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The Key of the House of David
Not often, even in Isaiah, are there words more full of mystery than these.
I. See how, of David also, according to his degree, it might be said that 'He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief'. Persecuted by his own brethren in the army of the Israelites; hunted after by his own lord, King Saul; ridiculed by his own wife, Michal; betrayed by his own familiar friend, Ahithophel; conspired against by his own favourite son, Absalom; all but delivered to death by his own subjects at Keilah; to say nothing of his many battles, painful wanderings, little rest; and that whole lifelong struggle on account of which God said, 'Thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed much blood upon the earth'. See also how poor and needy he was; asking bread from Ahimelech the priest; requesting milk and cheese from Nabal the Carmelite; taking a cruse of water from King Saul; thankful for fruit from Abigail. So that when Gabriel said, in that cottage of Nazareth, 'The Lord God shall give Him the seat of His father David'; and when Isaiah prophesied here, 'The key of the house of David will I lay on His shoulder,' what is the key but the bitter Cross? what is the seat but extreme poverty?
II. Notice for every word tells that word: 'The key of the house of David will I lay on His shoulder' not shoulders and why? Because the Son of God did not endure the Death of the Cross on the right shoulder of His Godhead, but on the left shoulder of His humanity alone; so that, suffering as a Man, He should ransom like a God.
III. 'The key of the house of David will I lay upon His shoulder.' Beyond all other, David was a man of war. Now look what the natural heart says on the one hand, and what the Lord God of all power declares on the other: 'The people be strong that dwell in the land; and the cities are walled and very great; and moreover we saw the children of Anak there'. All very true; but here is the answer: 'The key of the house of David will I lay upon His shoulder'. So take courage. There is some one fenced city of a besetting sin of which you ought to take possession, some one Jericho in your hearts that defies the rule of the Lord God of Hosts. But that key will open it for you. Does not the way in which it was at first taken up, and then wearily borne along the Via Dolorosa, speak of its omnipotence? Only trust to it, and it will open the strongest wards of the most crafty lock wherewith Satan ever barred your passage yet, or ever shall bar it. And well for you that it is laid on His shoulder, not on yours. That key which opened the gates of Death and Hell, how shall it not throw back any other portals for your entrance?
J. M. Neale, Occasional Sermons, p. 34.
Illustration. Saint Teresa says very beautifully: 'O my soul, O my heart, if thou wilt, if thou desire to, enter into bliss, why dost thou not serve and go after good Jesus, Who hath the key of it? The key of this world, the men of this world have: the key of hell, Satan hath; the key of life, none but Christ. O good Jesus! O True Love of my soul! seeing that Thou art the Gate which is to be opened, and the House which we are to enter into, and the glory which we are to enjoy, why dost Thou not open to this my sinful soul, which is weary of calling for Thee? O Redeemer of my spirit, O sweetness of my life, seeing Thou hast said, that Thou didst not come into this world but to save sinners, and goest about to seek for none but sinners: why dost Thou not open to me, who am the greatest sinner of all sinners?'
J. M. Neale, Occasional Sermons, p. 37.
References. XXIII. 4. R. Primrose, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 103. XXIII. 18. S. Chadwick, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvii. 1905, p. 91.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 22". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany