So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:6-8
Although the Kingdom of Israel becomes impressive in extent and magnificence, in wealth and power, it was never God’s intention, yet it was stated by Him to be a reality before it came to be. All Israel looked to the impressive Kingdom established under David and his son, Solomon, and longed for that to be their experience once again. It was only natural for them to expect that Messiah would bring in the Kingdom again. That He would establish the Kingdom of Israel once more, only that Kingdom under Messiah would be expected to be even more magnificent than that under David or Solomon.
Have you put together the summary I gave you of Abraham’s experience and the background to the Kingdom of Israel seen in the verses I gave you in the last Gems? God pronounced blessing over Israel just as He pronounced blessing over Ishmael but it was never His intention. It is just simply that God always works to turn any situation for your, our and their best. When you begin to understand that about God you will see that He will continually bring blessing even though you don’t deserve it. But there are some principles that are at work behind the scenes. Just as God didn’t recognise the child of the flesh of Abraham, so too He doesn’t recognise or hold dear the kingdom of the flesh. What does the well known verse say that we are so fond of quoting?
“Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the LORD.”Zechariah 4:6
It could read “Not by might nor by power, nor the flesh of man but by My Spirit”, says the LORD. God does not recognise the fruits of the work of the flesh. It’s as though they don’t exist.
So why have I told you all this? Do you see how closely this parallels the kingdom of Israel? From the beginning of the time of the Patriarchs until the beginning of Israel as a nation they continually encountered kings in the nations and Kingdoms round about them (e.g. Gen 36:31). But the message was always God is our King, He will do the fighting for us. In every case God is the one who delivers them, provides for them, fights for them and prospers them. (e.g. Joshua 10:30). I am not giving you one verse because there is only one verse to exemplify the situation. I am giving you one verse as an example of many that can be found. What is evident is that it is God who is in control of the nations around about them and their kings. When God wants to teach Israel a lesson it is by the hand of a reigning monarch in a neighbouring nation.
“Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD.”Judges 3:12
God always uses the kings of other nations as pawns in His hand to direct and discipline His people.
Maybe the classic example of this is God saying of Cyrus the Mede,
“Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honour Though you have not known Me.”Isaiah 45:1-4
That is an amazing statement. The God of Israel names a heathen king two hundred years before he comes on the scene and says He (God) will use him to chastise Israel. The kings of the nations are truly pawns in God’s hands. Who is ultimate KING – God of course. Why? Because God is depicted in Scripture as being the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords.
God being God and knowing all things before they happen makes this statement to the children of Israel.
“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.”Deuteronomy 17:14- 15
Before the Israelites ask for a king, God predicts they will ask for a king. Ok, if that is what you want, make sure you take a king from among you, one of your own countrymen and not a foreigner. One who at least has a fair chance of knowing the principles by which God governs His people. However in the context of God telling them what they will do He makes it clear to them it is not a good choice they have made.
“The LORD will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.Deuteronomy 28:36
Be wary of this choice you are making. It will ultimately lead to your undoing. Note the parable I gave you in the last Gems. But admittedly I gave you the parable in the biblical (Jesus) way. I gave you the first verse and the last verse. Here now is the parable of the trees in its entirety.
Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’Judges 9:8-15
Pay careful attention to this parable. There are truths hidden therein. Notice in building up to the times of the Prophet Samuel and the onset of the kings and the monarchy, that we are told over and over that there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) Moving into the books of Samuel and the period of the kings, the Israelites come to the Samuel:
And they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them1 Samuel 8:5-7
God makes it clear that this request was a rejection of Him in an attempt to be like the nations around about them. Furthermore, He knows what they will ask for generations before their request comes. Yet they have seen that they have nothing to fear from the other nations with kings as long as YHWH is their king. Why would they want a king? For protection? How could a human king be better protection to them, than their Creator God? For power and strength? How could any human king be more powerful and strong than God Himself? (See 1 Samuel 2:10)
“Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.” So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king.
He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.”1 Samuel 8:9-11
“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”1 Samuel 8:18-20
The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.”1 Samuel 8:22
“When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. “1 Samuel 12:12-13
“Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.”1 Samuel 12:17, 19
It is all very clear isn’t it? God looks into the future and sees that the Israelites will reject His Kingship over them in favour of having a human king in an attempt to be like the nations around about them. They are even desperate enough to go beyond the olive and the fig to even consider the brambles to rule over them in direct contradiction of what God tells them. They want to be like the world around them. Oh, how often we think the same thing. God tells us not to be conformed to the world but oh so often we do just that. God knows what their tendency is and warns them about the pitfalls of such an action.
At this point I will leave you again with these thoughts to chew over. One of the clues you need to focus on are the symbols found in the parable of the trees. Those who were symbolically offered the kingship in place of YHWH. Such huge implications arise from this parable and the statements that are made by God Himself and the Israelites in response to what God tells them. Ponder over them before we move on. Ponder God’s intention for Israel. Was it ever His intention that the Kingdom of Israel become what it turned out to be? A thought provoking question for you: Did God hold the Kingdom of Israel to be as precious as they themselves did?
Continuing story in the next Gem.
It is a wonderful thing to be a personal friend of the One who fashions the heart of every king.John Piper
When God has selected you, it doesn’t matter who else has rejected or neglected you. God’s favour outweighs all opposition.Heriswita
Most Christians have repented enough to be forgiven but not enough to see the Kingdom.Bill Johnson
There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian’s right to live luxuriously “as a child of the King” in this atmosphere sounds hollow — especially since the King himself is stripped for battle.John Piper