We’ve been looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. This week I want to look at the name, ‘King of Israel’.
The Israelites were the descendants of Jacob (also known as Israel), the grandson of Abraham. For a long time, the Israelites lived under the leadership of prophets and judges without a king. In the book of Judges we read a repeated refrain: ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (Judges 17:6).
But it turns out Israel did have a king. When the Israelites ask Samuel the prophet to give them a King, God says: ‘it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’ (1 Samuel 8:7). God was always the true King of Israel. Even after the Israelites were given a human king, God was still the true King. The prophet Zephaniah affirmed: ‘The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm’ (Zephaniah 3:15).
Moreover, in the New Testament, the Son of God is proclaimed as the King of Israel. Nathanael declared: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’ (John 1:49). As Jesus entered Jerusalem people cried out: ‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’ (John 12:13). Ironically, even the pagan governor, Pilate, hung this notice over Jesus at his death on the cross (much to the consternation of the religious leaders): ‘JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS’ (John 19:19).
But what does the title King of Israel teach us about God? Many things, but namely that he is the ultimate ruler of his people.
But who are God’s people? All true Israelites. Which is all those who trust in the Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The Apostle Paul wrote: ‘For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’ (Romans 9:6-8). Rather, true Israelites are those who follow in the footsteps of Israel’s grandfather, Abraham; living by faith in God. Paul says about Abraham and believers: ‘He is the father of us all’ (Romans 4:16).
So the name, King of Israel, tells us that God is our King. And if God is our King then at least two obligations become apparent.
On the one hand, God, by his own free will, has taken on the responsibility of protecting his people. He has responsibility for protecting his people internationally from their enemies. He has responsibility of protecting his people nationally from one another. He has responsibility for prospering his people.
And thankfully he does all of those things. He protects us from our great enemies of sin and death and the evil one. He fosters love and affection between his people by his Spirit. He even pours out material blessings upon his people, both now and forevermore.
On the other hand, if God is our king, it means his people also have the responsibility to submit to his rule and be obedient to his laws.
And this is the expectation in the Scriptures. God’s people are meant to look into God’s holy law and be obedient to it. And when disobedient, submit to the King’s discipline.
Are you an Israelite? Is God your King by faith in Christ? Do you rejoice that he is? Do you keep his laws?