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O Come, O Come, EmmanuelCome Thou Dayspring

Leslie Basham: When you think of names of Christ, what comes to mind? He's our Savior and our Shepherd. He's the King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of God and Son of man. How about the Key of David? We don't usually focus on that one.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Christ has opened Paradise. How could He do that? Because He's the Key and what He opens no one can shut. That means that if Christ has given you eternal life—and if you have eternal life, you only have it because He gave it to you.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, December 10. We're getting insight this week about words we sing at Christmas. It's easy to skip over phrases we don't understand like Key of David. What's that about? Well, here's Nancy.

Nancy: We're talking this week about what I have called my new favorite Christmas carol. A carol is a song of joy usually in celebration of the birth of Christ. I love to hear the carols not only at this season but throughout the year as well.

We've been talking about the carol "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." We've noted how each of these stanzas, some of which are not found in our modern-day hymnals, but each stanza reflects on one of the titles or the names for Jesus the Messiah.

Most of those names first appeared in the Old Testament. We looked at the name Emmanuel. We looked yesterday at the name Rod of Jesse, and today we come to the third stanza which speaks of Christ as the Key of David.

This was a term or name with which I was not real familiar, so it's been a blessing to me to go back to the Scripture and dig a little bit and find out what is meant by the term—the Key of David.

Let me read to you the stanza because you may not find it in your hymnal. The songwriter said—and we noted that this dated back to the 9th century. The song writer said:

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

"O come, Thou Key of David, come." I have to tell you, if you'd asked me, I would not have known where to find that phrase in the Scripture. I had a vague recollection it was there—but you go back to the book that has many of the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah, and that's the Book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 22 is where we find this reference to the Key of David. Let me give you a little context for this passage. As is true with many of the Old Testament prophecies, they have a near, immediate fulfillment that had to do with the current circumstances; but then they have a further out fulfillment that speaks of the promise of the coming of Christ, which was still 700 years away.

This is a prophetic passage. In the immediate circumstance, the prophet is talking about two leaders in Israel. They're not names that are real familiar to us. The first one is a man named Shebna. Shebna was a man who exalted himself as a leader.

He was proud, but he was not a godly man. Ultimately, God said, "I'm going to knock him down. I'm going to depose him from his leadership. Instead," God said, "I'm going to raise up a man to replace Shebna, a man named Eliakim." Eliakim was going to be a faithful and wise leader who was raised up by God.

We see in this man Eliakim a type of Christ. We know very little about this man, but the phrases that are given to us that describe him are also descriptive of Messiah. In Isaiah 22:22 the prophet Isaiah says, "I will place on his shoulder"—speaking immediately of Eliakim but long term of Christ—"I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David."

Remember, the line of David—because God raised up David to be a king after His own heart—became the kingly, ruling line of Israel. Through this line the Messiah would come to earth.

As I read this phrase about the key of the house of David on his shoulder, I'm reminded of another phrase in the Book of Isaiah. Chapter 9 says "the government shall be upon his shoulder" (verse 6). The key will be on His shoulder; the government will be upon His shoulder.

Isaiah 22:22 goes on to say, "He shall open [with this key], and none shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." A key in the passage and throughout Scripture is a symbol of authority. It's a symbol of power, a symbol of control. It's saying that Christ the Messiah is the king, and He holds the keys to the kingdom.

The key is also a symbol of access—not just authority. Keys let you into things. The king who had the key to the kingdom would have access to all the royal treasuries, all the royal stores. He would have access to anything he wanted because it was his kingdom and he held the keys.

Here's a picture of absolute authority and power and the right that Messiah has to enter wherever He pleases. There's no one who has higher authority, no one who can keep Him out if He wants to come in. He can open every door; He can shut any door He wants.

We see that Christ, who is the Key of David, has sovereign authority to control who gets into His kingdom and who doesn't. He has the keys of the kingdom.

When we come to the Book of Revelation, we see this phrase from Isaiah repeated. In Revelation 3:7, Jesus says through His servant John,

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write these words: "The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David [Christ, who has the key of David], who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut (verses 7-8).

In this passage we see the fulfillment of the Old Testament passage; we see that Christ holds the key to salvation, and He holds the key to blessing. If you have salvation, if you have blessing in your life, it's because Christ has the key, and He opened the door for you to enter into eternal life.

Not only does He hold the key to life and blessing and salvation, but also—according to the Book of Revelation—He holds the keys to death and to hell. Revelation 1 Jesus says,

Fear not, I am the first and the last, and.[I am] the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the key of Death and Hades (verses 17-18).

Hades is the place where the dead go.

The songwriter of the carol we've been looking at says, "O come, Thou Key of David come, and open wide our heavenly home." Open heaven for us. How can He do that? Because He's the Key, and what He opens, no one can shut.

