What does Jesus think/feel about you?

That’s a $1 Billion Dollar Question (actually, an eternal question!).  What does Jesus (and therefore the Father!) think/feel about you?  Lots of ways to answer this, but I’m going to totally steal an answer from 2 other people.  The answer will come from Thomas Goodwin, who I’ll introduce below.  But it will come through Mike Reeves who introduced me to Goodwin, borrowing many of his words and more of his ideas below.  So, if anything sounds great, it’s Reeves.  If not, it’s me.

So, Thomas Goodwin. What do you need to know about Goodwin? Well, he was born in the year 1600, three years before the death of Queen Elizabeth. He grew up in a home of committed believers, he spent some of his younger years “making merry” as they use to say and literally seeking to become a celebrity preacher, and then something scary happened. He became REALLY religious.

He later said that, at this time, his preaching was a ministry of battering consciences. He’d use the Word of God to mercilessly beat up the congregation. And internally, he was experiencing the same thing. He began to fear that he wasn’t truly born again, and for 7 years, he was looking inside for some sign of grace on his life. Seven years!!!

SO, in Goodwin, we have someone with some experience in doubting the goodness of God.  Finally, he had an old pastor pull him aside and said, “Don’t trust anything in yourself, whether performance or feelings. Look out and rest on Christ alone.” And that was the turning point. Seeing Christ clearly and rightly made all the difference.

Well, eventually he wrote a little book called The Heart of Christ in Heaven Unto Sinners on Earth, and he wrote this, he said, because he found so many Christians who, like himself, struggled to know who God was and trust his goodness towards them.

So, he hoped the book would, “take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory.” That he might “hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly unto the throne of grace, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart is inclined towards them.”

We’re going to have Goodwin guide us through 3 scenes that will unpack Christ’s heart for us.

First, in the upper room (John 13-17).

John 13.1-5 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

FIRST, notice that he knew he was going away and that all things had been given to him by the Father, and yet his thoughts were on his disciples. Instead of (or perhaps BECAUSE of) thinking of the glory he’s headed back to, He washes their feet…he does this to show them how he is and will be towards them, even when he’s gone.

SECOND, notice also that he already knew they would betray him. He already knew…yet, he washed their feet and loved them to the end.

Really, this whole section of John from chapter 13-17, he is preparing them for his departure. He’s taking pains to make sure they know his heart. That they know he’s arranged everything so that they will be cared for.

At one point, he says, “I will not leave you as orphans,” And a major part of that is that he promises to send the Holy Spirit to them…Look at John 16.7, “it is to your advantage that I go away.” It’s good for you. Why, because the Spirit will be a better helper for you in the days ahead.

Goodwin riffs on this whole section from chapter 14-16 to unpack in a beautiful way, what Jesus says the Spirit will do in His place…

All the comfort he shall speak to you all that while will be but from the expression of my heart towards you…he will tell you nothing but stories of my love. He will tell you that there is as true a dearness of affection in me towards you, as is between my Father and me and that it is as impossible to take off my heart from you, as to take my Father’s from me, or mine from my Father.

Second, after the resurrection

The first people to encountering the risen Christ weren’t his disciples. Some women go to the tomb, and Mary encounters Jesus, and he gives her a message for his disciples…

Now, what would you say to those no good, spineless, traitors? Those men who deserted you in your hour of need. Who, at the very least need to show some major gratitude for what you’ve just done for them?

What does Jesus call them in John 20.17 ? – “go, to my BROTHERS”  (reminds us of Hebrews 2.11) and what message does he send them? In 20.17 – “I ascend to My Father and YOUR Father…to my God and YOUR God!”  They are still his brothers and the Father still belongs to them!  Despite what they’ve done.

And 2 verses later, he appears to them, and what does he say? Does he rebuke them? Chide them? Rip into ‘em really good? No, in John 20.19 he says “Peace be with you!” And he breathes on them and says, “receive the Holy Spirit.”

And in all this time, he never brings up the past. He never scolds them or reprimands them for their behavior before the Cross.

Goodwin notes that during this time: NO SIN OF THEIRS TROUBLED HIM BUT THEIR UNBELIEF.  Isn’t that amazing.

Well, after 40 days with them, he is leaving, ascending into Heaven. What’s the last thing he does as he is leaving…even as he is ascending into the sky: Luke 24.50-51 says 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Third, seated at the right hand of the Father

-So, once in glory, He pours out the Spirit

-Then, he begins a ministry of interceding for his people, and this is where we want to turn our attention to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 7.25 says, “He always lives to make intercession for us.”

I know people that live for college football. Or who say “I live for Doctor Who. I know the actors, I follow their lives, I watch the shows, I have the action figures. I LIIIIIIIIIVE for Doctor Who.”

Friends, Jesus lives for you. He EVER lives to intercede for you.

And a major theme through Hebrews is this: Jesus became the perfect high priest for us THROUGH suffering for us. A high priest comes to God on behalf of the people. And if you’re going to represent broken, suffering, hurting people…well, you have to be broken, to suffer, to hurt.

And Goodwin wants to draw out attention to, “two things, in particular, that stir Jesus’ compassion for us as our High Priest: our afflictions and – astonishingly – our sins.”

Hebrews 4.15 says He can sympathize with our weakness, that is, our suffering and all that is hard in this life.  All things that show how WEAK we are.

What about you?  Is your suffering terrible?  Have you had more than you can bear?   We’ve struggled with sin, hurt, heartache and loss.  And maybe you’re wondering, “Did he really suffer everything as I have? Did he experience betrayal? Excruciating Pain? Did he ever weep over the grave of a dear friend? Injustice? Loss of family?  The answer to all of those is YES!  What about Sin…did he suffer under sin?  Not his own…but yours and mine.  He was CRUSHED under it.

But, it’s not only our suffering and affliction that moves him…it’s also our sin. Look at Hebrews 5.2 – He can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward (literally…those out of the way), that is, those in sin!  See what Goodwin says…

“your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’” TG

Mike Reeves comments on this passage by saying:

Jesus’ first reaction when you sin is pity. Where you would run from Him in guilt, He would run to you in grace. It makes all the difference when your heart feels cold. Right then in your very coldness, you can know it is your joylessness that stirs His compassion. In our guilt we’d never want to face up to some cold, pitiless God. But the tender kindness of Christ woos us.

Isn’t that amazing. Isn’t Christ good to us? And remember…the heart of Christ is the expressed image of the heart of his Father. This is our Father’s love being shown through our Savior Christ.

This is what transformed Goodwin’s life, and one of the best places to see this is to read his final words. Listen to this, these are the words of a man who for 7 years wrestled over whether he could be SURE of his salvation, SURE of God’s love for him.

I am going to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion…I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness. Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he does; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do. I’m swallowed up in God.

Isn’t that amazing? The assurance we have in His love! This is our God! So that brings us back to the beginning: how does knowing all this transform prayer? Well, where to start?!?!?! In our final post, we’ll compare our God, the Triune, true and living God, to the god of the Koran that we looked at a few posts back.

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Responding to our Kind, Tender King

So, we’ve seen that God’s reign is one of self-sharing, self-giving, sacrifice for His people.  Isn’t that great!  He’s not a cosmic overlord simply looking for slaves.  Isn’t He so good!?  To review, check out the previous posts in this series:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Let me take all this just one step further. We could look at all this and say, “Hmm, the God of the Bible, at his core, is a self-giving God. That’s awesome. So, he’s willing to be merciful. It’s in his nature, sort of like a benevolent King, handing out bread, who is good and kind.” We’ve sinned, but he’s merciful, so he forgives.

But, does King Jesus just say, “I think you guys are OK people, so I’ll die so that you can go to heaven…I’ll forgive you”?  OR “You’re not too good, but I’m gracious, so you’re forgiven”?  Does he want to just give us heaven? Does He just want to be nice to us?  Absolutely not! He wants to give us HIMSELF! And He wants us FOR Himself.  The Gospel is much less about what God wants to save us from, though that’s part of it, and it’s much more about what He’s saving us for!!! For Himself. He wants us to be with HIM! Look again at John 17.

