God’s Dynamic Kingdom Rule from Abraham to Israel
Last week we saw that Adam had failed in his God-given role to rule as God had intended, but God did not abandon mankind. He renewed the same dominion mandate to Abraham in Genesis 17:4-6:
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.”
So Adam was GIVEN the RESPONSIBILITY, the “work” as it were, to rule and govern over the creation but Abraham was told that God would GRANT HIM rule or dominion. God would MAKE Abraham “the father of a multitude of nations”. (Remember John 6:65: "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.")
Adam’s commission was given when there was no sin to deter him, but after Adam’s fall into sin, dominion over the earth would only be pleasing to God and possible by man unless it were “GRANTED” or gifted from God, although God’s people would still have an important role to play in God’s fulfillment. Man’s dominion as a gift would be given in the context of God’s gracious redemption of a sinful people, which is why the sacrificial system was commanded by God as a central part of national Israel.
In the book of Judges we see the downward spiritual of national sin and rebellion against God in Israel: Judges 17: 6 says: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Israel certainly needed a godly king to lead them in God’s ways, much like most nations in the world today.
When Israel DID ask for a king in the days of Samuel, they asked with sinful motives; 1 Samuel 8:4-7 says: 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." 6 But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
The chapter goes on to tell the people that in asking for a king, they were asking for a lot of trouble, war and persecution in their lives. But despite their wrong God nonetheless grants His people their request, in fulfillment of His own promise in Deuteronomy 17:14-20: “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. Verse 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. 18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”
God instituted a monarchy in Israel and Saul, Israel’s first king, did not rule according to the Lord’s commands (see 1 Sam 13:8-15), and eventually was removed from his throne (1 Sam 15). It is at this point that David is anointed king (1 Sam 16), and which culminates in the covenant God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7 (see also Ps 89:35). In this covenant God promises (through Nathan the prophet) to preserve a kingly line into the future, beginning with King David (2 Sam 7:12-16)”:
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established FOREVER.” (Taken from Dr. Ben C Dunson Blog: “The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament: From Abraham to Israel”)
The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament Prophets
“When the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel went into exile the hope for God’s rule over the earth to be manifested in an Israelite king seemed to have come to nothing. The prophets (before, during, and after the exile), however, made it clear that even with the exile God would not, and did not, abandon His intention to rule over His people and His world through a Davidic king.
Because of the utter sinfulness of the human heart, the prophets of Israel revealed that the only hope for the establishment of an enduring and faithful kingdom would lie in a future work of God’s redemption. The human heart was too corrupt for God’s purposes for the world to be accomplished through Israel’s fallen and sinful kings. For the most part Israel’s kings failed to rule over Israel in righteousness, failing to make Israel a “holy nation and kingdom of priests” and “a light to the nations.”
In order to reverse the failure of Israel and extend His kingdom across the earth God would come in power to deliver people from the very sin which caused them to fall, creating a new people and a new creation in order for His reign to be established.
Isaiah spoke of the reestablishment of God’s kingdom in Isa 40:9-11:
“Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”
God did not cease to be king simply because of the failure of Israel’s earthly kings. Instead, God promises to perform a dramatic act of salvation and rescue for His wayward people in the future. If the kingdom of God is to be manifest over the earth, and if Israel is to be a light to the nations (through a messianic king: Isa 9:1-7; 42:1-9), it would only come about when The LORD, YHWH would return to Zion to deliver His sinful people and equip them to extend His saving reign to the furthest points of the earth:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. (Isa 52:7-10)
Jeremiah expresses this with the imagery of God placing shepherds (a symbol of kingship) over His people in the context of bringing them (in a NEW exodus) out from the nations to which they have been driven in Jeremiah 23:3-4:
Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.
Daniel speaks of this reality in this way in Daniel 2:44:
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever …
Through the end-time kingdom that God will set up, “the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one” (Zech 14:9). God, through a future, godly Davidic king will reign over the whole world, for how long? Forever (see Psalm 89). Adam’s dominion mandate will be fulfilled through the dramatic saving work of God. In that day “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).
While the prophets consistently speak of God as the one who will sovereignly usher in His end time kingdom, they also speak of this as being accomplished through a kingly messiah figure. This messiah is described in many ways in the prophets, but two passages stand out as particularly significant for understanding the ministry of Jesus Christ, namely Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and Daniel 7.
In Isaiah 52:13-53:12 the prophet speaks of a coming servant of the Lord who “shall be high and lifted up and shall be exalted” (Isa 52:13). This is the language of kingly exaltation, as is reinforced two verses later where we read that “kings shall shut their mouths because of him” (52:15). The exaltation of God’s servant, however, will paradoxically come about through his own suffering (53:3-5):
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
Israel’s sinful failure requires atonement: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).(Who would ever dream that God’s kingly role and rule would be through the cross?)
The suffering and death of God’s kingly servant is necessary for the end-time kingdom to be established. In fact, it is the very means by which the kingdom will be established.
In Daniel 7 the coming kingly deliverer of God’s people seems strikingly unlike the suffering servant of Isaiah 52-53. Consider Dan 7:13-14:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
These two verses nicely encapsulate Daniel’s vision of an end-time “son of man” who will defeat all the enemies of God and of His people. Through this son of man, God will establish his dominion over all nations, a dominion that will never pass away or be destroyed. The dominion mandate of Adam will be fulfilled. Israel (see Dan 7:22), through the kingly son of man, will establish God’s kingdom over all peoples.
The final, saving reign of God comes through a suffering servant (Isa 52-53) and a triumphant heavenly deliverer. Victory is accomplished through the suffering of God’s king. This was next to impossible for many Jews to accept, because they simply expected a triumphant earthly king, without understanding how he would triumph (we saw that in John 6:15). This, however, is precisely how Jesus understood His own kingly calling: He is the heavenly Son of Man who will come again on the clouds to judge the world.
The Jews to whom Jesus preached knew that God was king. They knew that God had always been king. What they did not know (apart from those who were given special revelation) was that the final, end-time, saving reign of God announced by Israel’s prophets was already breaking into the world in Jesus’ own person and ministry. We learn what Jesus has says about the nature of the kingdom of God and His role as Messiah in the Gospels.
As God’s children, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we live for this Crucified, Risen and ascended King. He is our Lord who died on the cross and rose from the dead as the first fruits of all who would believe and trust in Him alone. He reigns in Heaven today but also reigns in the heart of every believer, which IS His Body, the Church, the “called out ones”.
I. Abraham: Gen. 17:4-6: God’s covenant with Abraham was “granted” or gifted in the context of God’s gracious redemption of a sinful people.
The Judges 17:6: “All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”
II.The Kings: (1 Samuel 8:4-7, 13:8-15, ch, 16, 2 Sam. 7:12-16. Ps.89:35): Israel’s request for a king contained sinful motives.
Deut. 17:14-20: In asking for a king they were asking for trouble. David was the exception. (1 Sam 16)
III. The Prophets: Made it clear that God would not abandon His intention to rule His People and His World. (Isa. 9:1-7, 40:9-11,42:1-9, 52:7-10, 53:1-12, Jere. 23:3-4, Dan. 2:44, ch. 7, Hab. 2:14)
IV. Jesus teaches the coming of and nature of the Kingdom of God in the Gospels.