The promise of a son is one of the more prominent threads which weaves itself through the biblical story of redemption. Immediately after Adam, a “son of God” (Luke 3:38), disobeyed and fell into sin, God came to him with a promise that the seed of the woman would ultimately win out over the crafty serpent who had lured them into distrust and rebellion. A son of a woman would enter into combat with the great enemy of God and after being struck by his foe, the son would crush the head of the serpent and put an end to his power and influence over the world.
What follows this incredible promise in the biblical narrative? The story of a son being born to the woman, Eve. But the son is Cain, and instead of rising to defeat the serpent, Cain gives in to the sin crouching at his door and goes out to murder the son of his mother. Clearly, Cain, and the murdered Abel, will not be the son who crushes evil’s ugly head.
God’s promises to Abraham are centred on the promise of a son who will bless the nations. Moses is the son whose life is spared from Pharaoh’s evil schemes and is eventully called by God to deliver Israel from slavery. But Moses can only bring about a temporal salvation and ends his life outside the Promised Land. Joshua does what Moses cannot – lead God’s people into their inheritance. But Joshua, for all his faith and courage, could not ensure the complete destruction of evil in the Land.
And then we have God’s great promise to King David. David felled giants and subdued Israel’s enemies, but he could not conquer his own sin. However, God gave David a promise that one of his sons, i.e. descendants, would take the throne and be an even greater king than David. A son of David, to whom David would refer as “his Lord”, would sit on the royal throne forever.
Such a promise implied that a “son of David” would rise to power to rule over an unending kingdom liberated from all enemies. And if we place God’s promise to Adam and Eve side by side with His promise to David, the picture we see is that of a son of David, born of woman, reigning forever as king because he has crushed the great enemy of God once and for all.
What a promise that is! It’s no wonder that as the pilgrims of Israel made their way up to the royal city they broke out into song and sang:
The LORD swore an oath to David, a promise he will not abandon; “I will set one of your offspring on your throne.”Psalm 132:11
“There I will make a horn grow for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown he wears will be glorious.”Psalm 132:17-18
The Israelites had known war and oppression and slavery, and they kept records of a long list of kings who had failed to deliver them – kings who failed because they were human, that is, because they were sinners. The pilgrims of Israel who made their way up to the David’s royal city, yearned for a king who could establish a permanent kingdom with permanent peace and liberty for all God’s people. And, at least for those who knew their Scriptures, they would have rejoiced at the birth of Jesus, the son of Mary, the son of God.