Scripture: Ps 2:1–12
Human Rule in the Kingdom of God
David was the first branch of the royal Jesse Tree. God was really Israel’s king; however, from the beginning of creation itself, God’s plan had been to appoint human rulers as vice-regents (Gen 1:26–28). Humanity’s fall into sin badly disrupted that rule but didn’t rule it out (Gen 9:6). But God increasingly began to narrow his focus from all mankind, to the elect line of Abraham’s descendants (Gen 12:1–3), to the elect royal tribe in that line (Gen 49:8–12).
The coronation ceremonies of David and his successors in the messianic dynasty probably went pretty much like the example we see when Jehoiada crowned Joash (2 Kgs 11:12). The Davidic king knew he hadn’t come to power through the smoking gun at the head of the previous ruler; he hadn’t won a modest majority in democratic elections; he hadn’t been put in place by a United Nations mandate that had been engineered with cookies from the military industrialist goody box. The basis of his enthronement was the Lord.
Royal Dynastic Adoption
The Davidic kings would hear a double proclamation of divine adoption into the divine dynasty:
- He heard, “You are my son” (Ps 2:7). This was not the pagan idea of one of the many gods sleeping with the Queen Mother to produce a demigod as their offspring. Instead, this announced divine adoption rather than semi-divine birth. This intensified part of the core covenant promise: “I will claim you as my own people” (Exod 6:7). In this case, the sonship was emphasized for the sake of royal dynastic succession. Davidic kings ruled on Zion, God’s mountain (Pss 2:6; 48:2; Isa 4:3; 33:20; 52:1; 60:14; 64:10; Joel 3:17; Zech 8:3), sitting on “the throne of the LORD” (1 Chr 29:23) and ruling over God’s people.
- The newly crowned king heard, “Today I have become your Father” (Ps 2:7). This intensified the second half of the core covenant promise, “I will be your God” (Exod 6:7). This asserted God’s own patronage as Father in heaven, whose kingdom was coming into effect on earth even as it is in heaven.
Finally, he heard words about territorial inheritance: “Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots” (Ps 2:8–9). That was a physical matter for the old covenant dynasty, who subdued enemies with the sword. But that manifestation of the kingdom only foreshadowed the kingdom of God in the form that Jesus Christ would inaugurate as Son of David. He would establish a kingdom not of the sword (John 18:36). Thus Paul’s battle cry: “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12; see Rom 8:38; Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:15; Titus 3:1).
Misreading the Kingdom of God
Not Expanded and Defended by the Sword
When the church forgets that, all kinds of long-lasting discredit rebounds against the righteous cause of Jesus Christ.
The church leadership sent out an appeal letter, asking for volunteers and financial support for the mission. In one city, the leadership responded with an offer of 4,500 horsemen and 9,000 squires, and 200 ships to carry 4,500 knights and 20,000 foot soldiers. Throughout the mission, thousands fell in bloody battle, so that no man could number them. As the army scattered throughout the city, it accumulated so much booty that no one could estimate its value: gold and silver, tableware, precious stones, satin and silk, mantles of squirrel fur and ermine, and “every choicest thing to be found on this earth.” One commentator said, “So much booty had never been gained in any city since the creation of the world.”
This was the result of the “missionary” vision of the Crusaders, which Pope Urban II (AD 1095) had incited in these terms: “From the confines of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth… an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God… has invaded the lands of those Christians and depopulated them by the sword, plundering and fire.” After recounting the Turks’ desecration of churches, torture of believers, and the rape of Christian women, he continued: “O most valiant soldiers, descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate. Let all hatred between you depart, all quarrels end, all wars cease. Start upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher, to tear the land from the wicked race and subject it to yourself.”
At the conclusion of that address, a shout arose from the crowd, “Deus vult! Deus vult!” God wills it, God wills it! And so Deus Vult became the battle cry for the medieval Crusaders, who bloodied the rivers of Asia Minor and thereby soiled the pages of church history. They bloodied and pillaged not only the Muslim towns and mosques, but also through the Christian towns and churches of the East.
This was what happened when the Christian church took up a sword of steel rather than “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). This was the result when people lost faith in the Word. Let us remember, “The word of God is alive and powerful” (Heb 4:12). Let us remember this: “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” (2 Cor 10:4).
Our Davidic King
Our Davidic king is even now enthroned, and the Lord God Almighty laughs in mockery at those who oppose him and his Anointed One (Ps 2:2–4). In the days of the old covenant, the Lord proclaimed, “I have placed by chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem” (Ps 2:6). How much more God scoffs at opposition to the king who is now enthroned at his own right hand; he will put every enemy under the feet of his chosen king Jesus (Ps 110:1–4; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42–43; Acts 2:33–34; Heb 1:13; 10:12–13). And we don’t need to do it for him, using cold steel, smoking gun powder, or cruise missiles.
We have already been told that our “sword” is the Word; and the final battle will indeed be won by one whose sword comes out of his mouth (Rev 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21). Even so Come Lord Jesus.
Questions, Reflections, and Commitments
- How have you responded to this century’s terrorist attacks from Muslims? Do you catch your response sounding like Pope Urban II or like that of Jesus Christ?
- Do you think the most important work that can be done throughout the Middle East and Central Asia is being done by the U.S. Marines or by Christian missionaries working to relieve the poor, preach the gospel, and support the struggling church there?