My Year of Redemption

1 Who is this who comes from Edom,
    in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
    marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
    mighty to save.”

Why is your apparel red,
    and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?

“I have trodden the winepress alone,
    and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
    and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
    and stained all my apparel.
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
    and my year of redemption had come.
I looked, but there was no one to help;
    I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
    and my wrath upheld me.
I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
    I made them drunk in my wrath,
    and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” Isaiah 63:1-6 ESV

In this passage, Isaiah is provided with a vision of a divine warrior who will come and act as God’s agent of deliverance on behalf of the people of Israel. He is shown coming from the east, from the land of the Edomites, the perennial enemies of Israel who were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. These close relatives of the Jews had been a thorn in their side for generations. And their combative relationship had been predicted by God long before the two patriarchs from they descended were even born. God had told Rebekah:

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:23 ESV

And her two twin sons, born just moments apart, would end up in a lifelong struggle for power and control. God had ordained that Jacob, the younger of the two, would rule over his older sibling, breaking with the normal protocol that required the blessing and birthright go to the oldest male child. The ensuing struggle between Jacob and Esau would foreshadow the ongoing conflict that would exist between their future descendants.

But there is far more at play here than the internecine struggle between two brothers and their offspring. It would appear that Edom is meant to represent all the enemies of Israel. As Babylon came to represent any nation that uses its power and prominence to take advantage of the people of God, Edom became the symbol of all the other nations of the world who take delight in the fall of God’s people, the Israelites. Edom was not a world power. They were not a dominant military force in that region, but they took great pleasure in seeing God’s people suffer at the hands of more powerful nations like Babylon.

It was an Edomite, who become known as Herod the Great, who was later named King of the Jews by the Romans. And it was he who attempted to eliminate Jesus as the rightful King of Israel by ordering the execution of all male babies under the age of two in the region around Bethlehem.

It must be noted that Jesus was a descendant of Jacob, not Esau. It would be through the line of Jacob that the Savior of the world would come. The gospel of Matthew makes this point clear.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers – Matthew 1:1-2 ESV

Jacob was given a vision from God, confirming that he would be the son through which the covenant promise made to Abraham would come.

“I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” – Genesis 28:13-14 ESV

It would be through a particular descendant of Jacob that all the earth would be blessed: Jesus, the Messiah. In His incarnation, Jesus would be born a man, through the lineage of David, tracing all the way back to Jacob. And He would enter the world as the rightful King of the Jews, but they would refuse to acknowledge Him as such. In fact, the sign that was hung above His head as He died on the cross stated the crime for which He was being executed: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37 ESV).

Jesus was crucified because He had claimed to be the Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah. But the Jews refused Him as their King, choosing instead to see Him crucified for blasphemy. And while they put Him to death for what they believed to be a crime, He actually died so that men might be made right with God. With the sacrifice of His sinless life, He was able to satisfy the just demands of God. He became the atonement for the sins of mankind. And all those who placed their faith in His death in their place would receive forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

Now, in the 63rd chapter of the book of Isaiah, we get a glimpse of Jesus’ second coming. As He promised His disciples, there would be a day when He returned. And Isaiah sees Him coming from the east, from Bozrah, the capital city of Edom, where He has defeated the enemies of Israel and God. His garments are described as splendid, like royal robes. And He arrives on the scene with great strength. What a dramatic contrast this scene provides from the physical state of Jesus as He hung, weak and virtually naked, on the cross. On that fateful day, Jesus was bruised, beaten and covered in His own blood. But what Isaiah sees is something altogether different.

Jesus arrives on the scene like the King He is, and He is victorious, having defeated His enemies. In fact, His robes are stained red, as if He has been treading grapes and Isaiah asks for an explanation. Jesus replies, “I have been treading the winepress alone; no one was there to help me. In my anger, I have trampled my enemies as if they were grapes. In my fury I have trampled my foes. Their blood has stained my clothes” (Isaiah 63:3 NLT). Jesus reveals that He has been doing what no one would or could do. He has personally defeated His enemies, all those who have stood against Him and who have chosen to align themselves against His chosen people, the Israelites. Remember, God had told Abraham that He would bless all those who blessed him and curse all those who cursed him. And now, Jesus is seen as having fulfilled that promise.

This imagery of grape harvesting is found throughout the Scriptures and is used as a symbol of God’s coming judgment against the nations. The prophet Joel records:

“Swing the sickle,
    for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread the grapes,
    for the winepress is full.
The storage vats are overflowing
    with the wickedness of these people.” – Joel 3:13 NLT

And thousands of years later, the apostle John would pick up this theme in his book of Revelation. He would be given a vision of God’s coming judgment, executed by Jesus Christ, the King of kings.

“Swing your sickle now to gather the clusters of grapes from the vines of the earth, for they are ripe for judgment.” So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and loaded the grapes into the great winepress of God’s wrath. The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle. – Revelation 14:18-20 NLT

And John would later describe the victorious Jesus, dressed in a robe dipped in blood.

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. – Revelation 19:13-16 NLT

Like John, Isaiah is being given a glimpse into the future, where He sees the Messiah back on earth, but this time He is the conquering King, not the suffering servant. And Isaiah hears Jesus declare the sad state of affairs at His second coming.