Jesus says that the FATHER loves us: 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

JESUS wants to be with us: 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Remember, the King isn’t just throwing bread around, in fact, the King is seeking a Bride! We are called the betrothed of Christ. Paul says in Ephesians that earthly marriage was given by God to point to Jesus and the Church.  If you are a GUY, listen…MEN, we have to get over ourselves, we are the Bride. There’s nothing sexual about this marriage.  Here’s THOMAS GOODWIN unpacking Christ’s love for the Church:

It is as if he had said, “The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never rest till I have you with me, so we may never part again. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father, if I don’t have you with me because my heart is so set upon you; and if I have any glory, you shall have part of it.”

Wow! Can you believe it? Is there a sweeter word than this, “I want them to be with me.”

We do not have a contract God, lobbing demands from a distance, seeing how much work, sweat, and sacrifice he can squeeze out of us.  We don’t even have just a nice God who’s willing to overlook offenses.  No, we have a King that came and was pressed out, under the judgment of His Loving Father IN ORDER TO BE WITH US. Oh, what a King! And friends, he loves you. His heart is warm towards you. It overflows with affection and tenderness for you. So, how ought we to respond?

We should love him. What more could you want from a King? If you are a Christian, how long have you lived under the weight of thinking that you still owe God something, that he’s still expecting something from you? Perhaps you wake up in the morning and think, “Oh, I better pray and read my Bible so that God will be pleased with me.” It’s SOOOO easy for us to slip into this YOYO mentality that His love depends on how well I’m doing. He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not. No no no no no no no no. You can’t do it for Jesus. Jesus has already done it for you. It is finished. Your CHAMPION has won! He’s secured the victory, and just like the Israelite army did when David beat Goliath, you simply get to enjoy being IN Christ, sharing in HIS victory.

And, if you are NOT a Christian, and you’re reading this. Oh, friend, look at Jesus. All this, he’s done for you. Could you find a better Savior, a better King, a better friend than Christ? Did you think that perhaps you have to get your life straightened out, and only then maybe Jesus would accept you? Friend, look to Jesus…trust in His victory. Would you simply receive “His life for yours?”

Either way, listen again as he says it: “I cannot live without you, I shall never rest till I have you with me, so we may never part again. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father, if I don’t have you with me because my heart is so set upon you”

God’s Reign as Self-Sacrifice?

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I decided to insert one extra post in this series.  Just in case you’re not convinced that self-sacrifice is the mark of God’s character, and therefore his dominion and rule, I want to look at one more scene.  Actually, it’s one scene in two passages.  First, let’s look at Revelation 5.1-5

5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

So, what’s happening here?  Well, we’re looking for a King.  We’re looking for someone who has authority to unroll the rest of history.  Particularly, someone who can usher in the New Creation.  The 7 seals do point to perfection, but primarily because of the first use of 7 in the Bible, the perfect creation in Genesis 1 where, through his Word, God transforms a chaotic void into a very good creation! The person we’re looking for can bring in, by their authority, the perfect New Creation.

Luckily, a worthy one appears.  The Lion of Judah (kingship is promised to Judah’s descendant forever in Gen 49.8-12),  who also happens to be the Root of David (the coming, promised Davidic King!) has conquered!  So, He can open the seals, He can rule the rest of history!

Where do I get that idea of authority or ruling?  Well, besides the reference to Judah and David, we’ll see it in this passage in a moment, but let’s look at another passage that is recording this same scene – Daniel 7.

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; and the books were opened.

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Look at that.  We have the same heavenly throneroom.  We have one seated on the throne, and we have books (SCROLLS of course).  And in each, one approaches the throne, but in this Daniel passage we see what is given over to Him…Dominion, Glory, Kingdom!!!  The right to rule all things forever!

Now, as we look back at Revelation 5, we’ll get a little more detail to round out our picture.  Particularly, WHY IS THIS LION-KING, THIS SON OF MAN FIT TO BE KING FOREVER?  Look at this!

5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain (sphadzo). And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain (sphadzo), and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Wow!  You are worthy FOR YOU WERE SLAIN!!!  Because you gave your life as a sacrifice!  To redeem the lost.  You gave your life for theirs!

