The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
It’s pretty depressing reading by the time you reach the end of Judges, sure there’s some great stories of Deborah, Gideon and Samson - read about Ehud for a more unpleasant yet strangely amusing one (Judges 3:12-25) - but the book is a story of decline in the nation of Israel. Time and again Israel turned away from God and God raised up a leader but it just gets worse until our author writes the above verse.
Israel had a king – it was God. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for them, they felt a human king would sort them out, and God let them have their way. You can see this play out in 1 Samuel 8. Following the reign of the first King Saul (well they kind of overlapped), we get King David whose years as King of Israel were the golden years of the people of Israel. They were militarily successful, prosperous, they grew in wealth and stature as a nation and David, despite his mistakes, was recognised as the greatest king in all the history of Israel (except Jesus!). He was a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7), was a decent soldier (beating that big guy Goliath), and as a gifted songwriter he wrote the vast majority of the book of Psalms.
David was and in fact is a pretty big deal when it comes to legacy within the people of Israel. But most importantly so because he foreshadows the true King, the expected messiah, God Himself in Jesus Christ. The parallels between David and the awaited messiah are drawn out in the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 9:7) and the gospels reveal Jesus as the Davidic Christ (e.g. Matthew 1:1; Mark 10:47; Luke 1:32). We read in 2 Samuel 7 a great back and forth between David and God. David insists that he will build a house for God, a temple; that way God wouldn’t have to be in a tent whilst David was living in the luxury of his palace. However God has other ideas.
“The LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house…I will raise up your offspring up 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…Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11-16)
Rather than David making God a building, God would make David an everlasting dynasty through his offspring. A son of David would establish God’s Kingdom.
Now whilst there was a much bigger picture at play here, it is also true that a son of David would also build God a building as Solomon built the temple in all its glory.
But it doesn’t go so great from there.
Solomon strayed from God in the later years of his life and his son Rehoboam’s reign led to the nation in dividing in two – Israel to the north and Judah to the south (1 Kings 11-12). To be honest it’s not easy nor cheery reading as the pattern emerges. King after King “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” and did not correct the mistakes of their ancestors. Every now and again a good King would ascend the throne (e.g. Josiah) but this is but a drop in a very sick pond as Israel reached its lowest.
“The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at this prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)
In 772 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian empire and in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, with many taken into exile to Babylon. It doesn’t get much worse than that for the people of God.
Nevertheless, God had not given up on his people, he had promised that one day it will come to pass
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)