“I was amazed to see that no one intervened
    to help the oppressed.
So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm,
    and my wrath sustained me.” – Isaiah 63:5 NLT

At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, the condition of things on the earth will have reached an all-time low. Satan will have set up his false messiah, the Antichrist, having given him his power, authority, and throne (Revelation 13:2). And this man will have not only made himself the supreme political and military ruler over the world, but he will also have made himself god, demanding that all the world worship him in place of the one true God. But the day is coming when Jesus will return to earth and deal with all those who oppose the rule of God, including Satan and his false messiah. And according to Jesus, the end for the enemies of God will not be a pretty or pleasant one.

“I crushed the nations in my anger
    and made them stagger and fall to the ground,
    spilling their blood upon the earth. – Isaiah 63:6 NLT

This passage reveals that Jesus Christ is longing for this day. He sits at the right hand of God the Father, and He waits patiently for the pre-ordained moment when He can consummate the divine plan of redemption and restoration of all things.

“For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
    and my year of redemption had come.” – Isaiah 63:4 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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The Rest of the Story

1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV

How was God going to fulfill the many blessings He promised to bring upon the people of Israel? What would be the mechanism by which He restored them to favor and returned the city of Jerusalem to its former glorious state? Chapter 61 opens up with the voice of God’s servant proclaiming His role in God’s future redemptive plan concerning the nation of Israel. And there should be a  familiar ring to His words. Jesus Himself would one day read from this very same passage of Isaiah and apply its words to His own life and ministry.

Not long after His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, where He attended the synagogue on the Sabbath.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:16-19 ESV

And to ensure that the people in the synagogue that day understood the significance of what Jesus had just read, He stated, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV).

Jesus was boldly and unapologetically claiming to be the servant of God prophesied about by Isaiah. Hundreds of years after the prophet penned the words found in Isaiah 61, Jesus appeared on the scene, declaring Himself to be the one who would accomplish all the things Isaiah describes in these opening verses of this chapter.

When Jesus told the audience in the synagogue that day that He was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, they “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:21 ESV). But in just a matter of minutes, their marvel would turn to rage. Luke records that “they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they could throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:29 ESV). What happened? How did their apparent delight in Jesus turn to uncontrolled rage in such a short period of time?

The answer is found in the exchange that took place between Jesus and His fellow Jews that day in the synagogue. To the people of Nazareth, Jesus was nothing more than Joseph, the carpenter’s son. They had no reason to suspect Jesus of being anyone significant. And His claim to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy must have caught them off guard. They would have found this assertion hard to believe. And Jesus knew what was going through their minds. He was fully aware that they wanted proof of who He claimed to be. If He truly was the servant of God who was going to bring salvation to the people of God, they needed evidence.

Jesus was fully aware of their doubts. He even told them what they were thinking.

“You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.” – Luke 4:23-24 NLT

The wanted evidence. But what kind of evidence? If Jesus truly were the long-awaited Messiah, they would have been wanting to see miracles that exhibited His power. Why? Because they were looking for a conquering king, who would lead them out of bondage to the Romans. They had a particular kind of salvation in mind, and it had nothing to do with their spiritual deliverance from captivity to sin. And, using two well-known stories related to the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus predicted that the salvation of God would first go to the Gentiles because the Jews would reject it. This infuriated His Jewish audience and caused them to turn on Him in anger.

But what they failed to understand was the dual nature of Jesus’ advent. In their minds, the Messiah would come only once, and when He did, He would bring them victory over their physical enemies. He would establish His kingdom on earth and return the Jews to the former glory they had enjoyed under King David’s reign. But even the Old Testament prophets failed to recognize that Jesus, the Messiah, would come to earth twice. First, at His incarnation and then, thousands of years later, at His second coming. And, in between, the message of the gospel would be taken to the Gentiles because the Jews would reject Jesus’ call to repentance and their need to place their faith in Him as their sole means of achieving a right standing before God.

That scene of the Jews attempting to throw Jesus off of the cliff foreshadows their eventual rage against Him that resulted in His crucifixion. They would demand His death and rejoice to see His life snuffed out by the Romans. All because they missed the two-part nature of His coming. But the apostle Paul states that their rejection of Him at His first advent was not a deal-breaker with God. He had foreseen it. He had even orchestrated it. Because He has a future plan in store for the people of Israel that will be fulfilled at the Messiah’s second coming.

Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it. – Romans 11:11-12 NLT

And Paul is emphatic in his belief that God is not done with the people of Israel.

For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. – Romans 11:15 NLT

The Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah because He didn’t meet their expectations. He came offering salvation from sin, but they refused to see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. After all, they had the sacrificial system to provide them with atonement. And, because they were the descendants of Abraham, they saw their standing with God as more than adequate. But Paul, as a Jew, knew that they were in need of the same salvation that God was offering to the Gentiles. TheirJewishness was not going to be enough to save them from the wrath of God. Their standing as God’s chosen people would not prevent God from bringing His judgment against their sin and rebellion against Him. But Paul states that there is a day coming when God will save Israel in spite of Israel.

Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,

“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
    and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
And this is my covenant with them,
    that I will take away their sins.” – Romans 11:25-27 NLT

Which brings us back to Isaiah 61. The Messiah, God’s servant, will come a second time, and when He does, He will restore God’s people. And the servant explains that the once rebellious descendants of Abraham will become truly righteous.

In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory. – Isaiah 61:3 NLT

This will be the work of God, accomplished by the servant of God. Jesus will return a second time, and on this occasion, it will be as the conquering King, not the suffering servant. God is not done with Israel. His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled. And God will accomplish all that He has promised through His servant, the Messiah. And the apostle Paul reminds his readers of God’s unwavering faithfulness and His commitment to do all that He has promised to do – through His Son.

Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. – Romans 11:28-29 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Until the Words of God Are Fulfilled.

But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.” Revelation 17:7-18 ESV

mapromeempireatheightIt’s fascinating that John is somewhat chided by the angel for having found all the talk about the great prostitute a bit difficult to understand. The angel promises to make the mystery clear and yet, this has become one of the most disputed passages in all of the book of Revelation. It seems apparent that the great prostitute introduced in the first six verses is a representation of the apostate church that comes to power in the world during the tribulation. Led by the false prophet, this false religion will promote the worship of the Antichrist. And it will lead the charge in the persecution of both orthodox Jews and tribulation saints. Countless believers in Christ, who come to faith during the seven-year period of the tribulation, will be put to death for refusing to accept the mark of the beast and for their unwillingness to worship the Antichrist.

But the angel promises to give John further insight into the identity of the woman and the beast. Back in verse three, John describes seeing the woman “sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.” Now, in verse eight, the angel provides John with a bit more information regarding the identity of the beast:

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. – Revelation 17:8 ESV

The somewhat cryptic phrase, “it was and is not and is to come” shows up again later on in this same passage. But what does it mean? One of the things that makes it so difficult to determine just exactly who the angel is referring to in this passage is his use of the term, “beast.” Throughout the book of Revelation, that name is used to refer to Satan himself, the world ruler and the political government he sets up on earth. And because the three entities are so closely linked, it can become confusing as to which one is being talked about at any given time. In these verses, it seems that Satan, the Antichrist and his one-world government are all included in the angel’s description. The beast that was and is not and is about to rise from the bottomless pit seems to be a reference to the government or political system of the Antichrist. It will be a former world power that faded from the scene, but that will appear once again and become a the dominant political force on the planet – all because of the influence of Satan himself. The reference to the beast coming out of the abyss can only refer to Satan. The abyss or bottomless pit is his domain. It is from there that his power comes, and it is his power that makes possible this former world government to essentially resurrect and regain its former glory. And while Satan will be the invisible force behind this nation’s rise to former glory, the visible force will be Antichrist. And the people of the earth, those whose names are not written in the book of life, will marvel at his accomplishment. The unbelieving world will see the Antichrist as a political miracle worker and his kingdom as a sign of his divinity.

As always, when studying the book of Revelation, one must keep in mind other passages found in the book that can shed light on the seeming mysteries of John’s visions. Back in chapter 13, John was given another vision of the beast that coincides with what he is describing here.

1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” – Revelation 13:1-4 ESV

What is important to note is that the dragon, or Satan, is the one who gives his power to the the beast. And, just as in chapter 17, this beast is described as having seven heads and ten horns – a point that the angel tells John “calls for a mind with wisdom” (Revelation 17:9 ESV). This is going to be difficult to understand. It is going to require wisdom and discernment. And, as if the imagery is not already confusing enough, the angel informs John that the seven heads are actually seven mountains, on which the woman sits. And they represent seven kings. So, which is it? First of all, we need to notice the use of the number seven. As usual, it is a reference to completeness or wholeness. These seven kings or nations will represent seven empires that will form a comprehensive picture of mankind’s power and authority. The angel describes these seven kings or kingdoms as, “five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come” (Revelation 17:10 ESV). They would appear to be progressive or sequential in nature, with five of these kingdoms having existed at one time, but having faded from prominence. The one that “is” refers to the Roman empire that ruled the world when John penned the book of Revelation. And the one that “has not yet come” refers to the kingdom of the Antichrist, which will rise to power and prominence during the tribulation. It seems most likely that the five former kingdoms referred to by the angel include Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. If you add Rome and then the kingdom that was yet to come and would remain a little while, you have the seven heads, mountains of kingdoms portrayed by the vision. And what do all of these kingdoms share in common? They have all persecuted or will persecute the people of God. Each has a less-then-ideal track record with the people of Israel and this will continue into the tribulation.

But what about the eighth nation mentioned in verse 11? To what could this be referring? Once again, the seven kings or mountains represent seven separate and successive kingdoms that will rule on earth. The first six include Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and the Roman empire of John’s day. But the Roman empire has since faded from view. The world is made up of a conglomeration of various nations and world powers, many of whom are remnants of the former Roman empire. A look at a map of the Roman empire at its zenith reveals that its domain was primarily located around the Mediterranean Sea and encompassed all of the land of Israel and extended all the way East into the former land of Babylon and Assyria. It seems that this empire will be revived in some form or fashion not long after the rapture of the church. That resurrected or restored Roman empire will form the seventh kingdom. And during the period of the tribulation, the Antichrist will come to power, setting up what is essentially an eighth kingdom. His rise to prominence will be accomplished by robbing power from a confederation of ten kings who will jointly rule the restored Roman empire. The angel makes it clear that the ten horns represent these ten kings, who will “receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast” (Revelation 17:12 ESV). Their joint rule will be brief in duration, ending with the Antichrist taking over as the supreme ruler over all the earth. As the angel states, these kings will “hand over their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:14 ESV) or the Antichrist. He will have sole authority and power over all the nations of the earth, overseeing his one-world government from the restored city of Babylon. And one of Antichrist’s primary objectives will be to make war on the Lamb. He will stand opposed to Jesus Christ, but He will lose in his effort to overthrow Christ’s rightful position as King of kings and Lord of lords. The rest of the book of Revelation will present this epic struggle between the forces of Antichrist and Jesus Christ. It will culminate in a final battle and with the removal from power of Antichrist, Satan, and the false prophet. But more on that later.

This chapter ends with the angel providing John with an understanding of the symbolism behind the waters described in the first six verses. They are “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (Revelation 17:15 ESV). The great prostitute or false religion set up by the false prophet will have an overwhelming influence over the people of the earth. But Antichrist is not going to share his power and influence with anyone. So, under the divine instigation of God, Antichrist and his forces will turn on the apostate church, and destroy it. And the angel makes it clear that “God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17 ESV). God is going to cause Satan’s kingdom to divide and turn against itself. Even at the zenith of his power and influence over the world, Satan will not be able to resist the greater power of God. During the final days of the tribulation, there will be a religious and political form to the Antichrist’s rule. There will be an apostate church and an all-powerful government, but Antichrist will ultimately eliminate any and all competition to his rule, consolidating all power under him alone. Even the false church will fall, yielding all its power, influence and wealth to his cause. But John is given good news.

“…the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” – Revelation 17:14 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

God’s Will Be Done.

 

Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “What does this uproar in the city mean?” While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and bring good news.” Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king, and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites. And they had him ride on the king’s mule. And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon, and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. Solomon sits on the royal throne. Moreover, the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king bowed himself on the bed. And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’”

Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way. And Adonijah feared Solomon. So he arose and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Then it was told Solomon, “Behold, Adonijah fears King Solomon, for behold, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” And Solomon said, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the earth, but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”1 Kings 1:41-53 ESV

While all the emphasis in this opening chapter of 1 Kings seems to be on its three main characters: David, Adonijah and Solomon, it would be a mistake to lose sight of God’s sovereign hand working behind the scenes. God had promised to establish David’s kingdom and raise up a son after him who would sit on his throne.

Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from your sight. Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever. – 2 Samuel 7:11-16 NLT

David had made a vow before God that Solomon would be the successor to his throne. Why would he have done this? Solomon was not the next in line in terms of age, Adonijah was. But David had made the decision to give his throne to Solomon. And this move was directed by God Himself. In order for God’s promise to David to be completely fulfilled, it was necessary that Solomon be the next king. Verses 11-16 are prophetic in nature and speak of someone greater and more significant than just Solomon. Part of this passage would be fulfilled in Solomon, but there is another aspect of the promise that would be fulfilled in Jesus.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” – Revelation 22:16 ESV

concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh… – Romans 1:3 ESV

…he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. – Acts 13:22-23 ESV

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. – Luke 1:31-33 ESV

So, there is much more going on in this passage than just the succession of Solomon to the throne of David. Jesus would be a direct descendant of David, born through the line of Solomon, not Adonijah. Had Adonijah become the next king of Israel, the promise God had made to David would have remained unfulfilled. But God had clearly arranged for Solomon to succeed David, and God would bless Solomon in many ways. Yet, even Solomon would eventually fail the Lord and worship false gods, forcing God to split his kingdom in two. And the kings who would rule over Israel and Judah from that point forward would, for the most part, continue to downward spiral of spiritual and moral decay. Ultimately, God would be forced to send both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah into captivity. And while He would eventually return them to the land, they would never again experience the kind of days they had under David and Solomon. To this day, there is no king in Israel. And yet, God is not yet done. His will concerning Israel is not yet complete.

The prophet Isaiah records the following prophecy concerning Jesus, the Messiah:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. – Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV

Jesus did come. He was born. He was a descendant of David and Solomon. But He has not yet established His throne in Israel. But that day is coming.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. – Revelation 20:11 ESV

The apostle John will go on to record the very words of Jesus, spoken from the throne of David in the New Jerusalem.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:1-6 ESV

It was necessary that Solomon be crowned king. It was part of God’s will that Solomon build the temple. But while Solomon would fail to be the kind of king God demanded, and the temple would eventually be destroyed, God had a great plan in store. A new heaven and a new earth, a new kingdom, a new temple and the King of kings and Lord of lords to rule over it all. From the throne of David. God’s will will be done.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Just and Righteous King.

Now these are the last words of David:

The oracle of David, the son of Jesse,
    the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
    the sweet psalmist of Israel:

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
    his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
    the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
    ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
    like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
    like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

For does not my house stand so with God?
    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
    ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
    all my help and my desire?
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
    for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
    and they are utterly consumed with fire.” – 2 Samuel 23:1-7 ESV

The psalm of David, recorded in chapter 22, is now followed by the last words of David. The former represented the establishment of his kingdom, when he was delivered from Saul and crowned king of Israel. The latter, written at the end of his life, are David’s reflections on his unique relationship with God. His legacy as a king and the future dynasty are both tied directly to God. In this last testament, David passes on what he has learned about serving as the king of Israel, the God-appointed shepherd of His people.

David is described as the “son of Jesse”, a reflection of his humble beginnings. David had not come to the throne of Israel due to royal birth or a high pedigree. He was just a commoner, the youngest son of Jesse, and a shepherd of sheep. And yet, God had called him and anointed him to be the next king of Israel. He “was raised on high” by God. Not because he deserved to be, but because God chose to do so. It would be easy to assume that because God had referred to David as a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), that this was the reason he had been chosen by God. But this would have made God’s choice of David based on works or merit, something that does not gel with the rest of Scripture.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. – Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. – Romans 3:10-12 ESV

David had a heart for God, but that does not mean he somehow deserved to be king. He had not earned his way into the position. As we have clearly seen from his life’s story, David was capable of sin, just like any other man. He had committed adultery and murder. He had been impulsive. He had parented poorly. He had struggled with procrastination and exhibited less-than-stellar leadership skills at times. He was far from perfect. And yet, God had chosen him. God had anointed him. And God had made him His spokesman. David wrote, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2 ESV). This isn’t a case of David bragging or tooting his own horn. He is expressing amazement at the fact that he had been given the privilege and responsibility to speak on God’s behalf. As king, he had been God’s mouthpiece. And one of the things God had said to David had to do with righteous leadership.

The one who rules righteously,
    who rules in the fear of God,
is like the light of morning at sunrise,
    like a morning without clouds,
like the gleaming of the sun
    on new grass after rain. – 2 Samuel 23:3-4 NLT

David had not always done this well. But, by the end of his life, he had learned that a king who rules righteously, fearing God, radiates joy and blessings on his people. David had learned the hard lesson that, when a king rules unrighteously, he plunges his people into darkness and despair. His failure to fear God results in pain and suffering for the people under his care. And that truth is played out over and over again in the history of Israel’s kings. Obedience brings blessings. Disobedience brings curses. Righteous rulers bring light. Unrighteous rulers bring darkness.

David’s next statement is a reflection of his understanding of the promise God had made to him.

Is it not my family God has chosen?
    Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me.
His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.
    He will ensure my safety and success. 2 Samuel 23:5 NLT

Yes, God had chosen David’s family. God had clearly told him:

Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 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.…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. – 2 Samuel 7:11-12, 16 NLT

But remember what David had said. God expected His king to rule righteously. And while Solomon, the son of David, who would ascend to the throne after him, would rule well for the majority of his reign, he would not end well. He would end up worshiping false gods. And God would divide his kingdom. The nation of Israel would be split in two. And these two nations, Israel and Judah, would end up living in a state of constant tension, marked by hostility and warfare. They would see a succession of kings, whose reigns would not be marked by a fear of God, but by wickedness and idolatry. There would be a few good apples in the barrel along the way. But for the most part, the kings of both nations would be far from what God had expected of His kings. And the result would be spiritual darkness among the people and, ultimately, the discipline of God as He would send both nations into captivity for their sin and rebellion against him.

Almost prophetically, David writes:

But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away,
    for they tear the hand that touches them.
One must use iron tools to chop them down;
    they will be totally consumed by fire. – 2 Samuel 23:6-7 NLT

Godless leaders would produce godless people, who would find themselves living in exile because of their stubborn, rebellious hearts. And yet, the everlasting covenant to which David refers, will be kept by God. He is faithful and never goes back on His Word. What He says, He does. What He promises to do, He accomplishes. God had made a covenant with David. He had promised to establish his throne forever. But since the days when the nations of Israel and Judah went into captivity in Assyrian and Babylon, there has been no king of the throne of David. So has God failed to keep His word? Was His promise to David nullified by the sinful actions of the kings of Israel and Judah? No. God would and did keep His word. The apostle John tells us exactly what happened.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:9-13 NLT

After hundreds of years of spiritual darkness, God broke through, sending His Son as the light of the world. Jesus, a descendant of David and God’s appointed successor to the throne of David, came into the world. The light of God penetrated the darkness. Yet, He was met with rejection by His own people. They failed to recognize Him as the Messiah, the Savior sent by God. Jesus will even reveal that the people loved the darkness over the light. They would prefer living in sin over freedom provided by faith in Him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” – John 3:18-21

David was a good king. He may even be considered a great king. But he was not the one true King. He was not the Savior of Israel. That role was reserved for one who would come years later. Jesus, a descendant of David, was God’s appointed heir to the throne of David. He was sent by God to do what David and the other kings of Israel and Judah could have never done, provide freedom from slavery to sin and restoration to a right relationship with God. David could win victories over the Philistines, but he could not defeat sin and death. David could provide his people with periods of relative peace and tranquility, but he could not give them peace with God. Jesus came to do spiritual battle with the forces of evil. The selfless sacrifice of His sinless life on the cross broke the power of sin and death over the lives of mankind. But some would refuse His offer of salvation. They would prefer to live in darkness, rather than enjoy the light of freedom and joy of forgiveness.

David would eventually die. His son would ascend to the throne. His kingdom would end up divided and eventually, his people would end up living in captivity in a foreign land. But God would not be done with Israel or with David’s throne. He would not break His promise to David. Despite the unfaithfulness of the successors to David’s throne, God would prove faithful, sending the one who would be the consummate man after God’s own heart. He would send His Son. And He would bring the greatest victory any king could ever hope to deliver.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Rejected Savior.

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand. – 1 Samuel 23:1-14 ESV

There are many ways in which David was a type of Christ, providing a foreshadowing of the Messiah who was to come. Jesus would be a descendant of David and would be born in the city of Bethlehem, just as David had been. David had been a shepherd and Jesus was the Good Shepherd. Like David, Jesus had been the king-elect, sent by God to become the King of kings and Lord of lords. But also like David, He would experience a time of waiting, in which He would minister on behalf of the people of Israel, but not necessarily receive their full appreciation for His efforts.

In this passage, David, though pursued by his enemy, Saul, would continue to fight against the Philistines. He was on the run and living in hiding with his rag-tag group of malcontents and misfits, but he had not given up his desire to destroy the enemies of Israel. Jesus too, lived his life as a man without a home, with no place to even lay His head (Luke 9:58). He was surrounded by a motley crew made up of fishermen, tax collectors and other less-than-impressive individuals. And Jesus was constantly pursued by his enemies, the Pharisees and Sadduccees. Both David and Jesus were both fighting the same unseen enemy, Satan, whose every desire was to cut short their rule and reign, in an effort to thwart the plan of God. Even the people of Israel, who greatly benefited by the efforts of both men would, in many ways, turn their backs on them. David would rescue the people of Keilah, only to learn that they would betray him to Saul if given the chance. Jesus would offer the people of Israel salvation from death and freedom from sin, but the majority would turn their backs on Him, rejecting Him as their Messiah, preferring the darkness of their lives over the light of life being offered to them (John 3:19).

David, like Jesus, was faithful to God. He still saw himself as a servant of God, and was willing to fight the enemies of God even while living on the run from Saul. When David received word that the Philistines were harassing the inhabitants of the Israelite city of Keilah and robbing their threshing floors, he immediately determined to do something about it. But not before he sought the will of God. David had learned some valuable lessons from his decision to flee to Gath and then deceive the priests at Nob. The first one had almost cost him his life. The second one had resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of innocent people. And in neither case had he sought out the will of God. So this time he did. And God gave His approval. David and his growing band of men went to Keilah, attacked the Philistines and “struck them with a great blow” (1 Samuel 23:5 ESV). They saved the inhabitants of Keilah.

But news of David’s good deed made its way to Saul, who saw this as just another opportunity to trap David and destroy him. He was not grateful for David’s help against the enemies of Israel. He refused to see David as an ally, but instead, viewed him as a threat and an enemy to his way of life. In the same way, the Pharisees refused to see Jesus as a fellow minister to the people of Israel. He was a threat to the status quo and they were jealous of His growing popularity. They refused to see His miracles and victories over demons and diseases as having come from God. As far as they were concerned, He as the enemy and they were willing to do anything to get rid of Him.

Saul, true to form, made his way to Keilah with a large force to take David, and he was willing to destroy the city and everyone in it if necessary, just to get his hands on David. But David was well acquainted with Saul’s unbridled hatred for him and knew that he would most likely show up at Keilah. So David sought the will of God once more. This time he used the Urim and Thummim.

The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the high priest. No description of them is given. The Urim and Thummim were used at critical moments in the history of God’s people when special divine guidance was needed. The civil leader was expected to make use of this means for all important matters for which he needed direction. – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

The book of Exodus provides us with an explanation of their function.

Insert the Urim and Thummim into the sacred chestpiece so they will be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. In this way, Aaron will always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. – Exodus 28:30 NLT

These were evidently two stones that were placed in the pocket of the high priest’s ephod. It is thought that one was light in color and the other was dark. When a decision was necessary, each stone was assigned a different answer or opposing outcome. Whichever one was pulled out was believed to be a divine answer from God. We are told that Abiathar, the only priest to have escaped the slaughter at Nob, had brought along the high priest’s ephod, and now David determined to use the Urim and Thummim to ascertain God’s insights and direction. David wanted to know if Saul was coming and if the people of Keilah would betray him to Saul. God affirmed both questions. So David and his men left Keilah and “went wherever they could go” (1 Samuel 23:13 ESV).

David would return to the caves, but he was far from alone. His entourage had grown to more than 600 men. But more importantly, He was accompanied by God. Even though Saul “sought him every day,” God was with Him and “did not give him into his hand” (1 Samuel 23:14 ESV). David had been rejected by the people of Keilah as their savior, but he had not been rejected by God. His deliverance of them was not enough to forestall his betrayal by them. The very same thing happened to Jesus. In John’s gospel we read the sobering words, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). David would continue to experience rejection by his own people. He would find himself under constant threat by Saul. But he would remain faithful to God and committed to his cause to stand against the enemies of God. He would suffer greatly, but his suffering would eventually lead to his exaltation as the king of Israel. Jesus too, would suffer, even to the point of death, but as the apostle Paul reminds us:

…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:8-11 ESV

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Greatly To Be Praised.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. – Psalm 145:1-3 ESV

Psalm 145

David loved God. In fact, he talked about Him and to Him constantly. God seemed to be on David’s mind a lot. Maybe it was because he knew just how much he needed God. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the reality of his dependence upon God – for everything. God had chosen him while he was just a shepherd boy and transformed him into the king of Israel. God had given David victory over Goliath, the Philistines, Saul and a host of other enemies. God had spared David from the full ramifications of his own sin with Bathsheba and allowed him to continue his reign as king. David had much to be grateful for and he constantly praised God for who He was and for all He had done. David extolled God. He lifted Him up, exalted Him and gave Him the glory and honor due Him. He didn’t treat God flippantly or casually. David refused to see God as common place or take Him for granted. In David’s estimation, God was great and greatly to be praised. As a matter of fact, God’s greatness was unsearchable. In other words, you could never plumb the depths of His greatness. Just when you think you know how great God is, He surprises you. God’s greatness isn’t limited or exhaustible. He doesn’t run out of wonders or miracles to perform – a fact that David had experienced personally, time and time again.

