Today we will be exploring the topic of the kingdom. Sometimes, in our day, we become so enamored with trying to understand what the kingdom is all about that we lose sight of the King. If the primary motivation for all we do does not stem from a recognition of the power and authority of the King, then perhaps we need to reevaluate our participation in his kingdom. So, for us to have a better understanding of the importance of the kingdom, it can be helpful to review the rightful authority of the King.
Let’s start with revisiting the kingdom that God was establishing at Sinai. When God was forming an earthly kingdom for himself by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, he set this redemptive action at the head of his commands for the newly formed nation.
Exodus 20:2 – I am the God who redeemed you out of slavery, therefore you shall have no other gods before me.
For Israel to become the kingdom of God on earth, they were admonished to always remember why God was worthy of their allegiance: he had redeemed them out of their bondage in Egypt. This is so central to the entire Bible narrative that it cannot be overstated. It is of such primary importance that it is memorialized for all time as the first of the Ten Commandments.
The Hebraic and Christian traditions differ on whether this statement of Yahweh is the first commandment, or if this statement is just an introduction, and the first commandment is the verse that follows: “You shall have no gods before me,” (Exodus 20:3).
Part of this misunderstanding arises from our use of the word “commandment” in this passage. In reality, the Hebrew text speaks of the Ten “Words” of God, not necessarily commandments. There are other Hebrew designations that designate specific aspects of commandments, statutes, and requirements. But here, what we call the commandments should really be considered the Ten Words, sayings, or statements of God.
Because verses 3 and 4 of Exodus 20 are linked together with speaking of other gods and their representations (idols), the Hebraic understanding of isolating the “introduction” in verse 2 as the first of these Words makes sense. This is consistent with the overarching view that there has been revealed to them only one God who deserves complete allegiance. This would be the primary focus of further Mosaic instruction.
Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love Yahweh your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind.
This was also the view of Yeshua, as he simply reiterated Moses’ instruction to those who were questioning him as to the greatest of the commandments.
Matthew 22:36-38 – “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” He said to him, “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. “This is the greatest and most important command.”
Because the Israelites viewed God’s revelation of himself in this manner provided a solid basis for every commandment that follows. The motivation for abiding by any or all of the commandments rested in the realization of why there was any reason to listen to God at all: because he had redeemed them from slavery. This was a miraculous and undeniable testimony as to why he was worthy of their worship over any of the gods that existed in the “superpower” nation of Egypt, or anywhere else, for that matter. Therefore, they were motivated to love him with all of the hearts, souls, and minds.
Why should anyone follow a king who has not liberated them? Or why should anyone obey a king’s commandment if they do not believe he is all-powerful?
The King of the kingdom that was being formed in that desert wilderness of Sinai deserved to be king because he had demonstrated himself faithful to the promises that had been made to the forefathers. He had exhibited real, demonstrable power in breaking them free from their yoke of slavery that had overcome them. There was no greater exhibition of power than that which had not only removed them from their oppressors, but destroyed those former masters completely so they could now worship and obey Yahweh in that freedom which he had obtained for them. This is one of the greatest themes of the entire Bible: believers are set free from slavery to sin and have the freedom to worship and obey Yahweh in truth.
A true king establishes and maintains the freedom of his people, and is therefore worthy of all allegiance. This is the motivation that should drive us to “seek first the kingdom,” because we, as believers in Messiah, also have been set free from slavery, slavery to sin.
John 8:31-36 – Then Yeshua said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’? ” Yeshua responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. “A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.
In a similar metaphor of slavery, the apostle Paul, in writing to the congregation in Galatia, describes the man-made traditions of the Jews of that day as a yoke of slavery. Paul uses two women of Scripture, Hagar and Sarah, both wives of Abraham, as a metaphor for those who follow the letter of the law over the spirit of the law.
Galatians 4:24-26, 5:1 – These things are being taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery – this is Hagar. Now Hagar represents Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For freedom, Messiah set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
So this is a different type of slavery that Messiah had set believers free from: the slavery of man-made tradition. Paul is cautioning believers that if they submit to circumcision as a means of being a member of traditional Judaism, they will be bound to all of the man-made laws and traditions that go along with it. This is the very thing Yeshua had scolded the religious leaders for.
Matthew 23:13, 15, 23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are! … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!
So from these few passages, we can see that believers have been set free from slavery to man-made traditions, and from slavery to sin. The great theme of the Bible, redemption from slavery, continues to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God that Yeshua firmly established.
Now, I imagine some of you may be thinking, “Wait a second, isn’t Yeshua the king of the kingdom? Hasn’t all authority and power been granted to him?” Yes, this is true, but here is where believers in Messiah can get into a bit of sticky theology, so bear with me as I present some concepts that may be new to you, but that I believe provide a holistic understanding of kingdom rulership.
Isaiah 45:22-24 – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am God, and there is no other. “By myself I have sworn; truth has gone from my mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to me, every tongue will swear allegiance. “It will be said about me, ‘Righteousness and strength are found only in Yahweh.’ ” All who are enraged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
Romans 14:10-12 – But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, As I live, says Yahweh, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Clearly, in both the Old and New Testaments, God the Father, Yahweh, is viewed as the ultimate authority before whom all are accountable. However, some of this same language is applied to the risen Yeshua, and is representative of his exalted state to which God has appointed him.
Philippians 2:8-11 – he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue will confess that Yeshua Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So, will every knee bow before God the Father, or the risen and exalted Yeshua? The answer is yes to both. How can that be?
In the ancient Hebrew biblical worldview, a representative is equated with the one whom he represents. This is known as the law of “agency.” An agent, or representative, is considered the exact representation with the full authority of the one who sent him. Whatever is said to the representative is said to the sender. Whatever the agent represents in a situation is to be considered as if the sender himself said those exact words.
A weaker, but close equivalent in our day and age might be considered the legal power of attorney. A person allows an attorney, as their representative, to make all decisions regarding legal matters just as if they were the ones making those decisions.
This biblical idea of agency is what allows the risen Messiah to be granted all of the same honor that can be directed to the Father, Yahweh. Yahweh had granted him agency, the power of attorney, to act and speak with authority in all matters concerning himself and his kingdom. Yeshua mentioned this time and time again.
John 5:20-23 – “For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. “And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he wants. “The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, “so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 8:28 – So Yeshua said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own. But just as the Father taught me, I say these things.
John 12:49 – “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said.
In the same sense, Yahweh gave all power and authority to Yeshua as the representative king over the kingdom, even though he himself is the ultimate authority.
Matthew 28:18 – Yeshua came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.
Given to him by whom? Well, by God the Father, of course, the source of all power and authority, as even Paul testifies to Timothy.
1 Timothy 6:15-16 – God … is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen.
Now some may say, Yeshua is also given the title king of kings and lord of lords in Revelation, doesn’t that mean that the kingdom is his?
Revelation 17:14 – “These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
Revelation 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war with justice. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
While some may conclude that Yeshua is the ultimate King from this terminology, what we have seen about the law of agency would say that Yeshua is granted the role of operating as the King of kings in the plan of Yahweh.
Many may not know that this king of kings title has also been granted to other earthly rulers as well, even attested to by Yahweh himself and his prophets.
Ezra 7:12 – Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens: Greetings.
Ezekiel 26:7 – For this is what Yahweh GOD says: “See, I am about to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, king of kings, against Tyre from the north with horses, chariots, cavalry, and a huge assembly of troops.
Daniel 2:37-38 – “Your Majesty [Nebuchadnezzar], you are king of kings. The God of the heavens has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and glory. “Wherever people live – or wild animals, or birds of the sky – he has handed them over to you and made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.
Ultimately, we need to recognize that Yahweh God, the Father, is the ultimate source of all authority in heaven and earth, and he can provide any measure of that authority to whomever he chooses. He chose to have Artaxerxes and Nebuchadnezzar carry the title of king of kings for a temporary time in history to accomplish his purposes among the nations. In a similar way, he also designated his Son, Yeshua, to be that representative of his universal and spiritual kingdom until all his enemies are made his footstool; that is, until all of his enemies have been conquered.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26 – For just as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah, the firstfruits; afterward, at his coming, those who belong to Messiah. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death.
See, there is a point where Messiah hands over the kingdom authority back to God the Father, the true King of all, since Yahweh is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”
If we take to heart the great theme of the Bible of how God the Father, Yahweh, has revealed himself as the God who redeems out of slavery and worldliness, we can be reminded of why we have been drawn to follow him in the first place.
Just as Yahweh liberated ancient Israel from physical bondage and slavery in Egypt, so too he provided his Son Yeshua to liberate them from bondage and slavery to sin and the traditions of men. In so doing, he opened the door of faith to all people of all nations to come and worship him in spirit and in truth through Messiah Yeshua.
The principle of the first commandment, or the first of the Ten Words of God, can be paraphrased for believers today as: There is only one God, Yahweh, eternally existent, who liberates from worldliness, and separates a people for himself. No one and nothing else must rival or supersede God’s importance in life.
Through his Son, Messiah Yeshua, the God of the universe has provided us a way out of our blind and unthinking bondage to worldliness, whether traditions of men or of our own sinful and rebellious actions. In this new freedom, we have been liberated to worship him in spirit and truth and we are motivated and enabled to abide by his instruction.
This aspect of complete liberation is designed to make him central to all of our thoughts and actions each day. When we gratefully recognize our complete deliverance, we demonstrate we are his people, and that we are seeking his kingdom first by honoring him as he truly deserves to be, as our gracious, liberating, and all-powerful King.
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