“This is the generation that is seeking him—
who are seeking your face, O Jacob.
Here we have the cry of David, calling out for the one who would finally and most assuredly present himself before the face of God in his holy temple, and David continues his plea with these words: “This is the generation that is seeking him!” In other words, David is crying out, “we are looking for the messiah, we are searching him out, our eyes are open Lord, reveal him to us!” Thus, this is not just the heart’s song of David, but it is the song of the people as well.
This reminds us that hymns are meant not only to be sung by the congregation, but the lyrics, as we sing them, are to become our own words. It is easy to get into a routine, when it comes to Sunday worship. We gather, sing a few hymns, pray a few prayers, read a bit of scripture, and listen to a sermon, and then go on with our day. How easy it is for our minds to wander away from what we are doing to the obligations we have for the week ahead. How often, when we hear the pastor’s prayer, that our minds are elsewhere and we do not make his words our own. How often we sing the words of the hymns, but as we do so, we are only singing them as the words of Fanny Crosby, Isaac Watts, or John Newton, and never appropriate those words as our own. How often our routine brings us to sing the words of these hymns without dwelling on their meaning. David reminds us that as we lift our voices together to sing God’s praise, we are proclaiming these words, whoever penned them originally, to be our own as well. This is the generation, David says, that seeks the Messiah.
Now there is some question over the next line. In Hebrew poetry, one of the primary elements that is used is that of parallelism. In other words, often the second line means essentially the same thing as the first line does, yet it is stated in a different way. Thus, the question is asked, if David and his generation are seeking the Messiah who will go up for them, where does Jacob fit into the picture. This question has driven both the ESV and the NIV, in their translations of the Bible, to add the words “God of” to the passage, making the parallelism equate the sought Messiah with God himself. Now, while this is certainly an accurate connection, it is an addition to the text and changes the meaning of what David is saying. There are times when words need to be added to the text to communicate the idea in good English, but this is not one of them.
So then, we are left once again with this question, how are we to understand these words? A quick survey of commentaries will return a variety of views on this question, some being more dogmatic about their position than others. Yet, oftentimes, the simplest and most straightforward explanation is the best one to grasp. Jacob, of course, was renamed as Israel after his wrestling match with God (Genesis 31:28). As a result, while we usually speak of God’s covenant nation as “Israel” or “the children of Israel,” the scriptures also use the name “Jacob” at times as a collective noun to refer to God’s covenant people (see Psalm 53:6, Isaiah 44:5, etc…). As the Messiah was promised to the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what David is essentially saying is, “we look to your seed, Oh, Jacob, from which our Messiah will come. It is a statement of confidence in God that he will not only send a redeemer, but that the redeemer that will be sent will be bound by line and generation to the covenant body—he is not coming from outside.
We spoke earlier about the importance of the full humanity of Christ as Messiah, and here that issue is reinforced once again, although more subtly. Not only must Christ be human to redeem humanity, but he also must come from within God’s covenant people. For if Christ was to fulfill the Law of God on behalf of his people, he had to be born under that same law (Galatians 4:4), yet live without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Beloved, do you see how deeply our God loves us? God loved us so much that he was willing to identify with us on every level—tempted as we are and born under the full weight of the revealed law of God—so that he could intercede for his people as one who knows—even on the most intimate levels—all of our grief and sorrows. And beloved, he loved us so much that he would be willing to identify so perfectly with us, though not sinning but bearing the weight and punishment for our sin on the cross, so that when we come before God in judgment, that we might stand before God not in our own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ. His righteousness is sufficient for us, yet, oh, how we don’t deserve such grace and mercy. You and I bring nothing to the table and have nothing of our own to present before God—we stand guilty, wicked, and deserving eternal condemnation—even the best of us. Yet as wicked and wretched as we are, Christ is more than sufficient. Not only did he identify with us in our humanity, but in doing so, he revealed in himself the heart of God.
Oh, beloved, do not let this love and mercy pass you by. Do not simply sing of God’s love as something you might do as rote our habit, but beloved, glory in it! This love of God has no match in all of the universe—there is nothing like it and there can be no substitute for it—it is truly supernatural and out of this world. And, loved ones, how wretched we are when we take this for granted. Beloved, this very thing, the whole idea of God becoming man without ceasing to be God is enough to last you for a lifetime. The richness of the implications are beyond comprehension. C.S. Lewis called this the greatest miracle of all, and oh, indeed, it is! That God would condescend to us, in our sin, our wretchedness, our hatefulness of God, and that God would become a man—yet remaining fully God—and take the form of a slave, bound under the law and bearing all the weight of our sin. If God were bound to human logic, it is something that he would have never done—we are just not worth the sacrifice, no we aren’t. But, oh, my friends, how thankful we should be that God’s ways are not the ways of man (Isaiah 55:8) and that God would choose that which is foolish in the eyes of men to do his most magnificent work in our lives (1 Corinthians 1:20-22). This is the gospel dear ones, that God did not leave us to the sinful, wretched, horrid, rebellion that we were born into, but God became man, forever bridging the chasm between God and man, in the person of his son, becoming our perfect sacrifice and our perfect righteousness for ones like you and I who deserve nothing but eternal fire. Oh, loved ones, this is the work of the Messiah for whom David was looking, and in faith, we are part of the generation who seeks him—knowing full well that he can be found in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.