John T. Willis

Monday, November 28, 2005

The People of God--God's Kingdom--VI

A fourth term the Bible uses for the earthly king of God's people is "son of God." Psalm 89:20-27 says:
"I have found DAVID my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him.
My hand will sustain him;
surely my arm will strengthen him.
No enemy will subject him to tribute;
no wicked man will oppress him.
I will crush his foes before him
and strike down his adversaries.
My steadfast love will be with him,
and through my name his horn will be exalted.
I will set his hand over the sea,
his right hand over the rivers.
HE [DAVID] will call out to me, 'You are MY FATHER,
My God, the Rock my Savior.'
I [God] will also appoint him [David] MY FIRSTBORN,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth."
The psalmist is clearly describing David as king. He names David specifically in verse 20 (also again in verse 35), and states that he [through Samuel] ANOINTED David to be the earthly king (see 1 Samuel 16:1-13). Then in verses 26-27, the psalmist says that David call out to God: YOU ARE MY FATHER, and God said he would appoint David his [God's] FIRSTBORN. The point is that just as a son is subject to his father, so David the earthly king is subject to God the heavenly king.

Similarly, 2 Samuel 7:12-15 reports God's promise to David about his dynasty made to David through the prophet Nathan:
"When your [David's] days are over and you rest with your fathers, I [God] will raise up you offspring [Solomon] to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house [temple] for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever [i. e., David's dynasty will continue through Solomon]. I WILL BE HIS FATHER, AND HE WILL BE MY SON. When he does wrong I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my steadfast love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you."
Here God refers to Solomon the earthly king as his [God's] son, and to himself as Solomon's father. As in Psalm 89:26-27, the title for the earthly king is "son of God." The context of 2 Samuel 7:14 shows why God uses this metaphor: Solomon [like Saul previously] will sin greatly against God [see 1 Kings 11:1-13], and as Solomon's father God will punish his son severely, but God will not terminate the Davidic dynasty with Solomon, as he had terminated the Saulide dynasty with Saul. Rather, because of God's great and inexplicable steadfast love, God will support the Davidic dynasty for several generations to come.
The Newer Testament refers to Jesus as "son of God." Various contexts in the Newer Testament show that this phrase has two meanings when applied to Jesus Christ.
a. It indicates Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit--see Luke 1:26-38 [especially verse 32]--also implied in Matthew 2:13-15 compared with 1:18-25.
b. It indicates God anointed Jesus as king when Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at God's right hand; thus, like earthly kings of Israel in the Older Testament, Jesus is subject to God in all things, and functions as God the Father's representative among human beings (Matthew 16:13-19; Hebrews 1:1-9).
[More to come]

John Willis

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The People of God--God's Kingdom--V

A third term the Bible uses for the earthly king of God's people is "shepherd." This term is very important, because it denotes the KIND OF KING God desires for his people. Whereas the world thinks of a king as a dictator or authoritarian ruler, God wants his earthly king to be subject to him, to represent him on earth, and to use humble, kind, persuasive influence in interacting with people. God's king does NOT DEMAND that people do what he says, but COMMANDS the respect of people by his sterling example. Note these passages on shepherds:

1. In 2 Samuel 5:2, the North Israelites come to David at Ziklag to urge him to be their king, and they say to him: "The Lord said to you, 'You will SHEPHERD my people Israel, and you will become their PRINCE.'"

2. Psalm 78:70-72 says:
"He [Yahweh] chose David his servant
and took him from the sheep pens;
from tending the sheep he brought him
to be SHEPHERD of his people Jacob,
of Israel his inheritance.
And David SHEPHERDED them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them."
One cannot help noticing the tenderness and care with which David dealt with God's people Israel, as a shepherd deals with a flock of sheep.

3. Ezekiel 34 is especially instructive, as it describes in detail how God himself is the chief shepherd of his people, and earthly kings are his "undershepherds." Notice especially verses 15-16:
"I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice."
God cares tenderly for his flock, and any among his flock that use harshness or threats or force, he destroys, for the health of the flock.

4. The passage on elders in 1 Peter 5:2-3 reflects the same attitude about earthly "servants" of God's people: "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, SERVING as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to SERVE; NOT LORDING IT OVER THOSE ENTRUSTED TO YOU, but being EXAMPLES to the flock." It is instructive that people whom human beings call "leaders," the Bible calls "servants" of God and "servants" of God's people.

[More to come]

John T. Willis