Friends, why is Jesus so utterly worthy of dominion and a kingdom?  Why is He worthy to unfold the rest of history, to bring the New Creation in?  My life for yours!  That’s what makes Him the perfect King!  And of course he’d rule this way because He is the image of the Invisible God…this is who He has always been and always will be!  Or as Hebrews 2.9 puts it:

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Absalom as anti-Christ

Remember, two posts back we saw that because God’s VERY NATURE is self-giving, self-sharing, self-sacrificing, that is also how He rules…it captures the nature of His dominion.  We saw last post that David demonstrates this in his self-sacrificing behavior in the David and Goliath story (of course, he does a bad job of this in the whole Uriah and Bathsheba incident).  In this current post, we want to learn the same lesson, but in another way.  Instead of seeing the glory of Jesus’ self-giving dominion through a positive example, we’re going to see his glory through a negative example.

I looked online for a good picture of Absalom and found one…

blood sucking vampire

Oh wait, is that not Absalom? Let me search again…ah, that’s better.

Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 14 to meet this handsome devil. At this point, David is King on the throne over all of Israel. Absalom is his oldest son. David had two older sons, but both are now dead.

Before we dig in, you need to know that the Bible spends 7 chapters on Absalom. From 13-19. SEVEN chapters! As we look at this story, be sure to ask yourself, “Why does God spend so much time telling us Absalom’s story?” I’m going to argue because he wants a very detailed picture of earthly kingship to contrast with His Kingship. So, let’s look at Absalom.

David was described as a man after God’s own heart. What about Absalom?  In 14.25-26, here’s what we read: 25 Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight.

Now, you may be thinking, “Schell, it’s not a sin to be good looking.” But, there is a heavy emphasis on the external with Absalom. Contrasted with the earliest descriptions of David, all of a sudden, this description is quite chilling.  Remember, the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t look at the outside!”

We also see another glimpse of his heart if we skip to chapter 18, verse 18, which reads “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day.” Anytime anyone in the Bible starts to worry about their own name, trouble is close behind. You may remember at the tower of Babel, God has just told the people to spread out, to fill the earth, and the people gather together and say, “Let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to heaven so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

This is worrisome behavior, but where we really see what’s in his heart is in chapters 15-18 where he plots to overthrow and kill his father, David. Starting in Chapter 15, we’re just going to do a fly over to catch the highlights of this story while really looking at Absalom.

  • He provided himself with a Chariot (15.1).  This is an act of claiming the throne.  One of his brothers will do this later in the book.
  • Set self up as judge, threw David under the bus (15.2-4).  David was judging the people’s cases, but Absalom told them otherwise.
  • Stole the hearts of the people (15.5-6)
  • Rebellion: Has himself declared king.  “ABSOLOM IS KING IN HEBRON” (15.10)
  • Tricked many into joining his side (15.11)
  • Even made sacrifices (15.12), almost as if to say, “Well, the king of Israel needs Yahweh’s approval, so I’m going to at least fake it.”
  • David is forced to flee for his life  (15.13-14).
  • Sleep with David’s concubines (16.21-22) to bring shame on them and ridicule to David.
  • Seeks the life of his FATHER (17.1-4, 18.3).

Now, you know why I confused Absalom with a blood sucking vampire!  Finally, in the midst of the battle, Absalom’s hair gets caught in a tree (18.9) OH, THAT HAIR, that beautiful hair, that luscious hair, a physical expression of the glory that Absalom hungered for was his downfall.  And, in short, he is speared by Joab and his men and thrown into a pit. (18.14-17)

What does all this tell us about JESUS?  Well, we saw in David’s faith in God, a picture of Jesus’, who is God the Son, trust in God the Father. David is a positive picture. And Absalom is a negative picture. To see Jesus’ in contrast to Absalom, look at Philippians 2.5-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 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, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Notice first that Jesus was exalted to his throne only AFTER trusting His father and saving His people.  BECAUSE (Therefore in v. 9) He was self-giving (vv. 5-8), He is fit to be King (vv. 9-10).

HOW MUCH MORE DIFFERENT COULD JESUS BE FROM ABSOLOM?  Let’s look at three ways.

First is how they relate to their fathers.

David flees Absolom

Absalom slept with his father’s concubines to bring shame on David, to show his contempt for David, and ultimately, he wanted to kill David.  He wanted glory and dominion for himself.

Not my will, but yours be done, Father

Jesus said things like “I’ve come to do the will of my Father. My food is to do the Father’s will. Father, not my will, but yours be done.”  He wanted to give glory to the Father.  He wanted to bring men and women to the Father!

What about in this area of glory and name?

