"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth ..."
Course #9 - A Kingdom without a King
The Jews are a nation with a marvelous history. Their survival through the centuries is a miracle. Persecuted, scattered and separated they have appeared in every land under the sun. Great nations have oppressed them and, as one writer has remarked,
They have stood at the graveside of all their persecutors.
There is a reason behind their greatness and their littleness, their separateness and their survival. The reason is God. In our last two letters we considered a man who become known as the friend of God, Abraham the Hebrew. We saw his trek from Ur of the Chaldees, up the great fertile crescent of the valley of the Euphrates and down into Syria and Palestine. We heard God speak to him and promise him great things:things involving eternity and all the earth. His wife died and was buried; later Abraham died, still a pilgrim and stranger in the land of promise, and was buried alongside his wife.
His son, Isaac carried on the name and so did his grandson Jacob. The lives of these two men were like the life of Abraham - wanderers and without permanent home. With Jacob began the growth of the family name. He had twelve sons and it was during a time of great famine - to which that part of the world has been repeatedly subject - that the whole company of them moved down into Egypt. Father, sons and wives made 70 souls.
This was their first fixed home. Egypt the land of the Pharaohs and pyramids. With their flocks and herds, hard work and the blessing of God they grew and prospered. Within a couple of centuries they were a small nation, virile and expanding. Pharaoh feared lest they should become a threat to the safety of Egypt and he brought them into slavery and cruel oppression. At this time two things happened. A baby was born and the nation cried unto God in their sufferings. They did not know that baby was the beginning of their deliverance from Egypt. The child was Moses who received both a Jewish and Egyptian court upbringing. He became the voice of God to the Jews and to the Egyptians. Under his hand, yet without battle or Jewish army, the whole nation - men, women and children, together with all their chattels and cattle - came forth from the furnace of affliction under God's strong hand. The Egyptians, wholly unwilling to lose a nation of slaves, were constrained by mighty plagues, and terror, to let God's people go.
Moses led them forth and became their leader. Through him God spoke and the twelve tribes of Israel were forged into a nation with civil and religious laws, and had the fountain of their national life in the counsel and commandments of God.
After a lifetime's wandering in the wilderness on account of their sins and faithlessness, they were brought to the borders of Palestine where Moses bade them farewell and died. His successor was a, man of God and a warrior:Joshua, courageous, faithful and successful in his tasks.
Within seven years they had settled victorious in the land which God had promised to Abraham and his seed.
They had no king. At least they had not a king like other nations. They were the one nation on earth with God as its king. They were unique and their future could have been glorious.
But they were not satisfied. Don't be surprised. Such behavior fits in exactly with the repeated sinfulness of man ever since the garden of Eden. Of course, it appears and is much worse when the sinfulness comes from people with such privileges and opportunities. As God told them later on:
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth:therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2)
For more than four hundred years after the death of Joshua the national life of the children of Israel was mostly a disgrace with only short periods of repentance and reconciliation with God. But they were still the children of God's friend, Abraham:and for Abraham's sake and for the sake of his promise to him, God kept his part of the great covenant.
After seemingly endless wickedness there arose a new light in the darkness. An man of tremendous spiritual strength and zeal stepped into the midst of a dissolute people. He galvanized them into national action. They became a nation once more and turned away from the past wherein every man had done that which was right in his own eyes.
Samuel had come:the great judge and the remarkable prophet. The nation began to rise from its obscurity and the surrounding peoples, who had been ready like vultures to feed on the dead carcass of Israel, fell back discomfited.
But even good men do not live forever - at least not in this life. Samuel grew old and his own sons were not fit to be his successors. The people, blown up with pride and forgetful of their reliance on God, asked for a king. A king! A king like all the nations round about. Samuel was shot through with sorrow. It was a personal wound made by a thankless people. But there was something far deeper than that: God put the spotlight on it:
"They have not rejected thee (Samuel) but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." (I Samuel 8:7)
They had forgotten that the kingdom was the Lord's. They had not chosen him: he had chosen them. He was the king and they were his people. It was this wonderful relationship they had failed to keep.
God gave them a king. He was such as they would have chosen:tall, valiant in battle, a figurehead of a man. But he proved unsuitable and God rejected him.
There followed another king. He was a man of outstanding character, in fact God described him as "a man after mine own heart." The man was David the author of many of the Psalms and the man who, as a youth, slew Goliath the giant Philistine. David reigned as king but he knew he was sitting on God's throne. His eyes were ever turned to God, and his righteousness and love were an example to God's people.
This was a landmark. If we look back down the centuries and thousands of years, we see Abraham 2000 years before Christ and, one thousand years later, David 1000 years before Christ. God made promises to David which were a filling out, an expansion and extension of the great promises made to Abraham. Let us take the things together for a moment and see how important they are:
To Abraham God said: "Unto thy seed will I give this land (Palestine)." (Genesis 12:7)
and: "Thy seed shall possess the gate of HIS enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 22:18)
Abraham was to have a seed, a man, who would inherit Palestine and bring blessings on every nation under the sun. Abraham never saw that one - at least he never saw him personally - but he looked upon him through the eyes of faith. He gazed into the future and knew that he would come. Jesus said:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day:and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56)
The promises made to David were of the same kind. David was descended from Abraham and God spoke in promise to David saying:
"And it shall come to pass when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons:and I will establish his kingdom ... I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever:and his throne shall be established for ever more."
What a wonderful promise! An everlasting kingship! Who could this one be? A descendant of Abraham and of David, one to bring blessings on all nations and to reign over God's kingdom for ever, an inheritor of Palestine - who is this One?
I am not answering this question here. You can begin to answer it for yourself by reading the first verse in the New Testament. Read it and marvel that after 2000 years God remembered and began his work of fulfillment .
By the way, you are sure to want something else to read. Try (Psalm 72) and read the description of the King and his Kingdom.
If you have questions or comments about this lesson, please feel free to e-mail us with them.