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David? Seriously?

– Third week of Advent –

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. [Matthew 1:1,17]

There are three references to King David in this extract from the opening chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. How did somebody so fragile become so important?

I remember attending Mass years ago where the presider was an elderly priest. Having listened to the account of David’s encounter with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) the priest exclaimed ‘why on earth does that dreadful man feature so centrally in our faith?’ It is a good question.

What do we make of King David? He had so much promise. He was specially chosen and anointed by God to lead his people. He was raised up from being a shepherd boy to being King. His blessings were boundless, and yet at the same time he could be so weak and so morally compromised.

We begin by noting that his importance does not lie in his personal worthiness. Instead, it in the promises made to him and, through him, to us. He is the recipient of the promise that one of his descendants would ascend the throne and bring about God’s eternal kingdom. David is the beacon of hope reminding us that God is faithful, even when we are not.

But more than that, he witnesses to fact that God can still work in, through and with us if we only hand over to him the mess that we make. When confronted by his sin, he threw himself on the mercy of God (2 Samuel 12). Part of what makes him so central is that he allowed himself to experience God’s mercy.

David shows us the way back to being the sons and daughters of God, and reminds us that God’s plans are not thwarted by our weakness.

By Shane Dwyer

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