If you’re familiar with the storyline of the Bible, one of the major themes that you may have noticed is mankind’s need for a righteous king who doesn’t die. The book of Judges is where we start to see this need more clearly. Israel had been given a covenant, but she continually broke God’s covenant and God judged her by allowing her to be oppressed by wicked rulers. Israel would cry out for deliverance from her oppressors and God would send a judge (savior) to deliver her. However, soon after Israel’s deliverance, the judge died and Israel fell back into sin breaking God’s covenant because there was no king and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6).
However, this pattern didn’t start in Judges, but in Genesis 3. The lie the serpent told Eve was that she would be like God – The Ultimate King, if she ate from the forbidden tree. Though mankind was created in God’s image to rule creation under God’s authority (Gen. 1:26-28), mankind’s problem is that we want to be a law unto ourselves. We want to be kings independent from the rule of God.
The period after the judges didn’t prove to be much better for Israel. In their desire to be like the nations desiring a king, God told them that their desires would lead to bad leadership over them ( 1 Sam. 8). God had already provided them stipulations for a king (Deut. 17:14-20), but Israel’s eyes were enamored by the rulership of the nations. 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles details the wickedness and failures of Israel’s and Judah’s kings. Despite Israel’s rebellion and ours, God was gracious enough, for the glory of His name, to provide the king mankind needs. That king is Jesus (Ps. 2).
Unlike the wicked and unfaithful earthly kings, Jesus’ kingship over His people will be righteous and a blessing. Verse 4 of this hymn describes the kingship of Jesus. It says –
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love
Characteristics of Christ’s Rule
This verse says Christ’s kingship will be characterized by truth, grace and love. The Apostle John said Jesus was full of grace and truth (Jhn 1:14) and he drew attention to Jesus’ teaching on love as a chief mark of being a disciple (Jhn 13:31-35; 1 Jhn 2:7-17, 3:11-18, 4:7-21). But what gives credibility to Jesus’ teaching was His life. He not only taught truth, but He is the truth (Jhn 14:1-12) as the very word (logos) of God (John 1:1). In these verses, John 14:1-12, Jesus was declaring himself to be the very essence of God and Paul makes this same point in Colossians 1:15-16 and in the Father is no darkness, but light (truth) (1 Jhn. 1:5). Therefore, since the Father is the essence of truth and Jesus is the image of the Father, Jesus is the truth!
Concerning grace, Jesus coming in the flesh is an act of God’s grace to save sinners. Our salvation is all a work of God’s grace. In the new heavens and new earth, we will be reminded of the grace of God extended to us in Christ. We will forever be reminded that Christ not only bore the wrath of God for our sins, but also that we were given the righteousness of Christ that we do not deserve.
Christ’s love is first rooted in His eternal nature as God. He cannot not love, for God is love. Secondly, His kingship will be marked by love because of His love for the Father. John said, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only son….” (Jhn. 3:16). Christ submitted to the will of the Father because He loved the Father. Christ taught that love is evidenced in obedience – “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (Jhn. 14:15). Since Christ kept the command of the Father, we can safely say He loved Him. Thirdly, His kingship will be marked by love because He loves His people. During His earthly ministry, Jesus loved His disciples (Jhn. 13:1), He loved Martha, her sister and Lazarus (Jhn. 11:5), he loved the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:21) , and He loves all the saints (Rev. 1:5). The ultimate demonstration of His love is his laying down His life for His people (1 Jhn. 3:16). Jesus is the embodiment of the steadfast love of the LORD for the saints and His love will never cool or grow dim, but will be a fulfillment of Psalm 23.
Extent of Christ’s Rule
Two words that describe the extent of Christ’s rule are world and nations. Human history is riddled with poor examples of human rulers of nations , especially those who try to exert their rule over other nations. Under certain forms of government, people are oppressed and denied basic human rights. We’ve seen what has happened under leaders like Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Mao Tse-Tung, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, and Vladimir Lenin. And while other forms of government provide more freedom and flourishing, no human government is perfect that will enable the fullest human flourishing possible. Human history has recorded this. People have been oppressed. Wars have been fought. Lives have been lost.
Yet, repeatedly in Scripture, Christ is mentioned as one who will rule the world with the nations submitting to Him. By nations, the Scriptures mean people groups or ethnicities. When Christ comes back to consummate His kingdom, as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, those who have repented of their sins, regardless of ethnicity, will be under the perfect rule of Jesus.
Psalm 2:8 says –
“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
John’s vision of Christ in Revelation says this in 5:9-10 –
“9 Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
When Christ comes back, His rule will be global and full of righteousness. Isaiah 9:6 gives us a very vivid picture of the kingship –
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 to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
Why This Matters at Christmas
While this season is often celebrated with great affection and fervor, it is also a season of sadness for many. For many, this season is a reminder of pain, unhappiness, and unmet desires. Many question the goodness of God or His existence because of their life experiences. But there is hope! There is hope because Jesus Christ came in the flesh. It is a historical fact. It is a historical fact that He lived on the earth and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. It is a fact that He gathered Apostles and taught them the gospel. It is a fact that He was crucified, buried and was raised on the third day. It is a fact that Christianity began to spread as the remaining disciples and one named Paul began missionary endeavors to proclaim the gospel of salvation and God’s kingdom, even to the point of death. The incarnation of Christ is about God reconciling man to Himself and establishing His kingdom headed by Jesus Christ where righteousness eternally dwells.
This is the hope we have and why we ought to fervently sing this hymn during the Christmas season!