Jesus As King: An Old Testament Perspective — Gantt Carter

As Christians, we often sing phrases like, “Jesus is Lord” and “He’s my king.” Jesus is not only our Savior from our sins, but He also the Supreme King we are to submit to in love. The reality of Jesus’ kingship/lordship is set forth throughout the Writings of the New Covenant, the covenant in His blood.

Before the Jewish crowd makes their request, the apostle Peter proclaims that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). “Lord” can also be translated as “Master” and “Christ” as “Messiah.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Master and the Messiah, and that truth is at the core of Christianity (cf. Phil 2:5-11).

The Perspective

This important concept of Jesus as King/Lord did not begin in the first century A.D. The truth builds on the history of God and Israel and flows out of several passages in the writings of the Old Covenant. In fact, the Hebrew term we translate as “Messiah” refers to one who is anointed, especially as a king. Jesus fulfills the thrust of the Old Covenant and the Scriptures given during that time (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Consider Jesus own words and actions:

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27, cf. 32, 44-47).

Please join me now in an overview of the Old Covenant perspective on Jesus as King and Lord.

The Prophecies

The first specific reference to the coming One is in Genesis 3:15, but the first reference to His kingship may be near the end of the same inspired book. Within the blessings of Jacob upon his twelve sons, we find the following:

“Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen. 49:9-10).

The lineage of Judah is significant for more than one reason in the history of Israel. David, king of Israel, descended from Judah and all succeeding kings came from Judah. Othniel, the first judge, was of the tribe of Judah (1 Chr. 4:13). The temple builders, Solomon and Zerubbabel, also descended from Judah (1 Chr. 3). King Jesus came as the new temple (John 1:14-18; 2:19), and His people are the temple as they are added to His body (Eph. 2:19-22).

Although dismissed by some, we submit that Genesis 49:9-10 is a foretelling of the timing and nature of the coming One (cf. Num. 24:17). Even many Jews through history believed this text to be about the Messiah. As we reflect on this, what can we see here?

1) He would be a descendant of Judah, the tribe of the kings (Matt. 1:2-3).

2) He would come while the authority of Judah was still perceptible. The last of any indication of royal Judah ceased with the Roman occupation. The Romans removed their authority and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. With the second temple and the genealogies destroyed, there is not even a possibility of rulership out of Judah or someone claiming to be the rightful King of Israel.

3) He would receive tribute (as King). We can translate this portion of the text as “until Shiloh comes” or as a reference to the “ruler’s staff” belonging to Him. “Shiloh” is often considered to be another title for the coming One.

4) All people and nations would submit to Him in obedience, giving Him honor. Jew and Gentile unified as they joyfully submit to their one King (Eph. 1-4).

In 2 Samuel 7, God gives King David a powerful promise about his kingly lineage. The most immediate fulfillment is in Solomon and the succeeding kings from Judah until the exile. However, God later foretells of yet another coming king, a Davidic king who would finally fulfill the ultimate purpose of God for His people. The term “Branch” below may be a technical term for the legal heir to an established royal line of kings.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (see Jer. 33:14-26; Ezek. 34:20-24; 37:24; Is. 11:10).

Gabriel tells the mother of Jesus that He will receive the throne of David and reign forever with His empire never ending (Luke 1:32-33). That parallels Isaiah who observes that the growth of His government and peace will be endless; that He will reign with justice and righteousness forever and ever (note Is. 9:6-7). Regarding David’s own understanding of the promises, Peter states:

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31; cf. Ps. 16:8-11; 110:1).

Zechariah, who prophesied after the return from exile, employs “the Branch” language in the inspired document that bears his name. At first glance in chapter six, God seems to only refer to the then present son of Jehozadak, Joshua (see Zech. 6:9-15; cf. 3:8-10). But we submit that the ultimate application of these words is to the final “Joshua” or “Jesus.” (Jesus and Joshua in English are from the same Hebrew name for “Yahweh saves”). Zechariah refers to a priest also ruling as a king (v. 13; cf. Jer. 33:17-18). Although unlawful under the Mosaic Law, Jesus is the King and the High Priest of His New Covenant and Law.

Zechariah 9:9 foretells of a king who brings righteousness and salvation as he rides humbly on a donkey’s colt. Verse 10 includes a reference to battle and to the extension of his dominion but shows him speaking peace to the nations. Matthew 21:1-11 provides us with a clear fulfillment of this text in the life of Jesus as He enters Jerusalem gently and humbly on a colt. Born in David’s Bethlehem (Mic. 5:1-2; Luke 2:1-7), the eternal Ruler shepherds His flock “in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God” (Mic. 5:4a).

The last chapter of Zechariah gives us a (at least slightly) different portrayal of Israel’s coming king. First, a terrible and violent battle scene is picture (14:1-2), and then Yahweh Himself goes to war with the nations on behalf of His people (v. 3; cf. 9:14-17). If the Lord is the King after all, then what does this say of Jesus? Jesus is a member of the Godhood. Yes, He is the Great I Am (Ex. 3:13-14; John 8:58; Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus is the Lord, the Master of the universe.

The language of Zechariah 14 relates well to the second Psalm and the lyrics about the possession and the wrath of the King and Son (Ps. 2:6-12). Let there be no doubt, this Messiah is a force to be reckoned with (cf. Ps. 102:25-27; Heb. 1:10-12). But as the battle smoke clears, note the beautiful and powerful words below:

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zech. 14:8-9).

On one hand, the Messiah meekly rids a donkey into town and suffers terribly for His people (Zech. 12:10-11; Is. 53). On the other hand, He proudly marches into battle and crushes His enemies with comprehensive authority. This seeming oddity led some Jews to conclude that there would be two different Messiahs: Ben Yosef (the suffering son of Joseph) and ben David (the ruling son of David). Others saw and continue to see this as either different possibilities or different points in time.

The Point

We know that Jesus became King by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne in heaven. The good news is “Your God reigns” (Is. 52:7). The Messiah was and is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King (Heb. 1:1-13) of the true Israel (Gal. 6:16).

Zechariah 14 may refer to the gospel even in a certain sense, or perhaps it pictures the final coming of the Messiah. A time when He will deal with evil and suffering once and for all and rescue His people by granting them life forever with Him (Heb. 9:28; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 1 Thess. 4:13-5:6).

Jesus was and is the long-awaited King that the people of Israel were longing to come and bring them final deliverance and peace. Of course, the fulfillment of these promises did not always match their perceptions of what He would be and how He would accomplish His work. As noted above, the true messiah (anointed King) is far more than a mere earthly king. For example, examine the way Jesus quotes and applies Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:41-45.

As the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6), He is their security and He is their peace (Mic. 5:4b-5). His peace is a different kind of peace than that of the world (John 14:27). His peace is about finding rest for our weary souls (Jer. 6:16; Matt. 11:28-30; Phil. 4:4-9). He reigns in our hearts as we delightfully obey His commands.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of the King. He will quiet us by His love and sing loudly to us (Zeph. 3:15-20). We shall see the King someday!

Gantt resides in Elk City, Oklahoma, with his wife and two children. He is the preaching minister at the 2nd & Adams congregation.

 

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