Yearning for the Messiah – Hosea 3:5
Many people are aware of the teaching that belief in the coming of the Messiah is a foundational aspect of Judaism. What is not so well known is that the longing and the yearning for the Messiah is also foundational to the Jewish faith. In the prophecy of Hosea we read how Israel will seek their God and together with this search for God, Israel will also seek their King David, a reference to the Messiah.
Why is seeking the Messiah so important? Why is the yearning for the Messiah put together with the longing to connect with God?
What do we mean when we say that we yearn for the Messiah? And why is the Messiah called by the name “David” in this particular passage?
The Messiah is the king of Israel. As it is with kings in general, people who are patriotic to their respective homelands tend to harbor positive feelings in their heart towards the king of their country. The western world does not view monarchs with much respect, and the concept of a king is a bit foreign to our modern minds, but we can surely imagine what it means to feel loyalty to a king. One who loves his or her country with all their heart, and who sees in the monarch the nucleus of everything the country stands for, will certainly entertain very positive feelings towards the king.
The loyalty that one feels towards the monarch will reflect the measure to which one identifies with his or her country. People who do not consider the cause of the country at large to be their own cause, will not bear very strong feelings in their hearts towards the man who represents the government of the country. It is only to the degree that one considers the ideals and the goals of his nation to be his or her goals, to that same measure will the person regard the monarch of the nation with esteem.
History is replete with examples of two or more monarchs competing for the loyalty of the population. Each of these monarchs represents a different set of hopes and aspirations for the country, and each contender for the throne draws to themselves those members of the citizenry that identify with their particular version of a set of ideals and a vision for the nation. Allegiance to a monarch requires not only that the supporter identify with the country in general. Loyalty to a king also demands that the supporter identify with the vision and the cause of this particular king.
Israel is a nation that is called by God. Israel’s mission before God is to proclaim and to live for the truth that everyone and everything is subject to God. It is the mission of the Jewish people to bear witness to the ultimate truth of God’s absolute sovereignty.
The recognition that God is the absolute Master of all requires not only that no devotion be directed towards another entity. The recognition of God’s mastery requires that we acknowledge our own complete dependence upon God’s constant love. Israel’s calling before God demands that we emphasize the dependence of every created being upon the kindness of the One Creator.
The concept of a king would generally stand as somewhat of a contradiction to the calling of Israel. A monarch generally sets himself up as one who is above the general human state of dependency. Kings and queens generally attempt to project an image of invincibility and independent power. A monarch that establishes himself as an inherent source of strength would conflict with Israel’s calling as a people who are called to bear witness to all of creation’s complete dependency upon God.
When David entered the scene, the world was introduced to a different sort of monarch. David revealed his entire heart in the Book of Psalms. In the Psalms David expresses his own complete helplessness before God. Not only did David not set himself up as a competitor with God, as is the case with most monarchs, but David actually inspired Israel and all who read his songs to come to a deeper recognition of their own dependence upon God. David embodies Israel’s mission as a nation before God. Any Jew who identifies with the Israel’s calling to proclaim the absolute sovereignty of God, sees in David the heart and soul of Israel’s hope and destiny.
The fact that we don’t yearn for David and for the Messiah as we should is because we aren’t seeking God as we should. If we were to seek God with all hearts and with all our souls, as Moses encourages us to do (Deuteronomy 4:29), we would realize that David is our king. If we were to realize that our mission in life is to declare to one and all, and first and foremost to ourselves, that there is no master but God, and that everything is subject to Him, we would surely yearn for the author of the Psalms to lead us once again.
Yearning for David, and for his descendant the Messiah, who will surpass David in proclaiming God’s absolute sovereignty over all existence including himself, is a core aspect of Judaism. To the degree that we identify with the aspiration of the Jewish people, that all of existence proclaim God’s sovereignty, to that same degree will we long for a king who will help us see through the illusion of our own power and the powers of this temporal world. The vision of Israel as a people before God finds its innermost expression in the songs of David. David’s Book of Psalms is the heart of Israel as a people before God. It is for this reason that yearning for the Messiah is so integral to the Jewish faith.
May he come speedily in our days.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal