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



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

No God Beside You.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel,’ and the house of your servant David will be established before you. 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 7:18-29 ESV

One of the keys to understanding David’s lasting legacy as Israel’s greatest king is found in this marvelous prayer he offers up to God. As we have established and as the Scriptures make painfully clear, David was far from perfect. He was a man after God’s own heart, but he also had a heart that was strongly attracted to women. He also had an impulsive streak that would continually get him in trouble and an equal predisposition toward inaction that would also cause him great difficulty. But when all is said and done, and the evaluation of David’s life is complete, it is difficult not to conclude that he was a man who loved God and understood the unique nature of his relationship with God. In this prayer, David repeatedly refers to himself as the servant of God. And another eight times he calls God his master. This speaks volumes regarding David’s comprehension of his role and God’s rule. David may have been the king of Israel, but God was the King over the universe. David answered to him. In fact, he owed his entire life and his reign to God. David’s humility shines through as he expresses his amazement that God had chosen to use him.

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” – 2 Samuel 7:18 ESV

David understood that his crowning as king had been God’s doing.

“Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness…” – 2 Samuel 7:21 ESV

David didn’t see his recent elevation to the throne as something he deserved or had earned. It had been the result of God’s promise and the natural overflow of God’s heart. He is a faithful, covenant-keeping God.

And while David was the king and enjoyed all the perks and benefits that come with the job, he was far more impressed with the greatness of God.

“Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” – 2 Samuel 7:22 ESV

Even the existence of the nation of Israel had been the result of God’s sovereign will. The fact that David had a nation over which to rule and reign was God’s doing. There would have been no nation of Israel, had God not chosen Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation. There would have been no exodus unless God had chosen to step in and rescue and redeem His people from their slavery in Egypt. And there would have been no land over which David would reign if God had not given them the promised land.

“What other nation on earth is like your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt.” – 2 Samuel 7:23 NLT

David was legitimately blown away that God had promised to “build a house” for him. This wasn’t a promise for a grand palace made with great stones, massive wooden beams, precious metals and rare jewels. No, God had promised to make David into a great nation, complete with heirs to sit on his throne after him. Unlike Saul, whose dynasty died with him, David would see his kingdom thrive and flourish under the leadership of his own son, Solomon. But even great than that was the promise of God that  “the house of your servant David will be established before you” (2 Samuel 7:26 ESV). And not only that, God had told David:

“Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16 NLT

What an amazing promise. And the staggering significance of its words did not escape David. He knew just how fleeting a king’s reign could be. He had personally watched as Saul’s kingdom had come to an abrupt and ignominious end. Kingdoms would end just as easily as they started. And David knew that the key to his kingdom’s longevity would be tied directly to God’s sovereignty. So David asked God to graciously extend his kingdom forever. 

Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you…” – 2 Samuel 7:29 ESV

David knew that the length of his legacy was directly died to the depth of his dependency upon God. As long as he recognized God as the ultimate King of Israel, his kingdom would flourish and his legacy would last. David knew that the blessings of God were tied to the obedience of the king. David understood that he stood as the representative for the people of God. He was their proxy, their stand-in, so to speak. His faithfulness would reflect the hearts of the people. As the king went, so would the people go.

In fact, there is an old proverb that says, “As the king, so are the subjects.” We see the truth of this statement lived out in the lives of Israel’s kings. Over and over again in the books of First and Second Kings we see the kings of Israel and Judah wrestle with their obedience and faithfulness to God. And time and time again, they lead their subjects away from God, to pursue false gods. They gave up their dependence upon God in exchange for dependence on false gods and foreign nations. They turned their backs on God. And eventually, God was forced to turn His back on them, sending the northern kingdom of Judah into captivity in Assyrian. Then hundreds of years later, sending the southern kingdom of Judah into captivity in Babylon.

And yet, God would remain faithful. He would keep His promise. And while the throne of David remains empty to this very day, and the nation of Israel has no king at this moment in time, God is not done yet. There is a King coming. One day, Jesus Christ, the Messiah and descendant of David, will return to claim His rightful place as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will establish His throne in Jerusalem, sitting on the throne of David. And His reign will be everlasting. Not only that, His rule will be marked by righteousness, justice and holiness. There will be no king beside Him. There will be no other kingdoms to stand against His. Because there is no God beside Him. And the greatest news is that David’s kingdom did not end with his death or with that of his son Solomon. It didn’t end with the captivity of Judah or Israel. It didn’t end with the fall of Jerusalem or the destruction of the temple. There is a day coming when God will fulfill His covenant with David and it is to that day we should longingly look and hope for.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” – Revelation 21:5-7 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

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?

Isaiah 51-52, Revelation 9

The Salvation of Our God.

Isaiah 51-52, Revelation 9

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10 ESV

Repeatedly in chapter 51, God pleads with His people to listen. He tells them to give Him their full attention and hear what He is saying. He calls them to get their eyes off of the world and their circumstances and to look to heaven from which the salvation they long for will come. In spite of all that had happened to them, God was reminding them that He was not yet done with them. He tells them, “My salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed” (Isaiah 51:6 ESV). God was going to do something incredible. He was going to do for them what they could never have done for themselves. Yes, in the short term, He would return them from captivity in Babylon and restore them to the land of promise. But God had an even greater salvation in mind. He had a much more long-term plan in store for them. And it will involve a Savior like none they have ever had before. He will be a King, but not like any other king they have ever known. He will be greater than any judge that ever delivered them in the past. He will be wiser than Solomon, more righteous than David, and He will bring about the salvation of God in a way that the people of Israel could never have imagined or anticipated.

What does this passage reveal about God?

How often God had to remind His own people, “I am the Lord your God” (Isaiah 51:15 ESV). He seemed to constantly have to remind them of His role as creator and sustainer of all things. They kept forgetting and forsaking Him. They lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety even though they enjoyed a unique status as God’s chosen people. Which is why God accused them of having: “forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy” (Isaiah 51:13 ESV). Nothing had changed about God. He was still in control. He was still all-powerful. He remained in His place in heaven, completely sovereign over all things and was prepared to reveal His power on behalf of His people. The problem lay not with God, but with the people. He calls them to “wake yourself, wake yourself” (Isaiah 51:17 ESV) and to “awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion” (Isaiah 52:1 ESV). They were like a man who had fallen asleep and found himself in the midst of a bad nightmare. So God called them to wake up to the reality of His sovereignty, majesty, power, and ever-present faithfulness. “I am the Lord your God,” He declared. God remained God whether or not they treated Him as such. They remained His people, whether or not they acted as such. God was going to bring salvation in such a way that they could no longer doubt who He was or question His ability to save. “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am” (Isaiah 52:6 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

God’s people, whether Old Testament Jews or New Testament saints, have been regularly marked by doubt and disobedience. And the same holds true today. Our faith in our God can be so fickle at times. We intellectually know that He is all-powerful, all-knowing and in control over all things. But when it comes to everyday life, we have our doubts. We fully believe He created the universe and sustains it on a daily basis, but we somehow doubt that He can handle the daily affairs of our life. We wonder whether He can save us from our particular circumstances or deliver us from the trials in which we find ourselves. But even worse than that, we fail to trust that He can provide us with what we need to make the most out of the time we have on this earth. So we turn to other things to bring us satisfaction and fulfillment. We decide that there is more to this life than a relationship with Him. We know that being His child comes with some great benefits when it comes to the future; but when it comes to the present, we seem to believe God’s will is somehow insufficient or unacceptable. We find ourselves lulled into a kind of spiritual stupor, sleep-walking our way through life, content to seek our hope and satisfaction from the things of this world. We live within the realm of the temporary, while God would have us focus on eternity. So He issues us a wake up call. These words of Paul are as appropriate now as when he first penned them to the believers in Rome: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11 ESV). Paul issued another wake up call to the believers in Ephesus: “‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:14-16 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

We are to live with an eye on the future. The danger is that we might be lulled into a kind of false sense of security and complacency, living as if this life is all there is. The salvation of the Lord is not yet complete. His work is not yet done. The return of the Jews to the land of Canaan from their time in captivity was not to be the final chapter in God’s redemptive story for them. He still had far greater plans in store. He was going to send His Son and He was going to be rejected by His own people. Not only that, He would die a criminal’s death on a Roman cross with the shouts of the people of God ringing in His ears, “Crucify Him!” But God had this to say of His Son: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:13-15 ESV). God’s Savior would be rejected. He would be despised. He would be murdered. But He would be successful in accomplishing the will of His Father and His obedience would result in salvation for all mankind. But He has one more thing to accomplish. God’s plan of salvation is not yet complete. Jesus’ work on the cross was finished. His atoning work for the sins of man is complete. But God is going to restore His creation. He is going to put an end to sin and death once and for all. He is going to judge all those who have rejected His Son’s offer of salvation and permanently eliminate Satan as the ruler over this world. “And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10 ESV).

Father, in the book of Revelation You remind us that Your work is not yet done. But You have a plan in place that You will enact at just the right time. You will complete what You have started. You will restore what was damaged by the fall. You will redeem what was rightfully Yours from the beginning. The damage done by sin and Satan will be repaired. The injustice that mars Your world will be made right. The indifference toward Your Son will be eliminated and all men will know that You alone are God. May that day come sooner rather than later. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 137 – John 18:39-19:16

King of the Jews.

John 18:39-19:16

Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face. – John 19:1-3 NLT

The entire scene of Jesus’ trial before Pilate has a surreal, almost fictional quality to it. It is hard to imagine that all of it actually took place. Even though the events surrounding His trial are very familiar, I still find it difficult to grasp that the Son of God subjected Himself to that kind of abuse all for my sake. The very idea of the most powerful being in the universe, appearing in human form, and allowing those He had created to mock, reject and ultimately kill Him is a shock to the system. The whole story has a mythical feel about it. But we believe it to be true. We don’t see it as a story at all, but as actual historical fact. Every aspect of it took place. As preposterous as it all may sound and unbelievable as it may seem to be, the Son of God DID subject Himself to the abuse and rejection of men. And throughout the proceedings, as Pilate, the soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, and the people, mocked Jesus, calling Him “King of the Jews,” they were actually speaking truth. He really WAS the King of the Jews. The religious leaders demanded His death claiming, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God” (John 19:7 NLT). And He really WAS the Son of God. But they refused to acknowledge it and were seemingly incapable of recognizing it. To them, He was nothing more than a blasphemer and a lunatic.

All throughout John’s account, the term “King of the Jews” is repeated. Pilate refers to Jesus as “this King of the Jews” hoping to get the people to see how ridiculous the whole affair was. Jesus had already been beaten. He would have looked disheveled and anything but royal in His appearance. So Pilate seems to be attempting to get the people to understand that the only thing for which Jesus was guilty was delusion. He thought Himself to be a king. The soldiers mocked Jesus, crushing a crown of thorns on His head and wrapping a purple robe about His shoulders, shouting, “Hail! King of the Jews!” The people remind Pilate “anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar” (John 19:12 NLT). Finally, Pilate presented Jesus to the people saying, “Look, here is your king!.” but one of the leading priests shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar!” The entire episode revolved around Jesus’ Kingship. Here was the King of the Jews, the King of kings and Lord of lords, standing right in front of them, and their only response was, “Away with him! Crucify him!” They were refusing Jesus as their King. They were rejecting Jesus as their Lord. And in so doing, they were going to miss the opportunity to have Jesus as their Savior.

The most fascinating exchange of the entire scene is the one between Jesus and Pilate. Here was the Roman governor, backed by the power of the Roman government, seemingly holding the fate of the Son of God in his hands. Pilate told Jesus, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Pilate was frustrated by the whole ordeal. He was trying to help Jesus gain His freedom, but Jesus seemed to be uncooperative. In Pilate’s mind, he was the deciding factor in this trial. He had the full power and backing of Rome to do with Jesus as he wished. But Jesus informed him otherwise. “You would have no power over me at all unless it were give to you from above” (John 19:11 NLT). Pilate’s authority was God-ordained. Even Rome’s power and global dominance was under the control of God Himself. And Pilate’s authority over Jesus’ life or death was completely in the hands of God. He could do nothing to Jesus that God had not ordained or would allow. The King was in complete control. The sovereign ruler of the universe was orchestrating events just as He had planned them. Pilate was a bit player in God’s grand redemptive play. The religious leaders were chess pieces in the hand of God, accomplishing His will, all the while they were gloating over their seeming victory over Jesus.

Jesus may not have looked like a king. He may not have acted like a king. He did not have all the trappings and royal attributes of a king. But He was King nonetheless. And He was willingly subjecting Himself to His Father’s plan. He was obediently fulfilling His Father’s will – all so that the very people who were demanding His death, might have access to eternal life. He was going to die so that they might be able to receive forgiveness, even for having put Him to death. The King was going to give His life for His own people. He would sacrifice His life for theirs. So when Pilate presented Jesus before the people, covered in blood, draped in a purple robe and wearing a crown of thorns, he shouted, “Look, here is your king!” And no truer words were ever spoken.

The creation killing its creator. It all sounds so ludicrous, so unbelievable. It comes across like a science fiction novel. But it is true. It actually happened. As hard to believe as it may be, it actually took place, just as John recorded it. Father, never let the reality of that day escape me. Don’t let me lose the absolute awe of what took place. Your Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords, subjected Himself to the ridicule and rejection of those He came to save. He willingly died so that we might live. Unbelievable. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Day 111 – Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

The King And His Kingdom!

Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.” – Matthew 25:31 NLT

One of the themes of the Gospels that most of us seem to overlook or simply ignore is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of the Gospels, we tend to concentrate on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Because we are 21st-Century believers living in a western context, the whole idea of a King and a Kingdom does not resonate with us. But we have to remember that the New Testament is in harmony with and a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus was the one who had been promised by God to Abraham. “And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him(Genesis 12:7 BBE). That word translated “seed” is important. It can be translated “seed, offspring, or even descendants.” So it would be natural to assume that God is promising the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. And that would be a right assumption. But Paul gives us an even better understanding of this passage. He writes, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:15-16 NASB). In other words, when God made His promise to Abraham, He was saying that, ultimately, He was going to give the land to Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, but also the Son of God and the King of kings. The land would belong to Him as its rightful ruler.

The Gospels are full of references to the Kingdom. In fact, when Jesus came into the world He was a fulfillment of countless Old Testament prophecies that predicted and promised the coming of a King, a descendant of David, who would sit on his throne forever. God had promised David, “Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings!…Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for al time, and your throne will be secure forever” (2 Samuel 7:11, 16 NLT). But it had been hundreds of years since a descendant of David had ruled from a throne in Jerusalem. In fact, since their return from exile in Babylon, Israel had had no king at all. Then there was a 400 year period of oppression under a string of different countries, most recently Rome. The king who sat on the throne when Jesus was born was Herod, an Edomite, and not a descendant of David. But Jesus WAS a descendant of David. The lineage of Jesus found in Luke traces His line back to David through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ legal claim to the throne. The lineage found in Matthew traces the line of Jesus through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ hereditary claim to the throne. When Mary and Joseph obeyed the decree to go to their ancestral home for taxation purposes, they went to Bethlehem. “And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home” (Luke 2: 4 NLT). Jesus was of royal pedigree.

What did the angel tell Mary when he announced to her God’s plan? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33 NLT). Her son would be a king. He would rule just like David did, but His kingdom would be everlasting. Some time after Jesus’ birth, even the magi came looking for a king. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NLT). At the birth of John the Baptist, his father, Zechariah prophesied about the royalty of Jesus even before He was born. ”Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David” (Luke 1:67-68 NLT).

Why is this so important? Because Jesus was not just born to be our Savior, but to be King. The reality is that, one day, He will be King over all mankind whether they believe in Him or not. Paul reminds us, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,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 2:9-11 NLT). But we will not all worship Him in the same way. Some will be His loyal subjects. Others will bow in subjugation. Some will be citizens. Others will be slaves – the captives of war. Some will be welcomed into His presence. Others will be cast out. Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, made it possible for men to be restored to a right relationship with God, so that we might live in His eternal Kingdom, under the righteous rule of Jesus Christ, forever. He will be our Savior AND our King. In fact, He is our Savior and King even today. But the problem is that, too often, we want to welcome Jesus as Savior, but refuse to let Him rule in our lives. We accept His gracious offer of eternal life, but we want to be the ones who rule and reign over our own lives.

Jesus spent a great deal of time teaching about the Kingdom. It was going to be drastically different than the one the Jews were anticipating. They were looking for a conquering king who would establish His kingdom on earth and set them free from subjugation to Rome. But Jesus came to establish a different kind of Kingdom. He came to set them free from slavery to sin. He came to release them from captivity to Satan and to release them from the condemnation of death as rebels against God. So much of what Jesus said about the Kingdom had to do with His future return. He was going to come back. And when He did, He would set up the kind of Kingdom the Jewish people had long been waiting for. Jesus taught about His eminent return as King. But it would not take place until He had suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of mankind. He would have to redeem mankind before they would accept His rule over them. Without His offer of salvation, we would never accept Him as sovereign. But the whole story of the Bible is about the righteous rule and reign of God over His creation. Jesus was born as King and He was crucified as King. At His trial, the soldiers mocked Him as King. “They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove a thorn branch into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:17-18 NLT). On the cross, the sign that was nailed above His head carried the charge, “The King of the Jews.” As He hung on the cross, the religious leaders mocked Him as King. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe in him!” (Mark 15:31-32 NLT). Jesus died because He was King. But He is coming again because He is King.

The Return of the King!

Jesus had taught His disciples that He would die, but He would rise again. He also told them that He would go away, but He would return some day. And when He did, He would establish His Kingdom once and for all. The Messianic Kingdom they anticipated would come, but not when they expected it.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” –  Matthew 25:31-34 NLT

The Gospels record the arrival of the King and the beginning of His Kingdom. They record Jesus’ teaching regarding the Kingdom. They contrast the false view with the true image of the Kingdom. They establish Jesus as the King. It was for His claim to be King that He died. And it will be as a King that He returns.

Father, too often I am more than willing to acknowledge Jesus as my Savior, but refuse to let Him be my King. I take on that responsibility, attempting to rule my life according to my own standards and in an effort to live life on my own terms. But He died that I might live, and do so as His subject, a citizen of His Kingdom, submitting myself to His righteous rule over my life. Show me how to live, not just because of Him, but for Him. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men