Here was David the king of Israel acknowledging Yahweh as his God and as his King. David would not have used the term “king” lightly. He was a king himself and he knew well the implications of that title. God was sovereign. He was the ruler over everyone and everything, including David himself. God was not just a deity to be worshiped, but a King to be honored and obeyed. God’s word was final. His majesty was incomparable. There was no other king who could compare to Him, including David. God was great and He deserved David’s praise, and David was more than happy to give it – each and every day of his life.

But what about us? Do we find God great and greatly to be praised? Is He worthy of our adoration, honor and daily praise? Do we think enough of Him or about Him that it results in us telling Him how much we love Him? Sometimes our problem is that we don’t give God enough thought. We allow our minds to be occupied with thoughts of anything and everything but God, including ourselves. We can end up praising all kinds of things but God. But David would remind us that God alone is worthy of our praise. He would encourage us to recognize and appropriately respond to the greatness of God. And he would have us see God as not only as a great God, but as our King. Recognition of God’s sovereignty and rule over our lives includes submission to His will for our lives. It entails giving up our rights for His righteous rule over every area of our lives. David was king, but he knew that his reign was subject to God’s. Any authority he enjoyed was God-ordained and could be removed by God at His discretion. David’s greatness was solely due to God’s goodness and graciousness. God had made him king. God had blessed his kingship. God had given him victory over his enemies. God had made him powerful. So God was worthy of honor and praise. Our failure to recognize God’s greatness can result in a tendency toward self-exaltation. We can begin to believe that we are responsible for our own achievements. We can end up taking credit for who we are and all that we have done. But an awareness of God’s greatness keeps us from becoming enamored with our own significance. All that we have and all that we are we owe to Him. He alone gives life and breath. He alone sustains and blesses. He alone does mighty deeds. He alone is worthy to be praised. But the truth is, we only praise that for which we are grateful and that holds our affections. So we praise our health, our homes, our jobs, our material possessions, our family and our own accomplishments – forgetting that we owe it all to God. He is great and greatly to be praised. He is our God and King. Every day we wake up, we should offer Him the praise, honor and gratitude He so richly deserves. And no matter how often we praise Him, we will never run out praiseworthy  things for which to honor Him. Because His greatness is unsearchable.

Courage to Pray.

For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house.” Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever. – 2 Samuel 7:27-29 ESV

2 Samuel 7:18-29

God had promised to build David a house. Not a building made of wood and stone, but a lasting heritage. His promise concerned the future of the Davidic kingdom. One of David’s descendants would sit on his throne in Jerusalem and to his kingdom there would be no end. Of course, we know now that this promise to David had far greater ramifications than David could have realized at the time. Hundreds of years later, the angel, Gabriel, would announce to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV). So while the short-term fulfillment of God’s promise to David would involve the reign of his son Solomon, God had far greater things in mind. There is a day coming when Jesus, the Son of God and a descendant of David, will sit on His throne in Jerusalem and reign over the world in righteousness and truth. Part of the vision given to John that he recorded in the book of the Revelation tells us, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV).

Everything that God had promised to David came to pass. We can look back and see that God fulfilled every aspect of His promise to David. And the amazing thing is that God did so in spite of David, in spite of Solomon, and in spite of the people of Israel. God’s promise would remain intact even while the kingdom of Israel went through a split and its people suffered two deportations and captivities at the hands of their enemies. God’s promise would survive hundreds of years of an empty throne and the subjugation of the people of Israel to outside forces. He would eventually send His Son as the fulfillment of His covenant promise to David. When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He boldly proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV). In a real sense, His kingdom had come. He was the Messiah, the long-awaited descendant of David who came to rule and reign over the people of Israel. But Jesus did not set up His earthly kingdom at that time. Of course, that was what the disciples were anticipating. That was what they were hoping he would do, which is what led them to argue over who was going to get to sit on His right and His left when He established His kingship. But as Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV). At His first advent, Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. Yes, He came as King of kings and Lord of lords, but His was a heavenly kingdom. He came to rule and reign over the hearts of men. He came to defeat sin and death, not the Romans. He came to set people free from slavery and subjugation to sin, not from the tyranny of Roman rule. But the day is coming when He will fulfill God’s promise completely. At His second advent or Second Coming, He will come once again to earth, but at that time He will come to reign. He will come in might and power, and prepared to finish what He began. The book of Revelation describes that scene. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV).

Like David, we wait for the final fulfillment of God’s promise. And like David, God’s promise should give us courage to pray. We should be able to come to Him in boldness, based on His promise to us, and ask that His will be done. Especially at times like we are experiencing as a nation, we should pray that God bring about the final fulfillment of His plan. We should long for and pray for the coming of Christ to take away His Church. We should regularly ask God to bring about the Second Coming of His Son. We should desire what God has promised and planned. He has said it. He will do it. We should pray for it – courageously and expectantly.

