On Monday, I went to hear Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann address the LCJE (see LCJE.net) conference in Atlanta (see yesterday’s post for more about LCJE and the divide between missions and congregations). This little rabbi went away from Rabbi Dauermann’s lecture thoroughly revivified, I can tell you!
The theme Dauermann chose is Yeshua as the Son of David. It is a well-known theme and yet the implications of this messianic title are neglected and not even well-known, as Dauermann proceeded to show us. Consider, for starters, a few examples of the Son of David theme in the apostolic writings:
…the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead…
Remember Messiah Yeshua, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel…
–2 Timothy 2:8
Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Yeshua whom you crucified.”
What does it mean that Yeshua is the Son of David?
The first insufficient answer, says Dauermann, is that this a qualification, rather like a line on a checklist, that Yeshua must meet to be the Messiah. Dauermann says, “Sons of David in Yeshua’s day were common. You could go to Bethlehem and find seven hundred on a good day. He is not a son of David, but the Son of David.”
A second insufficient answer is that Son of David is primarily a category from the past or about the future only. The Son of David idea is about an “Old Testament” office whose time is superseded. Neither is it something to do with the coming age which has no relevance now.
Being the Son of David is not merely Yeshua qualification, it is his office. It is not something from the past only, it is his present office. It is not merely Yeshua’s role in the coming age, but, again, is his present office.
The David-figure of the coming age is most certainly Yeshua, we Messianic Jews firmly believe:
I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.
My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes.
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 with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.
The apostles did not consider this to be a future role only for Yeshua, Dauermann argues, but his present office. Yet, even if we said Son of David is largely about the coming age, we know that Yeshua’s teaching always directs us to live in the present the reality of the Age to Come. Dauermann says we must adjust our lives and work for God to the reality in the present that Yeshua is the Son of David.
Peter, in Acts 2, says God has raised up the Son of David. Paul in Acts 13 says God has now raised the Son of David, the very one of whom John the Baptist said, “One greater than I is coming.” His present status as resurrected testifies to his office over Israel, says Paul.
Craig Blaising, an evangelical Christian theologian, notes the importance of the Son of David theme in apostolic preaching:
The incarnation is not just the union of God and humanity; it is the incarnation of the Son of God in the house of David as the Son of covenant promise. From a human standpoint, Jesus is not just a man, or generic man; he is that man — that descendant of David (and therefore the Son of David).
Dauermann then took us on a short journey into resurrection theology. Yeshua is resurrected as the Israel within Israel, the Servant within the Servant people (a la Isaiah), the guarantee of the rest of the resurrection to come. The resurrection of the Son of David, Dauermann asserts with support from N.T. Wright, is about Yeshua’s corporate role as the guarantee of resurrection for corporate Israel and the corporate Church. It is too limiting when people view Yeshua’s role as individualistic. Israel and the nations find their blessing and promise of resurrection in Yeshua, the Son of David.
How does this impact our presentation of Yeshua to Jews and non-Jews?
Dauermann says it should show us that any gospel message which is bad news for Israel (or the nations) is not the gospel message intended by the apostles. Viewing Yeshua as “my personal savior” is too weak to be compared to the apostolic preaching. He sums up the hope of Israel and the nations as the Messiah for Israel and the Church. The restoration he is bringing should be seen as large and not small.
Especially, says Dauermann, we should not see the gospel as a message that can omit repentance. And when presenting the gospel to Jewish people, this means obedience to the Torah is a part of the message. Would the Son of David be presented to Israel as a Messiah emptied of any relationship to the covenant that David represents, God’s kingship over Israel in and through the Torah? He quotes Nehemiah to show a sample of the Jewish message of repentance:
They disobeyed and rebelled against you, throwing your Torah behind their backs. They killed your prophets for warning them that they should return to you and committed other gross provocations. . . . You warned them, in order to bring them back to your Torah; yet they were arrogant. They paid no attention to your mitzvot, but sinned against your rulings.
–Nehemiah 1:26, 29
Or consider Stephen’s condemnation of his generation in Acts 7:53, “You who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
Or consider Paul’s word in Romans 2:12, “All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” The intent of the verse is to say that Gentiles will be judged as those who were not given the Torah, but Jews will be judged as those who have been given the Torah.
Does Christianity consider obligation to Torah as part of proclaiming Yeshua to Jewish people? Would someone from a church say to a Jewish person, “To follow Jesus you need to become a better Jew, more faithful to Torah”?
Recognizing Yeshua as the present Son of David means seeing a gospel of continuity and consummation for Jewish people. Yeshua’s office is not divorced from what came before, Torah and the covenants through Abraham and David, but in continuity with them.
The prophetic passages about David, such as Ezekiel 37:24, include and assume that Torah faithfulness is part of what the Son of David brings. The apostolic preaching shows evidence of this assumption as well.
If we recognize Yeshua as presently filling the office of Son of David, we will agree that for Israel, the message of God is in continuity, not discontinuity, with the earlier covenants. There are many other ways biblically to arrive at this conclusion (such as recognizing that the New Covenant passages in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, and Deuteronomy 30, all include Torah specifically).
To put it simply: the gospel is about something bigger than personal salvation, my own freedom from guilt, or a generic message of forgiveness. It is a call to Israel and the nations to join with Messiah as all things are summed up in him, to be part of the people of Messiah, living out his teaching. For the nations this does not look the same as for Israel. The nations carry the identity of Messiah into diverse cultures and without the obligation of those Torah commands that separate Israel (Sabbath, circumcision, dietary law, etc.). Israel’s relationship to the Son of David is as a people led by their king to greater obedience to Torah, which is love of God and man realized in community.
The Son of David has been raised and is revealed. He will come and restore and bring Israel to realization of Torah with circumcised hearts. He will come and restore and bring the nations a people called by God’s name. In the meantime, as always, we are to live in the present the reality of the Son of David, working to bring the blessings of the Age to Come right here in the present.