The O Antipons are ancient prayers prayed the seven days before Christmas. Tonight we consider the fourth of these prayers. Let us pray:
"O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one can close, you close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death."
Keys come in all shapes and sizes, and today we are replacing mechanical keys with electronic remote control devices. Keys open our homes, lock places where we keep our money, and start the vehicles we drive.
I once had a car in which the ignition switch was so worn you didn't need the key to start it. I got in the habit of not using the key. One day I left the keys on the sofa of the elderly person I was visiting. When I got to my next stop, I shut off the vehicle. When I finished the visit and wanted to go, it would not start. I had to walk back to the previous visit to retrieve my keys and walk back to my car before I could finish my visits. I was blessed only to have to walk several blocks to get my keys. From then on I always used the keys because I never knew when the switch would lock or not.
The Messiah was described as the Key of David. I don't think there were many keys used in Bible times, but people knew what they were just the same.
In Isaiah 22 the Lord warned the people that because of their sins, their country would be destroyed, their cities surrounded, even Jerusalem would be laid siege to . God would summon Eliakim, the city administrator of Jerusalem, and would 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."
This meant that the city would be safe. God would not let the enemy in to destroy the people. The gates of the city would remain shut as long as Eliakim lived. There was a breath of relief for the Israelites, facing the greatest army of the world at that time. They would live another generation to see their children grow.
This prophecy also pointed to a greater fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah. The book of Revelation mentions one who holds the Key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Human keys allow us into buildings or to drive vehicles, but there is one person who holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven. No earthly key fits that lock. No amount of force can break down that door. Only the holder of the keys can open heaven for us.
The door stands locked. "I know your deeds," says the Lord. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The soul that sins is the soul that will die. Paradise was open to us once, but disobedience to the will of God resulted in our removal. Now we live here in a broken world, one of hardship , coldness, violence and unrest.
The door to paradise is locked, but the messiah holds the Keys. This messiah is not just any messiah, but the one God promised to come from the family of David. This messiah is Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem.
Not only does he hold the key to heaven, but he actually is the Key of David. The door of heaven will only allow passage for one who fits the pattern of holiness. No sin may enter heaven. Our own image will not be allowed to pass, and we cannot get in.
But Jesus is the Key of David. He has gone ahead of us to heaven. He has opened the door by the pattern of his own holiness. It is the Messiah's privilege to open or shut the gate into the kingdom of God. He holds the door open for all who depend on him.
We depend on our keys so much that we panic if we misplace them. I've done that many times, and I'm sure you have also. Where can we find the keys of the kingdom of God? Jesus opens and shuts heaven through the Office of the Keys and Holy Absolution.
Jesus said to Peter and the other apostles, "I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19) This binding and loosing is the forgiveness of sins. God gives to his church the power to forgive and retain sins.
Whoever repents of all their sins the Church may unlock heaven for. To whoever will not repent of their sins the Church must declare that heaven is locked to them. You see how precious the church's preaching is? It locks and unlocks the door of heaven by calling the world to repent of sins and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we pray for the Key of David to come, we are recognizing what God is doing through his church right now, but we are also calling for the physical return of Jesus show the world that the church has been telling the truth. He will rescue the prisoners of sin who repent and believe, but he will exile and banish those who will not.
In this season God uses us to call all of his people to receive the Key of David in the child of Bethlehem.
Come Lord Jesus, open heaven to your people and release us from the prison of our sin. Amen.
We sing the hymn stanza for this evening as printed in the service folder:
Oh, Come, O Key of David, come, And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you , O Israel!
(copyright CPH 1981, used by permission)
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
Send Pastor James F. Wright an email.