Absalom riding through Jerusalem to be seen

Absalom didn’t just want glory in this life, seen in buying a chariot and riding through town to be seen and admired by everyone, but sets up a monument to himself so that even when he’s dead, people will think about him. He tries to build himself up.

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Washing the feet of His disciples

Jesus emptied himself. He left the glories of Heaven to come to earth. Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. Literally emptied himself, pouring out his blood to save sinners.  He was the greatest SERVANT of all.

What about their judgments?  Both Hung on a Tree, buried in a pit/tomb.

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Absalom’s Death

Absalom, full of himself, is ensnared, literally, by his pride.  His life said, “everyone’s life for mine”.  Jesus’ act of supreme sacrifice declared, “MY LIFE FOR YOURS” from start to finish.  Absalom was speared through for his own sin.  Jesus was speared for our sin.  Absalom hung on a tree because of his treachery.  Jesus hung on a tree to forgive our treachery.  Absalom got what he deserved.  Jesus got what we deserved.  His life for ours.

Image result for jesus on the cross

Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!

So, Absalom helps us see the glory of Christ, precisely because he is nothing like our Jesus.  From the core of his being to the way he rules, our God is a self-giving, self-sharing God, and that is how Jesus came and how He continues to rule!

King David – A Jesus-like Savior

David is appointed King, that is chosen by God, and then anointed King. This happens in 1 Samuel, chapter 16. It’ll be several years before he actually is enthroned as king. He’s chosen and anointed, but only after trusting the Lord and saving God’s people, will he be enthroned. And that’s the story we want to look at in chapter 17, just one chapter later, where David saves God’s people.

David is anointed and in the very next chapter, we get to see his SHINING MOMENT as the anointed one (echoes of “Messiah” should be ringing in our ears), even though he’s not yet taken the throne.

We’ve said in the last post that Biblical Kingship is all about my life for yours.  How do we see MY LIFE FOR YOURS in the story of David and Goliath? Most of us know the story…especially the ending of the story.  SPOILER ALERT: David wins. And we often think about this story and we try to place ourselves in it, and inevitably, we put ourselves in David’s shoes. Glen Scrivener (whose unpacking of this story is fantastic here) catalogues a list of sermon titles based on this story, things like: Defeat the Giants in our lives, The five smooth stones of the Christian life, pebble power.  But a major point of the story is this: you’re not David. Instead, you NEED a David.

The whole story is set up by Goliath’s challenge. He says, pick one of your warriors to fight me. If he wins, you all win. If I win, we all win. This is a practice commonly called champion warfare, in which the hopes of the entire army rest on one, individual champion, one warrior.  I doesn’t matter how strong, hopeful, skillful, worried, scared, weak the rest of the army is…it only matters what their champion is able to do. In fact, the Israelites seemed to be on the verge of surrender or desertion.

11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid.

For 40 Days, Israel was waiting for a savior to defeat Goliath

They need a hero! Saul was meant to be their champion, their king, but he was just as scared as everyone else.  So what does David do? He steps in and says, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him (Goliath). Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Essentially, he’s saying, “my life for yours.” I’ll fight on your behalf.  Do not be afraid.  I’ll put myself in danger for you.  And he learned this as a shepherd.  Look at verse 34f.

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

Question: “What makes you a qualified savior, David?”

Answer: “I know how to lay down my life for another.”

This story isn’t about Joe Plumber taking on big pharma. It’s not about the Loser University defeating Champ State at football. If you and I are anyone in the story, it’s not David…it’s the helpless soldiers standing around on the brink of despair. They could not save themselves, they needed a savior. It’s not a story about an underdog, it’s THE Story of divine rescue, by faith alone, by God’s grace alone. It’s a picture of our anointed King Jesus, sacrificing himself, to defeat Satan, Sin, and Death for us. Or as Scrivener says, “We don’t do it for Jesus, Jesus already did it for us”

So David was appointed by God and anointed by God, but only after saving God’s people is he enthroned. Does that sound familiar?

What is Jesus’ Kingdom like?

The Kingdom of God has been a topic of interest since I become a believer.  In seminary, my studies in Biblical Theology afforded me the chance to really dig in on some aspects of it.  I remember reading George Ladd for the first time and realizing that the word “kingdom” in both Hebrew and Greek could mean a place (England), a people (the English), or the reign of the King (During Henry VIII’s Kingdom, the Reformation began in England), with the latter being the primary use when discussing God’s Kingdom – it’s about HIS REIGN.  That was mind blowing for me.

