In the Old Testament, God was to be the King of His People. But wishing to be like the other nations, the Israelites asked the Lord for a human king.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shah reign over them” (1 Sam 8.4–9).
So Samuel recounted to the people all that would happen to them if they lived like the other nations having a man as their king. The king would send their sons to war. He would put all the people to work for him. He would take their best animals and crops. He would make the people his slaves.
“And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king” (1 Sam 8.18–22).
Israel received its king. The first was Saul who became demented. The second was David the Shepherd who ruled well. The third was Solomon who was known for his wisdom and who built the temple to God in Jerusalem. But then there was a division of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and strife among them because of their sins, which resulted in a succession of captivities to various foreign powers from which the people never finally escaped.
The psalms and prophets of the Old Testament constantly recalled God’s people to the reality that only the Lord is king. He alone is the True Shepherd of His People. He alone is the One Who rules and Who is to be served and obeyed.
I will extol Thee, my God and King,
and bless Thy name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless Thee,
and praise Thy name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and His greatness is unsearchable,
All Thy works shall give thanks to Thee, O Lord,
and all Thy saints shall bless Thee!
They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom and tell of Thy power,
to make known to the sons of men Thy mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of Thy kingdom.
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations.
(Ps 145.1–3, 10–13)
The prophets called all of the earthly kings, the “shepherds of Israel,” to repentance before the divine King of heaven, but their words were mostly to no avail.
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them” (Ezek 34.1–6).
The psalms and the prophets of the Old Testament also foretold the time when God would rule His People directly. He would be the shepherd of all nations, ruling through the Messiah-King Who would come from the house of David, the King of Whose kingdom there would be no end.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government will be upon His shoulder,
and His name will be called
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end,
upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom,
to establish it, and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this (Is 4.6–7).
“Behold, the days are coming, says 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’” (Jer 23.5–6).
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in travail has brought forth;
then the rest of his brethren shall return
to the people of Israel.
And He shall stand and feed His flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now
He shall be great
to the ends of the earth (Mic 5.2–4)
For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice (Ezek 34.11–12, 15–16).
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and He shall command peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth (Zech 9.9–10).
The king of the final kingdom of God is Jesus Christ. He is the One Shepherd and Lord. He is the One “of whose kingdom there will be no end.” Thus, the angel Gabriel speaks to Mary at the announcement of His birth:
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1.32–33).
All of His life, Jesus was preparing the everlasting Kingdom of God. He came to bring this Kingdom to men. He is the Son of David, Who will reign forever. He is the One Who announces the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mt 4.23, 9.35).
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk 17.20–21).
The Kingdom of God is in the midst of men when Christ is present. He Himself is the King Who gives the Kingdom of God to those who are this.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12.32).
You are those who have continued with Me in My trials; as My Father appointed a kingdom for Me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom . . . Lk 22.28–30).
All of the preaching and parables of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God speak of Himself as the King. Those who believe in Jesus and obey Him will reign with Him in His Kingdom which has been prepared “ from the foundation of the world” for those who love Him (Mt 25.34). His Kingdom is the everlasting kingdom which is “not of this world,” but of God the Father (Jn 18.36).
The gospel narratives of the crucifixion of Christ place Him in His role as King, All of the mockery and torment of Jesus is given to Him as the “King of the Jews.” This was the accusation against Him and the title nailed to the cross. Thus, the irony is complete as the scriptures are fulfilled in the words of Pilate when, after Jesus had sat down on the judgment seat, Pilate proclaimed to the people, “Behold, your king!” (Jn 19.14).
Jesus is the King. He is one with God, the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6.5). He is the One “highly exalted” over all principalities and powers, the One before Whom every knee shall bow “In heaven, and on earth and under the earth” (Phil 2.9–11, also Eph 1.20–23). He is the One Who, at the end of the ages when He “comes in His kingdom” with all the heavenly powers, will destroy every evil, and rule over all creation forever as the prophets predicted.
. . . and the Lamb (Christ) will conquer them [the wicked], for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful (Rev 17.14).
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name inscribed which no one knows but Himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which He is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed Him on white horses. From His mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19.11–16).
Then He showed me the river of the water of Life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall worship Him; they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever (Rev 22.1–5).