Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(12) Israel Becomes The Kingdom of God on Earth
God Becomes Israel's King.
In this study we want to show that when God called Israel out of Egypt, He ultimately constituted the people as His nation. This means that references to the Kingdom of God have relation to a literal Kingdom on earth, as tangible as any other nation, with its King, country, people, laws, religion, and even its history.
Thus when the Bible speaks of the future setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth, it relates to the restoration of that which existed in the past, though in the future it will be world- wide, whereas in the past it was limited to Israel.
Under Moses, the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt, baptised by going through the Red Sea, and conducted down to Sinai, where God invited them to enter into covenant relationship with Him. He promised, that if they did so, He would establish them as His nation upon the earth:
"Ye shall be unto Me a peculiar treasure ABOVE ALL PEOPLE; for all the earth is Mine. Ye shall be unto Me a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND AN HOLY NATION" (Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 10:15; 14:2).
Israel thus became the Kingdom of God on earth!
Consider the following expressions used in relation to that nation:
"Israel was His dominion" (Psalm 114:2).
"The Lord your God your King" (1 Samuel 12:12).
"Solomon sat upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord, over Israel" (1 Chronicles 28:5).
"Thine is the kingdom O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all" (1 Chronicles 29:11).
"Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him" (v. 23).
"The Lord delighted in thee (Solomon) to set thee on His throne, to be king for the Lord thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever" (2 Chron. 9:8).
Christ Recognised The Earthly Kingdom Of God.
Israel's status as the Kingdom of God on earth, was recognised by the Lord Jesus, as is obvious from the expressions that he used. He told the unrighteous leaders of his day that their faithless attitude disqualified them to exercise authority over such a nation, and in consequence it would be taken away from them and given to his disciples (see Matthew 21:43; Luke 12:32; 22:29-30). On another occasion, he told the disciples:
"Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28).
It was undoubtedly in anticipation of that time, that the disciples enquired of Jesus Christ after his resurrection: "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).
They realised that it was the purpose of God so to do, and they looked forward with keen anticipation to the re- establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, when a disciplined, educated, rejuvenated Israel with Christ as its king, will reflect glory to its Maker, even Yahweh the God of Israel (Jeremiah 33:8-10).
The "Kingdom of God" is a Scriptural term, therefore, that denotes a divine, political kingdom, as real and tangible as any nation today. It once existed on the earth in the Kingdom of Israel. It was broken up and scattered among the nations because of the wickedness and rebellion of its leaders and people; but it will be restored again as the basis of God's purpose in all the earth.
The Kingdom of the future will be different from that of the past, however, for its authority will be vested in immortal Kings with Christ as chief. Thus the redeemed are promised:
"To him that overcometh, will I give power over the nations" (Rev. 2:26).
They are represented as singing:
"Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and bast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall REIGN ON THE EARTH"(Rev. 5:9-10).
Moreover, the Kingdom of the future will not be limited to Israel who will nevertheless occupy the "first dominion" (Mic. 4:8), but will incorporate all nations (Rev. 11:15; Isaiah 2. 2-4). Then Jerusalem will reassume its ancient status, and will again constitute the "throne of the Lord" on earth. The prophet Jeremiah declares:
"They shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all nations shall be gathered unto it; neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" (Jer. 3:17).
Israel Inherits The Land Of Promise.
The generation of Israelites that left Egypt proved faithless, and were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. For forty years they wandered in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, until they all perished, and then, under Joshua, the succeeding generation passed over the river Jordan into the land where Abraham had wandered as a pilgrim.
Under the leadership of faithful Joshua, they were settled into their possessions, and during the period of his control and that of the elders associated with him, the nation was wisely and firmly guided (Joshua 24:31)
Before his death, Joshua gathered the people together, and reminding them of the benefits they had enjoyed under God, recalled the solemn covenant into which they had entered, and exhorted them to "cleave unto the Lord." He promised that Divine blessings would be theirs if they obeyed God, but warned them of the awful consequences of disobedience.
"Choose you this day whom ye will serve," he declared. "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua's stirring speech is recorded in Joshua chapters 23, 24.
The nation was thus established under a theocratic form of government. God was king, and the priests were the officers of His realm. The symbol of God's presence was the Tabernacle where the people worshipped, concerning which He had declared to Moses: "There will I meet with thee (Exodus 25:22). Success or failure, as far as the nation was concerned, depended upon how firm the High Priest was in enforcing the divine Iaw, and how co-operative the people proved in obeying it.
Such a form of administration demanded the manifestation of faith, and here Israel failed. Human nature being what it is (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 10:23; Rom. 7:18), the absence of a visible king caused the disbelieving to forget that the eye of God was on them, so that they pleased themselves. Thus, if the High Priest proved weak, the nation did also, and as both Moses and Joshua had warned the people, it suffered in consequence.
And generally the High Priests proved weak.
Therefore, for a period of about 450 years, from the death of Joshua until Samuel the prophet, Israel's history is a record of alternating obedience to, and rebellion against, the Divine authority; and of punishment in time of disobedience, or of assistance when they turned again to God.
Whenever this occurred, "the Lord raised up judges (temporary rulers) who delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them" (Judges 2:16-19). The general conditions during this period are summed up in the book of Judges thus:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).
These chaotic conditions ernphasized the need of the coming of that one who as the Seed of the Woman would bruise the head of the serpent power of sin (Gen. 3:15), or as the Son promised Abraham, would rule over his enemies (Gen. 22:17), or as the leader promised through Moses, would compel the people to hearken (Deut. 18:18-19).
The righteous always looked forward to the time when this one thus promised would be manifested, and human nature will be thoroughly disciplined. Of him it is recorded that he will "reign in righteousness", "rule with a rod of iron", "magnify the law and make it honorable", "shall not fail nor be discouraged till he has set judgment in the earth and the isles shall wait for his law" (Ps. 72; Rev. 2:26-27; Isa. 42:4, 21).
Though Israel constituted the Kingdom of God in the past, it was the Kingdom in a very imperfect state. When it is reestablished under Christ, it will reveal the glory to which it was originally designed (Jeremiah 13:11).
Where Israel Failed.
Israel failed mainly through the weakness of its priests. Established over the nation to act as shepherds to guide the people, they lamentably failed in their duty. Time and again God sent prophets to condemn the wicked practices of both priests and people (Jer. 5:31; Ezek. 34; Micah 3:11), and to warn them of the inevitable punishment that would follow their evil ways.
But, so great is the mercy of God, that these words of indictment were always blended with messages of hope to the righteous. God promised to send a righteous priest to Israel (Psalm 110:4), a true shepherd to feed the flock, "even my servant David" (or The Beloved -- a title of Christ -- Matt. 3:17), who would guide the people in wisdom (Ezek. 34:23-26). This one, yet to be manifested to Israel, shall "turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Romans 11:26), and will "destroy the veil that is over all nations," and which prevents them comprehending the truth in Christ Jesus (Isaiah 25:7).
This was the prophetic message of all those whom God sent to Israel warning and pleading with them, and promising them hope if they would but turn to Him.
But, declared the prophet Jeremiah, "they would not hear" (Jer. 13:11). They turned a deaf ear unto God, and so the threatened punishment ultimately came upon them.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 12