Kiss the Son
W. H. Chellis
From Israel to Christendom
Last month we noted the Israelite theocracyâ€™s unique typological status in the history of redemption. Contemporary discussions about the abiding moral example of Israelâ€™s experience as a â€œChristianâ€ nation often begin with Israelâ€™s uniqueness but too often end there as well. We will be less hasty. This month will go beyond the typological status of Israel to consider her abiding value as an example to the nations of Christendom.
Israelâ€™s gracious example
In order to understand the legitimate application of Israelâ€™s example to new covenant nations, we must first distinguish between aspects of Israel that were typological and particular, as compared to aspects that were moral and universal. Obviously, all that Israel possessed that pointed forward to Jesus Christ was typological and particular. On the other hand, a great deal about Israel experience was common to all nations. At the heart of Israelâ€™s example to the nations was her national confession of Godâ€™s holy name and submission to His moral law as a standard for public righteousness.
From the time of Abraham until the time of Christ, the nations of the earth groped in spiritual darkness. Godâ€™s revelation to Israel made her a light in dark places. Those nations with eyes to see her glory were called upon to confess the name of the true God and to be conformed to the standards of His holy law. Those nations who rejected the revelation of God in Israel were further hardened and ultimately destroyed. Thus Israel was an evangelistic witness.
The conspiracy of nations
Israelâ€™s evangelistic witness among the nations is powerfully expressed in Psalm 2. Psalm 2 opens with the rhetorical question, â€œwhy do the nations are and the peoples plot in vain?â€ [i] For the faithful Israelite, such rebellion was as shocking in the Old Covenant as it is to Godâ€™s people in the New. To rebel against a master that is all- powerful is foolish. To rebel against a master that is all-powerful and good is absurd. Still, the nations continue to their hopeless rage.
In the face of the God-defying conspiracy of nations, Christians often find themselves disheartened and fearful. Throughout the 20th Century many shuttered to face the unfathomable evil of the international communist conspiracy. Today, we tremble before the menacing specter of Islamic terrorism. Did faithful Israel not share in our fear and cry out in anxious lament? We are weak but God is strong. The Psalmist assures us that God does not tremble before the conspiracies of men, but rather laughs scornfully (Psalm 2:4), declaring absolute confidence in the anointed King enthroned upon Zionâ€™s holy hill.
Godâ€™s confidence in His King is not based upon an empty hope but on covenanted promise (Psalm 2: 7-9). Godâ€™s promises to David were mere foreshadows of the promises made to Davidâ€™s greater son, Jesus Christ. The faithful Israelite took comfort in Psalm 2 in exact proportion to his confidence in its ultimate eschatological fulfillment of the Messianic hope that transcended the earthly limitations of Davidâ€™s house. Christ was the hope of the old Israel just as He is the hope of the new Israel that is His church. Thus, the Psalmist recognizes the promise of God to His victorious Messiah, â€œask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession (Psalm 2:8).â€
An important theme throughout the Old Testament is the anticipation of a future extension of Godâ€™s gracious promises beyond the borders of national Israel. As mankind descended from a common father (first from Adam and later from Noah), it is not surprising that God promised that Abrahamâ€™s paternity would extend to a multitude of nations. Abrahamâ€™s hope was embraced by Israel as it looked forward to an age when the righteousness of the Davidic reign would encompass all nations (Psalm 72: 8; 89:27; Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 7:14).
Throughout the Old Testament we find glimpses of Godâ€™s grace extended to nations (as nations) beyond the Israelite theocracy. After the secession of Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:16-14), the Northern Kingdom, although politically divorced from the theocratic union of throne and alter in Jerusalem, was not relieved of its duty to confess the authority of God and the righteousness of His law (1 Kings 11:35-39). Indeed, well beyond the borders of the Promised Land, under the preaching of the prophet Jonah, the King of Nineveh led his nation toward corporate confession of the true God proclaiming:
By the decree of the King and the nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish (Jonah 3:6-9).
Even Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon and scourge of Jerusalem was brought low until he confessed the Kingship of the true God (Daniel 4:28-37). In the end, the mighty King who once blasphemously exclaimed, â€œIs not this Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)â€ humbly confessed, â€œNow I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble. (Daniel 4:37).â€
Kiss the Son
The reign of the Messiah is not a trivial matter. Serious consequences are warned to those who reject Christâ€™s gracious rule. God declares to His Messiah, â€œYou shall break them [the nations] with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potterâ€™s vessel (vs. 9).â€ The reign of Christ is one of justice moderated by common grace. To the nations, as to men, He shows mercy. His mercy, however, is not without limits. Rather, the nation that is obstinate in its rebellion will know the end of His grace and taste the bitter reality of destruction. Just as God once removed the Canaanites from the land, so God has and will continue to destroy nations upon the rock of Christ. As Whittaker Chambers wrote to his children:
“Communism is what happens when, in the name of Mind, men free themselves from God. But its view of God, its knowledge of God, its experience of God, is what alone gives character to a society or a nation, and meaning to its destiny. Its culture, the voice of this character, is merely that view, knowledge, experience, of God, fixed by its most intense spirits in terms intelligible to the mass of men. There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.” Witness, pg. 16-17 (Regnery Gateway, 1980).
In light of such weighty considerations, the Psalmist offers Israelâ€™s sound advice to all nations at all times and in all places, â€œserve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the wayâ€¦(vs. 11, 12).â€ The Reformed Presbyterian Church joins the Psalmist in calling upon all civil authority to embrace the faithful example of national Israel, to confess the Kingship of Jesus Christ and to govern righteously as ministers of His justice (Romans 13:1-7).
[i][i] Although the original context of Psalm 2 refers to the Davidic line of Kings, it has found ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
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