That means that if Christ has given you eternal life—and if you have eternal life, you only have it because He gave it to you. He opened the door. It was no initiative that you took. It was nothing that you could have done to get this for yourself. If you have eternal life, He has given it to you, and no one can take it away.

And, conversely, what He shuts no one can open. Only He has the key to life. If you have not ever received eternal life from Him, you have no way of getting into heaven. What He shuts, no one can open.

Not only does He hold the key to eternal life and to heaven, but He also holds the key to everything that we need between here and heaven. He's the One who holds the key to the treasure stores of His abundant spiritual riches.

Everything that you and I need for life and godliness in this world and eternity is found in Christ, who is the Key of David; everything you need to understand His Word, He's the key. He's the One who unlocks it.

I tell you, I was needing that key this past week as I was trying to figure out what the "Key of David" means. I'm having to cry out to the Lord and say, "Lord, You hold the key. Open Your Word to me. Show me what this means. Give me understanding." The key is not in me; it's not in you. It's not our wisdom, our strength, our abilities, our efforts—it's Christ, the Key of David.

We pray,

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Steven Curtis Chapman (singing):

Rejoice, Rejoice,
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel
Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice.1

Nancy: Then there's a stanza that calls Christ the Dayspring. This stanza tells us that because Jesus has come to this earth, because of His advent—that word advent means "arrival" or "coming"—because of His advent, we no longer have to walk in darkness. We don't have to walk in fear. We don't have to live in dread because Christ is the source of light and life. Therefore, He is the source of all true holiday cheer. Cheer comes from Him to our hearts because He has come to this earth.

This fourth stanza of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" reads:

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

The songwriter said, O come thou Dayspring. That word Dayspring is a reference that comes from a song sung by Zechariah in Luke 1. It was a prophetic song. As you remember, Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist.

When his son John the Baptist was born, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit. We read in Luke 1:67, he prophesied. He said,

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.

Then skipping down to verse 76, Zechariah says,

And you, child [that is, John the Baptist, this newborn babe], will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways [Whose ways? Jesus, the Messiah], to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (verses 76-79. NKJV).

Various translations translate that verse a little differently. That word Dayspring—"The Dayspring from on high has visited us"—some other translations say, "the rising sun has visited us," or "come to us from heaven," or "the Sunrise from on high will visit us."

The dawn, the morning, the point when the light comes creeping up and dispels the darkness. Christ, we're told, is the Dayspring from on high—the sunrise from heaven, God's gift to us, who brings light to our dark earth, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

As we go back, as we have earlier this week to the Book of Isaiah, we find some prophecies that tell us this is what Jesus would do when He came to earth. Isaiah 9:1 says, "There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress" (NIV). 

Isaiah 9:2 says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned" (NKJV). Dayspring! Sunrise! Morning! Dawn has come to earth.

Why? Isaiah 9:6 says, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given." The Dayspring from on high, the Sunrise from heaven has visited us. God has come to earth. Jesus Christ is the Dayspring from on high who has come to visit this earth. It's God sending dawn—light, morning, sunrise—to this dark earth, this earth that for years laid in the darkness of sin and death.

I think back to those early verses of the Book of Genesis—darkness covered the earth, but the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep (see Genesis 1:2). The point came when God said, "Let there be light [day, dawn, morning], and there was light" (1:3). 

Jesus Christ is the light who came to this dark and sinful earth to bring morning, to bring day, to bring dawn to our hearts. We see this theme throughout the Scripture of Christ as the Light of the World. Malachi 4 says, "For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall" (verse 2). 

When we were in the darkness of sin and Satan and death, we couldn't see. We were stumbling around in the darkness of this world, in spiritual darkness. But once the light got turned on, once the day dawned, once the Dayspring came—we could see. We could go leaping. We could be cheered. We could be freed from our despair. We could rejoice because the Dayspring from on high has visited us.

The coming of Christ is like sunrise, like daybreak. It disperses the darkness and the gloom. Jesus says, "I am the bright and the morning star," in Revelation 22:16. He's the One who causes the fear of death to flee. He's the One who brings cheer and hope to those who are in despair. Christ is the light that pierces the darkness of this world.

We do find in the Scripture the realization that the fullness of the light has not yet come. We don't yet live in noonday. We've seen the dawning. We've seen the Dayspring on high who has visited us, but we know there's still a lot of darkness to be dispersed in this world.

We know the fullness of light is yet to come. Second Peter 1 refers to that. It talks about the time that the day will dawn and the morning star will rise in your hearts (see verse 19). It says until that time we have the Word of God that's like a lamp shining in a dark place. We have Christ, the Living Word, shining in our hearts.

