep that tucked away and…
Turn next to Isaiah 9:6-7. We’re centuries later. Exile on its way. All hope seems lost. But God’s covenant with David stands. Verse 6…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Why should the people hope? Because the unstoppable, jealous passion of God will accomplish something awesome. A future offspring in David’s line will shoulder the entire burden of government. As history shows—including our current history—that’s normally a bad thing. The more power a sinful man has, he is sure to abuse it.
Ah but this is a different man. He is Prince of Peace. The rule of this future David will create peace, shalom. The idea isn’t just a cessation of conflict, but the whole moral order put right beneath God’s reign. Notice also that his kingdom is without end both in terms of space—“it has no end” in the sense of border—and in terms of time—it lasts forever; “from this time forth and forevermore.”
Isaiah 11:1-9 adds even more. Verse 1, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Jesse was David’s father. The point is that a new David was coming to take the throne. What’s he like? Verse 2,
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”
Included within the Davidic covenant is God’s promise to bring a Son who rules with perfect wisdom and justice. He’s not swayed by man-fear or gossip. He tolerates not wickedness. He possesses perfect discernment to do right; and he’s got the power to achieve every decision he makes. His rule even creates a new world. Verse 6,
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 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 cover the sea.
Imagine you’re in a foreign land. You’re ruled by cruel oppressors. You wished you were home, but then you remember there is no home. They destroyed it. Violent men killed some of your family. With hooks and chains they hauled you to their cities. The songs on the streets aren’t those of Zion, but the noise of pagan feasts. Justice is forgotten. Everywhere feels unsafe. Sin brought these curses. Sin destroyed the people. Sin caused death. Sin will end you too. That’s exile.
Then a friend brings you a word from God’s prophet, Isaiah. You know his word is sure, because the exile came just as God said. But now he brings another word. A King from David’s line is coming. His rule will so reverse the curse that the broken world becomes a new, Eden-like paradise. He’ll rule from Zion. He’ll make the entire earth the Lord’s sanctuary: “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” That’s good news when you’re in exile! It’s light in darkness.
These are just a few expressions of God’s loving resolve to David. A forever King sitting on a forever throne, bringing a forever kingdom, blessing all nations with a new world order in a new creation under the glory of God’s peace. And I haven’t mentioned the restoration of Israel under the new David in Ezekiel 37:24; or the tent of David possessing the nations in Amos 9:11-12. But you get the idea: these are grand and glorious blessings guaranteed the future King…
How does God bring these blessings to us?
But how does God bring these blessings to us? Paul indicates in Acts 13, God will give you all these blessings. How? Let’s go to Isaiah 55 to answer this question. Isaiah 55 closes a very important section. You might find a few rays of hope in Isaiah 1-39. But those chapters largely announce coming judgment on Judah. But once that judgment has passed, Isaiah 40 begins God’s message of “Comfort, comfort…” for his people. God is now working for their redemption. And Isaiah 55 stands as the climactic invitation from the God of comfort, who has opened the way to life. It begins this way,
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which isn’t bread, and your labor for that which doesn’t satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.
In order to understand the invitation, we need to understand the imagery. Isaiah uses old covenant language to describe Israel’s pitiful spiritual condition.
For instance, Israel was completely dependent on the Lord to provide water in the Promised Land. If they obeyed the covenant, God supplied water; the land was plentiful. But if they rejected God’s covenant, the people suffered. To be “thirsty” was to be under God’s curse. That’s exactly how Isaiah portrays Israel in exile. Isaiah 1:30, the people give themselves to idols; so God says, “…you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water.” Or Isaiah 5:3—the people don’t regard the deeds of the Lord; so he says, “Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.”
In other words, the physical covenant consequences reveal the deeper spiritual problem. They have forsaken the Lord. They have forsaken the Fountain of living waters, and hewn out for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water, to use Jeremiah 2.
And when he speaks of those without money, we can go back in Isaiah 44:6 and learn why they have no money. They work hard, get paid in silver, and then they weigh out the silver for the blacksmith to fashion them an idol. They’ve bankrupted themselves on chasing idols.
God is inviting these kinds of people—desperately thirsty covenant breakers, spiritually bankrupt idolaters. God invites them to come and nourish themselves in a new relationship with himself in his kingdom. For God to invite the “thirsty” to the waters was for God to say their curse is removed; he’s welcoming them back to himself. Isaiah 12:1-3 says, “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me…With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Or, consider the use of “wine and milk.” Under the old covenant “wine and milk” meant your land was plentiful. God’s covenant blessings flowed (Deut 32:14). In fact, God uses “wine and milk” to illustrate the abundance of his future kingdom under the Messiah. You find this in Genesis 49:10 and Joel 3:18. So for God to invite idolaters to come and buy “wine and milk,” is for God to invite them into the fullness of his kingdom. He calls them to what truly satisfies, a covenant relationship with God himself. “Come to me,” he says. “Hear, that your soul may live.” The point being, life is more than physical existence. It’s fellowship with God in his kingdom.
That’s why he adds the covenant of verse 3: “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” Literally, “I will cut for you a covenant…”—“The covenant I cut will be for your benefit. When you come to me, I will bring you into all the glorious benefits of my promises to David.” And it’s not just a temporary kind of relationship, but an everlasting one.
Think of hearing that invitation while coming out of exile. The forever King sitting on the forever throne, bringing the forever kingdom, blessing all nations with a new world order in a new creation under the glory of God’s peace—and you get a share in that for free? You’re not just coming, you’re running to God.
The lingering question, of course, is how the most holy God could invite such covenant breakers and idolaters so freely to himself? Isn’t there a price to pay for the sin? Doesn’t the covenant spell out all kinds of punishment for sin? Even the Davidic covenant spells out awful punishments for the wicked—what about all that?