Power and Authority.

that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:20-23 ESV

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul ends his prayer with a rather strange, but highly appropriate reminder of the source of the hope of our calling, our glorious inheritance and the immeasurable power at our disposal. It is Christ, the resurrected, ruling, righteous, and soon-to-be-returning Son of God and Savior of mankind. It is Jesus Christ who makes it possible for us to have a restored relationship with God. His death satisfied the just demands of a holy God. He died in our place so that the penalty for our sins might be paid in full and our condemnation be removed once and for all. His death made possible our adoption by God and our new status as His children. Our calling, our future inheritance and the power of God available to us are all a result of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The amazing thing is that He willingly left His rightful place at God’s side and came to earth, took on human flesh, and died so that we might live. But Paul reminds us that, after His resurrection, made possible by God’s “great might,” Jesus returned to His Father’s side and was restored to His rightful position with all the power and authority that was His.

As important as it is that we believe Jesus came as a baby and lived His life as a human being, died on a cross and rose again, it is essential that we understand that Jesus is God, with all the “rule and authority and power and dominion” that God possessed. He is “above every name that is named.” God “put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.” In other words, Jesus Christ possesses unsurpassed power and authority, and deserves our unwavering allegiance as the King of kings and Lord of lords. We tend to think that when Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished!,” He was saying that His work was done. And while His earthly work had come to a point of completion with His death, He is far from finished. He has returned to His Father’s side and He continues to work on our behalf as the head of the church, His body. That means that we, as members of that body, report to Him. And the power and authority that Jesus Christ possesses passes down to us as members of His Kingdom. He has every right to rule and reign over our lives. But we have a responsibility to act as His ambassadors, extending His reign over the earth and living as obedient citizens of His Kingdom as we do so. It is interesting that Paul ends his prayer with a reminder of the power and authority of Christ. In a sense, it is when we come to understand the rightful place of Jesus Christ as our ultimate authority and the unquestioned ruler over our lives, that we really come to know God. Jesus isn’t just a doorway through which we walk to get to God. He is God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. He is a vital part of the Godhead – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Mysterious and inexplicable, but essential to what we believe about Jesus Christ and His subsequent role as our returning King. The apostle John was given a vision of what His future return will look like. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV).

He is coming again and this time it will be with power and authority. He is coming as the King of kings and Lord of lord. He has no equal. No one will be able to oppose Him. He will bring judgment to the earth. He will destroy the enemies of God. He will establish His Kingdom on the earth and reign in righteousness. But while all of that is somewhere out in the future, we must not forget that Jesus Christ possesses that same power and authority right now. We are to treat Him as our King and Lord each and every day of our lives. It is He who makes it possible for us to pray. Our very ability to come before God is a byproduct of His death on the cross. We enter into God’s presence because of Christ’s blood, not because we somehow deserve to be there. Even in our prayers we should acknowledge the great debt we owe to Jesus for what He has done. We can know God because we know Christ.

As Right As Reign.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10 ESV

Matthew 6:9-13

What do you want more than anything in the world? What is it you dream about, worry about, obsess about, or think you just can’t live without? A good way to tell what is it we really want and desire is to take inventory of our prayers. You can tell a lot about a person by examining the kinds of things they ask God for or by simply figuring out what it is that motivates them to pray in the first place. Sometimes it is a tragedy or some kind of trouble that gets us on our knees. We find ourselves in a place of difficulty and suddenly we find the time and the motivation to take our problem to God. What we want is peace. We want deliverance from our trouble. We want God to do something to get things back to “normal,” whatever that is. There are other times when our desires are even more transparent. We come to God asking for good health, protection for our children, peace in the world, direction for life, healing for a friend, a promotion, a better marriage, or even the motivation to grow spiritually. But in Jesus’ model prayer, He would have us remember that there is something far more important than all of these things. In fact, it is essential to understanding where everything else fits in on the priority scale of life. Remember, Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” He wants us to use His prayer as an outline for making our requests made known to God, and one of the first things He encourages us to do is to ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done – “on earth as it is in heaven.” So before we begin making our will made known to God, we should desire that His will be done – in the world and in our lives.

The kingdom of God. The will of God. These two things have to do with rule and reign, power and authority, sovereignty and dominion. As the people of God, we should desire these things. We should want them more than anything else. Why? Because His kingdom is righteous, good, loving, just, and holy. In the same way, His will is perfect, good, righteous, holy and just. We should want what God wants. We should desire that God rule and reign in us and over us. Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). Life in this world has polluted our minds, causing us to desire those things that, in the end, lead us away from God, not to Him. We need our minds renewed, our desires refocused – on God and His will. Later on in this same chapter in Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV). In other words, we are not to get wrapped up in and obsessed with the things of this world. Instead, we are to have a kingdom mindset. We are to see our lives as part of the greater kingdom of God. And when we find ourselves too wrapped up in the things of this world, worrying about what we’re going to eat or wear, Jesus gives us the antidote: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). We are to make the rule and reign of God our highest priority. We are to desire His righteousness, His will, His dominion over all things – including our very lives. Paul reminds us, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 ESV). In his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he told them to “live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 NLT).

When we come to God in prayer, we should do so with a desire to see His righteous reign lived out in us. We should want His will more than anything else. Our will takes a backseat to His, our kingdom is annexed by His, His rule reigns supreme – on this earth just like it does in heaven. Wanting the will of God is a game-changer. It impacts everything else. It should change the way we pray. It should alter our expectations and dramatically influence our petitions. When we want His rule and reign to be supreme, we will be able to focus on seeking His righteousness rather than worrying about all the stuff that sidetracks us and distracts us from what really matters. God’s will is always good and acceptable and perfect. Why would we ever want anything else?