God reigns over the universe as a magnificent King whose resplendent royalty fills every corner of creation. We see this especially in the psalter, which reads like a collection of coronation hymns. The book of Psalms glorifies God as King and exults in the benefits of his kingdom. Consider just a sampling of statements from various enthronement psalms:
▪The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from His land (10:16).
▪ Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah (24:7–10).
▪ The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to His people! May the Lord bless his people with peace! (29:10–11)
▪ God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted! (47:5–9)
▪ Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth (74:12).
▪ For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods (95:3).
From these psalms, it is clear that the Lord expects to be worshiped as the King. Moreover, our salvation—with all of its benefits—occurs in the context of His rule. The sovereign work of God is the context of creation and the only hope we have of salvation. We were designed to flourish under the reign of a king.
Something of this is lost on Americans, who threw off their king in favor of self-rule. In the States we thoroughly understand that a bad king is a bad thing, but we never had the opportunity to experience the jubilance of a righteous rule. Few have. The enduring reign of a benevolent king is so scarce and fleeting that it only exists in our idyllic imaginations. Camelot is not a place and King Arthur is not a person; they are deep longings to feel the peace and prosperity of a better kingdom. They are implicit acknowledgements that this world is not what it should be, and we need a king to set it right. Thankfully, God has promised to send us a king whose reign will dwarf the wildest aspirations of any human kingdom.
Echoes of God’s royal promise can be traced all the way back to Genesis 49:10, where Jacob blessed his son Judah: “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.” Though undeveloped and lacking details, this is a prophetic promise of a king for God’s people. The hope of this promise is covenantally confirmed in 2 Samuel 7:12-16:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son….
In these words to David, we learn about the King God was sending. He would be in the line of David, His kingdom would be established by God, His throne would endure forever, and He would be a son to God. This covenant guarantees a Davidic-Divine king to rule over God’s kingdom. Micah 5:2 even tells us exactly where this king would be born:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Building anticipation even more, Daniel 7:13-18 gives us a sneak peek of what it will be like when this king ascends to the throne:
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. 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.
As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.
In this vision, the King is described as “one like a son of man” and His majesty is startling. This King is not only able to stand before the Ancient of Days, He is given permanent dominion over the Ancient of Days’ kingdom, including its people. Obviously, He must be a holy King if He is going to reign over God’s holy kingdom. Not only that, He will do what no other King has even been able to do—make his people holy (i.e., saints) so that they too can receive the kingdom forever. He possesses the holiness to stand before God, He acts in holiness to represent God’s authority, and He bequeaths holiness so that God’s people can exist in a holy kingdom. The hope of humanity rests in the hands of this King.
Unlike Arthur, this King is not an idea. He is a person, and His name is Jesus. Born of the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14; Rev 5:5) in the family tree of David (Matt 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-28), he took his first breath in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7), but as the Son of God he existed long before that (John 1:1, 34). Jesus is the King God promised and humanity needs.
Paul Shirley is a graduate of The Expositors Seminary and has served as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Wilmington, Delaware since 2011.