O Key of David
O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israël,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
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 represent authority. The one who has the keys has authority.
Shebna was King Hezekiah’s chief-of-staff. He held the keys to the
palace. He misused his authority by having his tomb carved where kings
were buried and enriching himself at his master’s expense. The servant
wanted to be king. And so he was stripped of his office, and Eliakim
was called to replace him. Shebna had to turn in his keys. It’s a
dire warning to all who hold authority not to use it for personal
God used this little bit of palace power politics to prophesy something
greater: “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David;
he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall
open.” Those words are applied to Christ in the Revelation. He is the
one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who
shuts and no one opens.”
Sin locks the doors on us. It makes our lives a prison of fear; it
places us in solitary confinement – isolated from God and from each
other. Like the disciples in the upper room on Easter evening, we are
locked up into ourselves, locked away from others. As we confess in
the liturgy, we are “in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” No
matter how much we struggle against the chains and rattle the bars, we
are unable to break out of the prison.
But Christ has come and entered the prison. He took on the Law’s death
sentence. He stormed the gates of death and hell with His death. He
turns the key to our cell. He is the key, the key that unlocks us from
the Law and breaks the chains of death that bind us in fear. He sets us
free to live as free children in His free city.
Jesus is the key of David, who opens and no one can close, who closes
and no one can open. And He entrusts the keys to His church, to bind
and loose from sin in His name. He established the office of the keys
in the church, that is, the office of the ministry that turns the keys
which bind and loose in His stead and by His command. We don’t have to
wonder where the keys to heaven are. They are in the mouth of Peter
and of the pastor God has called and ordained to speak forgiveness to
you. His mouth is the Lord’s mouth to forgive you. The sins he
forgives are forgiven; the sins he retains are retained. He turns the
key that unbinds you from your sin and frees you. He does it not on
his own authority, but by the permission of the One who is the Key of
Advent disciplines us in the discipline of being forgiven, of
delighting in the Key of David who unlocks us from our sin, of living
in the freedom of being the forgiven children of God.
O come, Thou 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!