Friday, January 27, 2012

David's Prayer

David's Prayer
In most, if not all of our Bibles, Acts 3:16 reads something like, “By faith in his name, this man whom you see and know was made strong.” The apostle Peter is here addressing the crowds who have come running. He is talking of the man born lame, for 40 years a beggar at the “Beautiful Gate” who is now walking and leaping and praising God in the temple. How was all this done? Not by the power or piety of the disciples but by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:13). How was the man healed? By “faith in the name of Jesus” (NIV). But this is not what the Bible actually says. In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, we read, “by the faith OF his name.” What could this mean? Indeed many times in the Bible we see “faith of...” The King James Version, cleaving to the original language, furnishes some examples of this, as in Romans 3:22, Galatians 2:16 and many other places.

To understand what the “faith of the name of Jesus," we need to review the story of faith. One of the first times we see the word for “faith” in the Bible is with Abraham. In Hebrew the word for faith is “emunah." We read that Abraham “believed in the Lord” (Genesis 15:6). For me, the word faith gets very confusing. I find that the word "established” is a better translation for the emunah/faith word of the Bible. We could then say of Abraham, Abraham was “established" in God, that is, "solid" on the Lord. But with Abraham’s descendants it is not so. In fact, God says specifically that they are not faithful, not “established" in God, “they are a perverse generation, sons in which there is no faithfulness” (Deut. 32:20). How does God deal with this faithlessness, this lack of being established or solid? We glimpse the answer in Deuteronomy 7:9. Where we let the banner of faith fall to the ground, God picks it up. The word for faith is now attached only to God, “God has caused you to go out with a strong hand, and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Because of this know that the Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God.”

But the story of faith does not end here. Remember David: how he wanted to build a house for God but God says, “No, I will build a house for you.” And here the word “emunah” is used again, God says that he will be faithful to the house of David, he will establish David’s dynasty (2 Sam. 7:16). And in David’s prayer we begin to know how glorious this promise is. David understands that God's establishing David's dynasty is going to be as big as the Exodus (vs. 23) The Lord’s establishing David and his seed will mean freedom and rest and peace and life for the people.

But the final scene in the story of faith is yet to come. The prophet Isaiah has a vision. He sees that God will indeed establish the son of David...and how! In his vision the son of David, this root of Jesse, is a “root out of dry ground,” a suffering servant, but in the midst of his suffering, God will be faithful and loving. We see the effects of that faithful, establishing love in Isaiah 53. This Jewish man of sorrows is beaten but “by his stripes we are healed,” he dies a criminal’s death but God turns that death into something holy, an offering given by God that takes away sin. This Davidic messiah goes to the grave but God in his love raises him up and promises that he will see his children. God in his establishing and established love for the servant declares him to be “in the right” and “making many right.” God in his faithful love for his “boy” gives him all wealth, many children, victory, resurrection from the dead-- the kingdom is his, all things are his.

And isn’t this all exactly what happened to Jesus? Jesus the Davidic Messiah is saved in the garden, enabled to give that triumphant shout on the cross, triumphant even in the tomb, raised from the dead, exalted at the right hand of the Father. If this isn’t the effect of faithful love, I don’t know what is! I should add one more fact, a "by the way" for us to think on: the goal of this faithful love, incredibly, is us. To paraphrase Isaiah 55:3, God promises his people, I will give you the faithful love that I give to this root of David, but more on that in another article.

All this helps us understand the mysterious phrase in Acts 3. What has made the lame man walk and leap, is the “establishment” of the name of Jesus. God has established the name of Jesus Anointed of Nazareth. This is clues us in to the meaning whenever we see the mysterious "faith of Jesus," it is the establishment of Jesus, God’s loving establishment his only begotten son.
Long ago David had prayed, Lord emunah “establish” your name, and now God has done it (I Chronicles17:24). Why did David pray this prayer? Because he knew that where the name of the Lord is established, there is healing, and David wants healing and health and life for his people. In Acts 3 and in our own lives, David’s prayer has been answered.