One thing we did not discuss as much was the nature of the Kingdom flowing out of the nature of the King.  We did discuss what God’s consummated reign my look like, but we failed to connect it to the very character of our God-King himself.  The reign of God is the way it is because that is what GOD HIMSELF is like!  That’s something that has been of interest to me recently.  So, in this and the next 3 posts, I’m going to unpack what that means for us.

I heard Glen Scrivener tell a story once about Tom Wright.  Tom Wright was a chaplain at Merton College, which is a part of Oxford University from 1975-1978. One of the rules at the time was that every student had to meet with the chaplain at least once. As you can imagine, that was often quite uncomfortable for the majority of students who self-identified as agnostic or atheist. Often a student would say, “I have to meet with you, but I don’t believe in God.”

Eventually, Wright grew curious, and started responding, “That’s interesting.  Which one? Which God don’t you believe in?” Taken aback the students would think for a moment and then describe the god in which they didn’t believe. After they shared, Wright, with relief in his voice, would say, “Oh, that’s fantastic, I don’t believe in that god either.”

It was fascinating how close the descriptions all seemed to be. They used different words, but all were essentially in agreement on the key content of who this god was. They spoke of a god that was more like…

  • A cosmic hall monitor, the govenator, dishing out divine decrees simply to flex his muscles.
  • He’s a withdrawn, fickle, and impersonal deity, looking for whom he might smite with a great smiting…smoting…let’s go with smiting?
  • He’s what James Torrence called “a contract god.” If you want his blessing, or at least for him not to wipe you off the face of the earth, you better perform.

What they all have in common is that these are all descriptions of POWER. That’s what comes to mind. A Lord, that is, a King, that is all power and little of anything else.

Well, no wonder they didn’t want a god like that.  Michael Reeves says “you don’t love a god like that. You might be grateful that he doesn’t kill you, but you’ll never love him.  that this sort of god is like a cosmic speed camera.  He may let you off with a warning, for which you may be grateful, but he’s never won your heart.”

AND THESE DESCRIPTIONS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE GOD OF THE BIBLEWhat we’ll see instead is that God’s kingship, his dominion, even when he gives law (because he does that), but everything he does, every part of his kingship – it flows from a completely different fountain. At the heart of God’s dominion is this principle: MY LIFE FOR YOURS.

Think of it like this: What was God doing before Creation? Jesus said a few very interesting things. In his prayer in John 17.5, he talks about the glory that he and the Father shared together before the world existed (17.5). In verse 24, he says to the Father, “you loved me before the foundation of the world.”  From all eternity past, we see fellowshipping together, sharing together, giving to each other.  I’ve heard one preacher say this: “There are no mirrors in the Trinity.” Jesus isn’t checking himself out making sure he looks as good as the Father. The Holy Spirit isn’t worried that the Son is receiving more glory…NO, they are enjoying each other, giving to each other. And that is the heart of God’s Kingship.  Self-giving, self-deferring, sacrificial love is THE mark of a real king because that’s the marker of the real God.

But that’s nowhere near what most people think, even Christians, when they consider that God is King, God is ruler.  God’s Kingship is this: MY LIFE FOR YOURS.  Or we might say from our perspective “His life for ours,” “THE KING’S LIFE FOR MINE.” That is what Biblical Kingship should look like, because that’s what God’s rule looks like.

So, let’s look at this MY LIFE FOR YOURS kingship in Scripture. We’re going to see that this is what good earthly rule looks like, but we’re also gonna see WAAAAAAAY more that it’s all here to point us to His rule, to our good King – King Jesus. We will see, in the end, that our God isn’t a cosmic traffic camera, willing to give us a free pass in return for good behavior and a little gratitude. No, He means to win our hearts. To WIN OUR HEARTS.

So, in the next post, we’ll look at King David and how God’s character shaped his reign.  The following post, we’ll look at Absalom, David’s son, as a negative example of what we’re talking about.  Finally, we’ll look to Christ, and ask about how we ought to respond. These two earthly kings are going to help us see Jesus more clearly and that His reign flows directly out of His heart!