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The Kingdom Of God(contd.)

At this point we wish to observe that a reigning king chosen from the people was not necessary to the existence of the kingdom of God. Over half a millennium elapsed from the Exodus until the crisis in the time of Samuel when the people clamoured for a king from among themselves. They wanted to be like the nations around them. Saul was given the throne but he was not a spiritual man, and God rejected him. Then the Lord raised up a man after His own heart, a man in the kingly line of Judah. For forty years David sat on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. Forty years later the kingdom was divided so as to form the two-tribed kingdom of Judah and the ten-tribed kingdom of Israel. After the split, kingship continued in Jud ah for nearly four hundred years. The last but one king to sit on the throne was Jehoiachin, a man whose wickedness drew forth the divine veto on human succession to the throne of David. "0 earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22:29,30).

Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was not Jehoiachin's son. He was his brother and was raised to the throne by Nebuchadnezzar. When, therefore, the seventy years of the captivity in Babylon ended and the Spirit-stirred remnant returned to Jerusalem and Judah to rebuild the house of God and to restore its services according to the covenant of the Lord in the law of Moses, this named and numbered people did not have a king reigning over them. There was no-one who could ascend the throne. But that this people was God's kingdom, subject to His authority and rule, is made manifest in the historical records of Ezra and Nehemiah and in the prophetical utterances of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. This truth will be seen also in later developments of this article. It may be enough to say here that the service of God's house is the service of His kingdom.

Though it was not necessary to the existence of the kingdom of God that there should be a human king reigning it was necessary that constitutional arrangements be made to ensure that the rule of God among His people should be enforced. For this purpose the Lord commanded that responsible men, who would be the representatives of the Throne of God, would be identified to teach and to administer His law. Not all these men had the same ability and the same responsibility but all had the same solemn accountability to God. These men had responsibility in localized action, but provision was made to cope with problems which were too difficult for local solution. Such matters were t6 be referred to those who had wider knowledge and experience. Thus the Lord intended that in all matters His rule would be effectively and righteously administered. For references to these matters readers are invited to consult Deut. 1:12-18; Deut. 16:18-20;Deut. 17:1-13.

The history of the kingdom of God in Old Testament times confirms that God was greatly disappointed with His people. With amazing patience and love and power He worked with them to produce in their lives and service the response which would have been to His glory and to their blessing. The words of Isaiah 5 graphically depict how the Lord was affected, "What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?... For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant: and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry" (Isa. 5:4,7).

A salient feature of Old Testament prophecy was the promise of the coming of the Christ, the Anointed One of God. He would be of the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, in the family of David. He would be King, Prophet and Priest. "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4). His earthly ministry of revealing God the Father and His purposes was confined to the borders of Israel but the work which He came to accomplish had world-wide implications. The coming of Christ, the Son of God, to earth was an important crisis in the purposes of God, and it held particular significance for the Israel people. From the commencement of His public ministry it was evident that Christ was to be a despised and rejected Man. The officers of His bitter opponents the Pharisees exclaimed, "Never man so spake". "The multitudes were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as One having authority, and not as their scribes". But despite such impact the great Prophet was despised.

Near the end of His public ministration this lovely Man was seen entering the city of Jerusalem. Prophecy was being fulfilled in that event. The promised King of David's family approached the capital city borne by a colt the foal of an ass. The scripture being fulfilled said, "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9). What a sight this must have been for "The Father on His sapphire throne" and for "The angel armies of the sky"! But the great King was rejected.

Ride on, ride on, in majesty,

In lowly pomp ride on to die.

Some hours after His amazing entrance on the colt into Jerusalem the King-Messiah walked out of the city with a heavy cross laid on His flesh-furrowed, lacerated back. He walked out voluntarily to die. He had been rejected. At the third hour of the morning, to the fiendish delight of His enemies and under the barrage of their raucous sneers and insults, Jesus of Nazareth was lifted up on the cross He had carried. Six hours later there was lifted an abnormal darkness which for three hours had enveloped Golgotha. On the centre cross men saw bowed in death the blood-stained body. An identification title said, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". "Jesus" indeed and "King" indeed, but He who was sent to save His people from their sins, He who was Jehovah the King was despised and rejected by those to whom He came.

We have referred to the fact that the rejection of Christ by Israel manifested itself early in His public ministry. But He who knew the end from the beginning did not at any time deviate from the way of God's will for Him. He was the faithful Witness. As the final act of rejection drew near we see and hear the Lord Jesus in what was a solemn crisis in His ministry. We refer readers to Matt. 21. We think of the Lord standing between two groups of people. (1) There was the nation of Israel represented by its acknowledged leaders. (2) There was the little flock composed of His disciples, men who had heard His call to follow Him and who had by faith obeyed. We view the Lord also as standing between two dispensations. The old dispensation which began at Mount Sinai and which at its inauguration witnessed overwhelming displays of the greatness and power, the righteousness and holiness of Jehovah, whose voice shook the earth, this dispensation was vanishing under divine rejection. Its closing scenes included the Mount Golgotha with its Roman cross to which was transfixed the Man who was Jehovah Incarnate, the silent Sufferer whose "visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isa. 52:14). But His death was not just that of a Man who was rejected by men. Nor did He die just because of loyalty to His principles. His death was that of the great Sin-bearer, appointed in the counsels of Deity before the foundation of the world, foretold and foreshadowed in the developing revelation of God to mankind.

On the cross, His will unshaken,

Dying, outcast, crushed, alone;

Visage marred, by God forsaken,

There for sinners to atone.

At Golgotha we see the sacrificial Victim of a new covenant which God was about to introduce, a covenant which would be eternal and which would offer blessings, privileges and responsibilities which never before had been enjoyed by men and women. Within the framework of this covenant lay a new dispensation of divine dealings, a dispensation in which would be fulfilled things unique in the purposes of God, but a dispensation which would see also fresh and remarkable manifestations of the house of God and the kingdom of God.

In this crisis of His ministry the Lord made two solemn pronouncements, one of judgement because of rejection and one of promise because of reception. Christ said to the representatives of the Israel nation, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you". This was divine judgement. "And shall be given up a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof". This was divine promise. Because of its rejection of Christ, the Israel nation was to lose its place of special privilege and function in divine purpose. But the conception and expression of the kingdom of God on earth were not to perish. That which Israel was to forfeit was to be given to another nation. Next month (D.V.) we very briefly trace the origins of that new nation.