The Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018
Oh, Come, O Key of David!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the things that I have learned to both admire and appreciate is the fact that the Bible is filled with wonderful little details. Many times, however, we simply read these little details and just keep on going with hardly even giving them a second thought. The result is that all too often we miss out on the “depth” and the “richness” of the holy inspired Word of our God. But when we slow down, when we take the time to actually study the Bible instead of just reading the Bible then the true “wealth” of Scripture unfolds before our very eyes!
Our sermon text for today is just one example of this. In Isaiah 22:20-22 we are told, “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
As we conclude our sermon series on the Advent hymn “Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel” we focus our attention on the fourth stanza of this hymn. Once again our sermon theme is the opening words of the stanza we are studying: Oh, Come, O Key of David! As we look at the term “key of David” this morning we want to do two things. First, we want to remember the historical significance of this term. Then, we want to rejoice in the eternal importance of this term.
The term “key of David” is found only once in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is right here in our text where it is referred to as “the key to the house of David.” The historical significance of this term is actually quite simple and very easy to understand. Every king appointed someone to serve as his “palace administrator.” Whoever was the “palace administrator” held a very important position. He was second in power and authority only to the king. As the “palace administrator” this individual held a key which was carried slung from his shoulder for everyone to see. As the “palace administrator” this individual had the power to literally lock and unlock the royal palace. As the “palace administrator” this individual had the authority to determine who was and who was not allowed to enter into the presence of the king.
At the time our text was written Hezekiah was ruling as king in Jerusalem, sitting on David’s throne and living in David’s royal palace. Hezekiah had appointed a man by the name of Shebna to be his “palace administrator.” But Shebna was a very proud man. Perhaps holding the “key to the house of David” went to his head. Therefore through His servant Isaiah the Lord revealed that He was going to remove Shebna from his position as “palace administrator.” The Lord would then give that position to Eliakim son of Hilkiah by giving to Eliakim “the key to the house of David.” We see just how powerful and just how important Eliakim would be when the Lord goes on to say, “what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” That’s power! That’s authority!
In reality, my friends, the historical significance of the “key to the house of David” would be one of those interesting little details in the Bible that really would not apply to us today if it were not for one thing— its eternal importance! The “key of David” is referred to just one other time in the Bible. In Revelation 3:7 the risen and ascended Lord says to His servant John, “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
Now the historical significance of the “key of David” referred to here in Isaiah takes on a whole new dimension, doesn’t it! The power and the authority that the “key to the house of David” once gave to men such as Eliakim has now reached its ultimate fulfillment in great King David’s greater Son! As the One who now holds the “key of David” in His hand Jesus has the power to either lock or unlock the Royal Palace— the Kingdom of Heaven itself. As the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand Jesus has the authority to determine who is and who is not allowed to enter into the presence of the King, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. That’s eternal power! That’s eternal authority!
The eternal importance of Jesus being the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand takes on unparalleled significance when we take that objective impersonal truth that we read about on the pages of Scripture and apply it on a very personal individual level. That’s precisely what Jesus Himself does when He says to us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Because of our sin— both the sin that we inherited from our parents as well as the countless sins that we commit of our own accord— because of our own sin we are barred from entering into the Royal Palace of our heavenly Father’s Home. Hypothetically speaking, my friends, if we were to show up at the Pearly Gates still dressed in the “filthy rags” of our sin and asked to enter into heaven Jesus, the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand would say to us, “Entrance denied!” “Depart from me!” (Mathew 25:41) Even if we were to set up an “Occupy Camp” outside the Pearly Gates and demanded to be let in, as the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand Jesus would say to us, “Depart from me! What I shut, no one can open.” That’s one aspect of the eternal importance of Jesus being the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand. Not only does He have the power and the authority to deny someone entrance into His heavenly Father’s Home, but He also has made it very clear that He will deny entrance to everyone who does not believe and trust in Him as their only Lord and Savior. (Pointing to the cross)
That reality, however, leads us to rejoice in the second aspect of the eternal importance of Jesus being the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand. Not only does Jesus have the power and the authority to grant someone entrance into heaven, but He has also made it very clear that He will grant entrance to everyone who believes in Him as their only Lord and Savior! That glorious truth is brought out in stanza four of our Advent hymn when we sing the words, “Oh, Come, O key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home. Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.”
When we trust that the Child of Bethlehem is Emmanuel, the true Son of God who came into this world as the true Son of Man to save us from our sin, when we trust that the Child of Bethlehem was speaking the absolute Gospel Truth when He said from the cross “It is finished!” “I have reached my goal!” “Your sins are forgiven!” (John 19:30) then we have the confidence of knowing that when we reach the Pearly Gates our Brother Jesus, the One who holds the “key of David” in His hand will open those gates wide and say to us with a smile on His face, “Welcome Home!” That’s what Christmas is all about, my friends. That’s why Christmas is a time of comfort and joy for sinners like us! Christmas keeps us centered on the eternal importance of knowing that Jesus, our Brother, is the One who holds the “key of David” in his Hand!
There is just one more truth, however, that I need to bring out before I can close this morning. Listen carefully. You are modern day Eliakims. The One who holds the “key of David” in His hand has now entrusted you with the “keys” to the Kingdom of Heaven. On the evening of that first Easter Sunday the risen Christ said to His disciples— and that includes you — “’Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20:21-23).
Like Eliakim here in our text for today the Lord has given you the power and authority to either unlock or lock the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven. If you know that someone is sinning against the God of heaven and refuses to repent of that sin even after you carefully and confidentially and compassionately bring it to their attention, you have the responsibility of telling them that unless they repent they will not be allowed into heaven when they die. At the same time, if you know that someone is sorry that they have sinned against the God of heaven, you have the privilege of assuring them that their sin has been forgiven (Pointing to the cross) and that through faith in Jesus they will spend eternity in His heavenly Home! This is what the Church has traditionally called the Ministry of the Keys— a ministry that God Himself has given to all of His dearly beloved children.
“In that day I will summon my servant Eliakim…I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” By themselves those words contain one of those little details in the Bible which may indeed have some interesting historical significance, but not a great deal of personal application to you and to me. But, when you read those words in the light of what our Savior says in the book of Revelation, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” now, my friends, now the term “key of David” holds eternal importance for you and for me!
May God grant that as you and I gather together here in His house tomorrow night to celebrate Christmas Eve that we will both remember and rejoice in knowing the Truth that is proclaimed to us in our Advent hymn— the Child of Bethlehem is indeed: Emmanuel, the Root of Jesse, the Dayspring and the One who holds the “key of David” in His nail-scarred hands. And may God grant that this truth always leads our hearts to sin, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel!”
To God be the glory!