When we read Isaiah 55 in its broader context, we find that someone else paid the price. Bankrupt idolaters can enter covenant with God, because someone else paid the penalty for their idolatry. God paid the penalty for their idolatry by crushing the Suffering Servant in their place (Isa 53:10). Isaiah 53:5, the Servant suffers as a substitute: “…he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
The guilt we incurred for sin must be punished. The Lord’s solution was to place the punishment we deserved on the Servant. Our entry comes at his cost. And not only that, the Servant rises from the dead to give the people he died for his righteousness. Verse 10, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” That’s only possible by resurrection.
Then comes the righteousness part: “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong.”
That’s how God brings the blessings to us. The Servant dies in our place; and the Servant rises from the dead to count his people righteous before God. That’s how God can say “Come without money and without price!” to covenant breakers. That’s how the “holy and sure blessings of David” come to us so freely—through the death and resurrection of God’s Servant.
And that’s why Paul quotes Isaiah 55:3 about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is the Suffering Servant who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. And by virtue of his birth in David’s line and his resurrection, that also makes him the loyal Son of David who will live forever to spread his blessings on earth far as the curse is found.
What do these blessings mean for our lives now?
So question three: what do these blessings mean for our lives now? If these “holy and sure blessings of David” find their fulfillment in the risen Jesus; and if God offers these covenant blessings for free, then we have every reason to come to him.
Come to the Lord for true life
Come to the Lord for true life. Glut yourself on what’s truly satisfying. God isn’t a kill-joy; he’s telling you to pursue true joy in his presence.
Why give yourself to idols that will never satisfy? We can make idols out of things that entice us; things that we fear, like people; things that we trust, like financial security; more comfort; escape from difficulties. We can even make idols out of things we need. In the Bible, people don’t just make idols out of the sun, moon, and stars; they worship sex, money, power, control, a nation’s strength and political leaders. But none of these satisfy the soul. They will bankrupt us. God alone satisfies the soul.
So come to his waters of salvation. Come and experience the blessings of God’s promises to David. If you don’t come to the Lord, you’ll find yourself under the curses laid out in these covenants. You will suffer torment in the presence of King Jesus. But if you come, you will reign with King Jesus. You will share in the manifold blessings of his kingdom, especially the revelation of his glory. You will know true healing in your relationship with God; and you will have true life by his Spirit.
Seek the Lord in repentance
A further exhortation Isaiah gives in verse 6 is to seek the Lord in repentance. “Call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Why repent? Why forsake your wicked ways?
He follows it with three reasons: God’s ways are higher; God’s word will prevail; and God’s making a new world. God’s ways are higher—verse 8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” That verse isn’t in your Bible to punt to every time you run into something mysterious. It’s in your Bible to say, forsake your wicked way because God’s ways are better than yours. Way, way, way better.
Also, God’s word will prevail—verses 10-11, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” All those promises we talked about earlier in the Davidic covenant—guaranteed to succeed. There’s no question of whether Jesus will actually spread his kingdom far as the curse is found. He will. Therefore, repent and seek the Lord before Jesus returns.
We should also seek the Lord, because those who do get to enter God’s new world. Verse 12, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” You hear that? For those who seek the Lord, it’s going to be a party! Like never-ending party. The whole creation will sing.
Look, instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress. God cursed the earth with thorns. Jesus took the curse wearing a crown of thorns; and he did it to bring a new world without thorns. The earth will become God’s sanctuary. Those are pretty compelling reasons to forsake your wicked ways and seek the Lord. Know him in the word. Pray. Get alone with God and fill your soul with the promises of his kingdom.
Call the nations to join you
Also, while you seek him, call the nations to join you. Look back at Isaiah 55:4. It says, “Behold, I made [David] a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you [as in you singular, which I take as the future David] shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”
What’s the point? The point is that once God glorifies the new David, he will call the nations to himself. And the way that unfolds in the New Testament is that God has glorified Jesus, and he calls the nations to himself through our witness. So what else do these blessings finding their fulfillment in Jesus mean for us? We share the gospel. We preach the universal reign of Jesus Christ. We carry these same words to the nations: “Come! Hear! Live! You don’t need any money! You don’t have to do any works! It’s all free because Jesus paid the price!”
Hope in the future kingdom
And lastly, hope in the future kingdom. The story of Israel’s exile really reflects the story of the entire human race in Adam. Adam’s sin banished him from God’s presence. His relationship with Eve was full of shame and tension and an abuse of power and blame-shifting. In Adam, we too are a people in exile, needing deliverance.
We experience conflict within our own family. Our own sin harms others and profanes God’s name. Our broken bodies keep breaking more. We too have leaders and governments that don’t rule with justice. People are swayed by party over principle. We witness division and hatred on the streets. People are confused as the moral fabric of society gets ripped to shreds. We need hope in this exile.
God has given us hope by giving us a Son. He hasn’t just given us the promise of a Son. He has given us the Son. He proved his faithfulness to his word by giving us Jesus. Which means, he’s not leaving us here forever. We have hope. Jesus rose to guarantee that his blessings will flow far as the curse is found. All corrupt kings replaced by the true King; all enemies cut off and punished; all corruption ended; all our bodies raised and made new; all ethnicities singing; all the earth better than Eden; all relationships righted; all your patient endurance rewarded. It’s coming. We have God’s word: “I will give you all the holy and sure blessings of David.”
[i]A more literal translation of Isaiah 55:3b in the Hebrew is, “And I will cut for you an everlasting covenant, the loyalties [hesed] of David, the things made to endure.”