December 16, 2005

Advent 2005: Jesus Our King

Category: Bible :: Permalink

Scripture: 2 Samuel 7
(December 11, 2005, Advent Sermon)

[For much of this sermon, I’m indebted to James Jordan’s From Bread to Wine and to Peter Leithart‘s sermons in April and May 2004.]

Jesus is the anointed one. In the Bible three types of people are anointed: priests, kings, and prophets. Though there is some overlap, in the Bible God first calls Israel to be a kingdom of priests, represented by the Levites, priests, and high priest in particular. Later, He gives Israel a king. And then, when the kingdom splits and especially when Israel and Judah are headed for exile, He raises up prophets.

That historical order helps us understand something about Jesus as priest, king, and prophet. It also helps us understand how God grows us to maturity in the pattern of Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday, we talked about priests. Priests in the Bible are palace servants, housekeepers in God’s house — both the physical building and the people of God. Priests hear God’s Word and obey it, whether they understand or not. Priesthood corresponds to the early phase of life when you simply follow orders and learn obedience.

But at a certain point in history, God gave Israel a king as He had always planned. The gift of a king to Israel is an increase in glory. It’s maturation.


What do kings do? Kings rule. While priests are servants, kings are sons of God (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7). While priests are servants under authority, kings exercise authority over others.

They are to rule as shepherds (2 Sam. 7:8) for the good of their sheep. They are God’s firstborn sons (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 89:26-27) who represent God’s corporate firstborn son, Israel (Ex. 4:22-23) and, as we see throughout Kings and Chronicles, the fate of Israel turns on the faithfulness of the king. Kings rule, not by looking out for themselves, but through faithfulness and self-sacrifice.

One way kings rule is by passing judgment, which is often associated with “the knowledge of good and evil.” God promised Adam that he would be a king with dominion. He promised him all the trees of the Garden. But for a time, He withheld the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam had to wait patiently for that gift so that he could be a wise king, but instead he grabbed for it and for kingly glory on his own terms and found death instead.

But God did give Israel’s kings “the knowledge of good and evil” so that they could be wise rulers (2 Sam. 14:17; 1 Kings 3) and so that they could pass wise judgments.

Sometimes, the kings carry out God’s judgments on a larger scale. Kings are conquerors of Israel’s enemies. David finishes conquering the Promised Land. Solomon’s dominion includes all the land God promised Israel.

In all of this rule, kings are to exercise wisdom. Priests have detailed instructions; kings don’t. Priests simply have to hear and obey, whether they understand or not; kings have to exercise discernment. During this kingly period, the wisdom literature appears. Wisdom isn’t a matter of commandments. It’s often a matter of timing and appropriateness. Do you send these men to attack knowing that they’ll likely die if it means that you can rescue these other people over here?

Kings have to meditate on God’s Law so that they can rule wisely. And as they share in God’s wisdom and God’s rule, they also share in God’s glory. Under David, Israel’s worship begins to include singing and instruments. This is the time when most of the Psalms were written. And this is the time when the king builds a glorious house for God and another for himself.

Israel’s kings did not reach full maturity. Saul, David, and Solomon all started with humility but later rebelled. David had to go through an experience of exile before being restored to glory again. As God said, David’s sons who rebelled against God were chastened by men (2 Sam. 7:14). The Temple, which represented the people, was torn down and the people were poured out into exile.

But God didn’t take His covenantal loyalty from David’s house (2 Sam. 7:15). When David’s line had dwindled to a nobody named Joseph in a hick town in a backwards province, God kept His promise. Joseph’s fiancee conceived a son by the power of the Spirit, a son who would have David’s throne and reign over Jacob’s house forever (Lk. 2:32-33).

Jesus was born to be king. His baptism was His anointing, at which time God declared Him His Son (cf. Ps. 2:7). But like David, Jesus had a long wait between anointing and enthronement, during which time He fled from jealous enemies.

Still, He kept displaying His royal authority. He conquered Israel’s enemies, freeing people from Satan. He cared for His people, restoring them to wholeness. His speech, too, begins to include wisdom elements when He speaks in parables instead of openly. And in all of His actions, Jesus displayed His wisdom and glory, especially at the cross, when, in the wisdom of God, Jesus died as “The King of the Jews” and thereby triumphed over sin, Satan, and death

Now Jesus has been raised and exalted to glory at God’s right hand as the king, the Lord. That is the gospel: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

Jesus’ Lordship is good news for us because we live in a world full of competing lords. Some people live in anarchy or under oppression. But Jesus is Lord and He judges righteously, defending His people, conquering the wicked.

But that isn’t the only comfort Jesus’ kingship gives us. Jesus also gives us His life, not as a model (we don’t do exactly what He did) but as a type, a pattern for our lives. Jesus is a king, and so are we (Rev. 5:10). Jesus is enthroned in heavenly places with all things being placed under His feet (Eph. 1:20ff.) and so are we (Eph. 2:6).

All of us are kings who reign with Christ. But it’s helpful also think about kingship as a stage in our development toward maturity. We start off as children or young people in a sort of priestly phase, but we move on to something that parallel’s Israel’s kingly phase. We start out learning to be obedient servants and then we grow — or ought to grow — into wise rulers.

But there are temptations we face. Young people who haven’t learned to serve make bad rulers, often flaunting their authority and bossing others around. It’s easy to forget that biblical rule involves service.

It’s tempting, too, to be irresponsible as kings, to get married but wish you were still single and free from responsibility, to try to shift your responsibility to your wife. Middle-aged men, in particular, go through mid-life crises when they are tempted to shirk their responsibilities and act like teenagers.

It’s hard to be a king because kingship in Jesus’ pattern means dying for others, putting others ahead of yourself (Phil. 2:5ff.). Priests have to die, and so do kings. But this double-death is what leads to full glory. If we grab for glory for ourselves we lose it. But if we follow Christ’s pattern and let God grow us to maturity through suffering and death, we will share in glory with Christ.

Jesus came to be king. That’s the good news we celebrate at this time of year. But He came also to make us kings to serve God, to exercise dominion, to care for His people, to make wise judgments, and to give ourselves for others. That is the path to glory with Christ.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:10 pm | Discuss (0)

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