Reading the words to “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” today has brought home how special the nation of Israel is to God. It’s really sad that there seems to be such a hatred of Israel in the world. Let’s consider some parts of the carol:
“O come, Thou rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.” Who was Jesse? The father of King David; which reminds me that first and foremost, Israel was a family. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and made him a promise that his descendants would take possession of the land. Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel, which is how the nation began. Israel had twelve sons. Each of them has a story, but for the sake of this post, one was Levi and another Judah. From Levi’s family came the famous Moses. As the carol says later:
“O come, o come, Thou LORD of might
Who, to Thy tribes on Sinai’s heights
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe.” After Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, God gave him the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
Israel’s story continued. They eventually wanted to be like the nations around them and have a king. God was their King and warned them against this. But they got their way, even if it did mean trouble in the long run. King Saul came first, then King David (from the family of Judah), and then David’s son – Solomon. In Solomon’s time, the big split happened. Israel and Judah became separate – Israel the northern and Judah the southern kingdom. With the reigns of all their future kings, they gradually drifted further and further from God, until He sent them away from their land and into exile. While they did eventually return, there was no king after that. Instead, Israel waited for her Messiah:
“O come, o come, Immanuel
And rescue captive Israel,
Who mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears:
Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel” – and I like to change the last bit of the chorus; not Immanuel shall, but Immanuel has come to thee, o Israel. Jesus has come as Israel’s Messiah; the problem is that many of the Jews don’t recognise Him, but He is all those things mentioned in the carol: The Son of God; a rod from Jesse’s family; the Lord of might; the Key of David; Immanuel (God with us).
Israel’s so special to God that He sent His Son to be their Messiah, and that’s what we celebrate at Christmas.