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Kingship

In the Old Tes­ta­ment, God was to be the King of His Peo­ple. But wish­ing to be like the oth­er nations, the Israelites asked the Lord for a human king.

Then all the elders of Israel gath­ered togeth­er and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to gov­ern us like all the nations.” But the thing dis­pleased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to gov­ern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hear­ken to the voice of the peo­ple in all that they say to you; for they have not reject­ed you, but they have reject­ed me from being king over them. Accord­ing to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, for­sak­ing me and serv­ing oth­er gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hear­ken to their voice; only you shall solemn­ly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shah reign over them.” (1 Sam 8:4–9)

So Samuel recount­ed to the peo­ple all that would hap­pen to them if they lived like the oth­er nations hav­ing a man as their king. The king would send their sons to war. He would put all the peo­ple to work for him. He would take their best ani­mals and crops. He would make the peo­ple his slaves.

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have cho­sen for your­selves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the peo­ple refused to lis­ten to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may gov­ern us and go out before us and fight our bat­tles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the peo­ple, he repeat­ed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hear­ken to their voice, and make them a king.” (1 Sam 8:18–22)

Israel received its king. The first was Saul who became dement­ed. The sec­ond was David the Shep­herd who ruled well. The third was Solomon who was known for his wis­dom and who built the tem­ple to God in Jerusalem. But then there was a divi­sion of the king­doms of Israel and Judah, and strife among them because of their sins, which result­ed in a suc­ces­sion of cap­tiv­i­ties to var­i­ous for­eign pow­ers from which the peo­ple nev­er final­ly escaped.

The psalms and prophets of the Old Tes­ta­ment con­stant­ly recalled God’s peo­ple to the real­i­ty that only the Lord is king. He alone is the True Shep­herd of His Peo­ple. He alone is the One Who rules and Who is to be served and obeyed.

I will extol Thee, my God and King,

and bless Thy name for ever and ever.

Every day I will bless Thee,

and praise Thy name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and great­ly to be praised,

and His great­ness is unsearch­able,

All Thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord, and all Thy saints shall bless Thee!

They shall speak of the glo­ry of Thy king­dom and tell of Thy pow­er,

to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty deeds,

and the glo­ri­ous splen­dor of Thy king­dom.

Thy king­dom is an ever­last­ing king­dom,

and Thy domin­ion endures through­out all gen­er­a­tions. (Ps 145:1–3, 10–13)

The prophets called all of the earth­ly kings, the “shep­herds of Israel,” to repen­tance before the divine King of heav­en, but their words were most­ly to no avail.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, proph­esy against the shep­herds of Israel, proph­esy, and say to them, even to the shep­herds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shep­herds of Israel who have been feed­ing your­selves! Should not shep­herds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe your­selves with the wool, you slaugh­ter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strength­ened, the sick you have not healed, the crip­pled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harsh­ness you have ruled them. So they were scat­tered, because there was no shep­herd; and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scat­tered over all the moun­tains and on every high hill; my sheep were scat­tered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” (Ezek 34:1–6)

The psalms and the prophets of the Old Tes­ta­ment also fore­told the time when God would rule His Peo­ple direct­ly. He would be the shep­herd of all nations, rul­ing through the Mes­si­ah-King Who would come from the house of David, the King of Whose king­dom there would be no end.

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is giv­en;

and the gov­ern­ment will be upon His shoul­der,

and His name will be called

Won­der­ful Coun­selor, Mighty God,

Ever­last­ing Father, Prince of Peace.”

Of the increase of His gov­ern­ment and of peace there will be no end,

upon the throne of David, and over His king­dom,

to estab­lish it, and to uphold it

with jus­tice and with right­eous­ness

from this time forth and for ever­more.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 4:6–7)

Behold, the days are com­ing, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a right­eous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wise­ly, and shall exe­cute jus­tice and right­eous­ness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell secure­ly. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our right­eous­ness.”’ (Jer 23:5–6)

But you, O Beth­le­hem Ephrathah,

who are lit­tle to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one is to be ruler in Israel,

whose ori­gin is from of old,

from ancient days.