Yet, there's a sense in which there's fullness of day yet to come. I love the description in Revelation 21 that tells us what that day will be like. It talks about noonday, when there'll be a new heaven and a new earth and "the dwelling place of God will be with men. He will dwell with them and they will be His people" (verse 3).

We're told that "the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb" (verse 23). There will be no night there. Can you imagine? Well, we can't. But try and imagine that day when there will be no more night, no more gloom, no more sadness, no more darkness, no more death, no more sickness, no more pain, no more tears.

It's all possible because the Dayspring from on high—the Dawn, the Morning—has visited us, and He's rising in our hearts. He's going to continue rising in this world until there's pure noonday—no shadow left, no darkness. We live today in hope of that coming day.

It's Christ, the Light of the World, who brings us hope, who brings us light, who cheers our hearts. I want us to be reminded this Christmas that not only is Christ the Light of the World, He is the Dayspring who has dawned in our world and dawned in our hearts, the One who cheers our hearts, who disperses the gloomy clouds of night, who puts to flight death's dark shadows as we've been reading in this hymn.

Because Christ, that dayspring, has dawned in our hearts, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." He comes into our hearts; He shines light in our hearts—then He shines through us to give light to this dark world. You are the light of the world.

First Thessalonians 5 says, "You are all children of the light, children of the day" (verse 5). So don't live like those who are of the night. Live as children of the day.

Ephesians 5,

At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (verses 8-11).

How do you expose the darkness? By being light. By letting the light of Christ shine through you into this dark world. We read that verse in Proverbs 4 that I think speaks not only of Christ but also our lives. It says, "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day" (verse 18). 

Christ is our righteousness. He is the dayspring. He is the light of dawn. He is shining brighter and brighter in this world until full day, till there will be no darkness, no shadow left.

But we are called in this world, that still has a lot of shadows left, to be His light. We are called to be righteous, to shine like the light of dawn, to shine brighter and brighter until full day, until the noonday has come.

Bryan Duncan (singing):

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! 2

Leslie: Isn't it exciting that the perfect Light has come? We usually associate the sunrise with the Easter holiday, but Nancy Leigh DeMoss has shown us why it's an appropriate picture for Christmas as well.

We've been taking a fresh look at an old carol all this week, unpacking phrases like "Dayspring," "the Key of David," and "Rod of Jesse." If you missed any of it, just visit You have some options there. You can order this series on CD, or stream the audio at the site, or get every program sent to your computer each by subscribing to our podcast. The Revive Our Hearts podcast is a lifeline to women around the world who can't get the program over the radio. The podcast is one important channel as multiple generations connect with Revive Our Hearts.

For instance, we heard from a listener named Abigail not too long ago. She's a college senior who has been listening to the podcast for two years, and she wrote,

I can't tell you how encouraging listening to Nancy has been. To hear Nancy teach God's Word in a way that is applicable to women of all generations is such a blessing. Of all the podcasts I listen to, Nancy's is the one that makes me feel that I could sit down with her, enjoy a cup of coffee, and talk about life in the Lord. Nancy, thank you for being a woman who God uses to touch women in the twenty-somethings.

Now, we would not be able to speak to women in their twenty-somethings, in their ninety-somethings, and all the women in between if not for the support of listeners who donate to Revive Our Hearts. We sometimes let you know that your donation has a big effect on whether we'll be able to stay on the radio in your community.

But when you donate to Revive Our Hearts, you're also helping us get this message out around the world via podcasting and streaming. You're helping us speak to a generation of women who have new listening habits. It really shows, Nancy, that one simple act of making a donation is really making a huge difference.

Nancy: We especially need to hear from our listeners right now. God has placed some wonderful opportunities before us. We're also facing some serious obstacles. We're trying to wisely use new social media tools, but our websites are outdated and limited. We're in the early stages of responding to a very exciting opportunity to minister to millions of women in the Spanish speaking world.

It's difficult to move forward on new opportunities and develop these new audiences while we're facing a serious budget deficit here at the end of December. Would you join us in praying for God's provision at this time? Would you consider providing a much needed donation to Revive Our Hearts during our current matching challenge of $300,000.

When you help us meet that challenge, and Lord willing, far exceed that amount, you'll be making it possible for us to avoid further ministry cuts. You'll be making it possible for us to take advantage of new opportunities to speak to women who desperately need to hear God's Word.

Leslie: What can a woman do when men won't lead? Nancy will open to the book of Judges on Monday and show women how to respectfully encourage men to embrace their calling. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Steven Curtis Chapman, The Music of Christmas. Sparrow/EMD, 1995.

2 Bryan Duncan. The Songs 4 Life Collection. "Miracle of Christmas." Time Life Books.

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Topics: Holidays


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