There­fore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in tra­vail has brought forth;

then the rest of his brethren shall return

to the peo­ple of Israel.

And He shall stand and feed His flock

in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now

He shall be great

to the ends of the earth. (Mic­ah 5:2–4)

For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shep­herd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scat­tered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will res­cue them from all places where they have been scat­tered on a day of clouds and thick dark­ness.

I myself will be the shep­herd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crip­pled, and I will strength­en the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in jus­tice. (Ezek 34:11–12, 15–16)

Rejoice great­ly, O daugh­ter of Zion!

Shout aloud, O daugh­ter of Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

tri­umphant and vic­to­ri­ous is he,

hum­ble and rid­ing on an ass,

on a colt the foal of an ass.

I will cut off the char­i­ot from Ephraim

and the war horse from Jerusalem;

and the bat­tle bow shall be cut off,

and He shall com­mand peace to the nations;

His domin­ion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the Riv­er to the ends of the earth. (Zech 9:9–10)

The king of the final king­dom of God is Jesus Christ. He is the One Shep­herd and Lord. He is the One “of whose king­dom there will be no end.” Thus, the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary at the announce­ment of His birth:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His king­dom there will be no end.” (Lk 1:32–33)

All of His life, Jesus was prepar­ing the ever­last­ing King­dom of God. He came to bring this King­dom to men. He is the Son of David, Who will reign for­ev­er. He is the One Who announces the gospel of the King­dom of God (Mt 4:23, 9:35).

Being asked by the Phar­isees when the king­dom of God was com­ing, He answered them, “The king­dom of God is not com­ing with signs to be observed; nor will they say,‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the king­dom of God is in the midst of you.” (Lk 17:20–21)

The King­dom of God is in the midst of men when Christ is present. He Him­self is the King Who gives the King­dom of God to those who are this.

Fear not, lit­tle flock, for it is your Father’s good plea­sure to give you the king­dom. (Lk 12:32)

You are those who have con­tin­ued with me in my tri­als; as my Father appoint­ed a king­dom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my king­dom… (Lk 22:28–30)

All of the preach­ing and para­bles of Christ con­cern­ing the King­dom of God speak of Him­self as the King. Those who believe in Jesus and obey Him will reign with Him in His King­dom which has been pre­pared “from the foun­da­tion of the world” for those who love Him (Mt 25:34). His King­dom is the ever­last­ing king­dom which is “not of this world,” but of God the Father (Jn 18:36).

The gospel nar­ra­tives of the cru­ci­fix­ion of Christ place Him in His role as King, All of the mock­ery and tor­ment of Jesus is giv­en to Him as the “King of the Jews.” This was the accu­sa­tion against Him and the title nailed to the cross. Thus, the irony is com­plete as the scrip­tures are ful­filled in the words of Pilate when, after Jesus had sat down on the judg­ment seat, Pilate pro­claimed to the peo­ple, “Behold, your king!” (Jn 19:14).

Jesus is the King. He is one with God, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:5). He is the One “high­ly exalt­ed” over all prin­ci­pal­i­ties and pow­ers, the One before Whom every knee shall bow “In heav­en, and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2:9–11, also Eph 1:20–23). He is the One Who, at the end of the ages when He “comes in His king­dom” with all the heav­en­ly pow­ers, will destroy every evil, and rule over all cre­ation for­ev­er as the prophets pre­dict­ed.

… and the Lamb (Christ) will con­quer them [the wicked], for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and cho­sen and faith­ful. (Rev 17:14)

Then I saw heav­en opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faith­ful and True, and in right­eous­ness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name inscribed which no one knows but Him­self. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heav­en, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, fol­lowed Him on white hors­es. From His mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 19:11–16)

Then He showed me the riv­er of the water of Life, bright as crys­tal, flow­ing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the mid­dle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the riv­er, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yield­ing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the heal­ing of the nations. There shall no more be any­thing accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His ser­vants shall wor­ship Him; they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their fore­heads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 22:1–5)