The war in Iraq is over, but anarchy reigns in many parts of the country. In spite of the efforts of thousands of coalition troops, disorder is obvious in city after city. The whole nation is crying out for good government.Here we may see a picture of the whole human race. They cast off the authority of God their Creator when Satan came into the Garden of Eden and tempted our first parents to rebellion. That rebellion has continued more or less universally ever since, and the whole world would have been in a state of continuous, total anarchy apart from God’s restraining grace. Without that restraint the hatred of the natural heart – not only against God but also against other individuals – would make human relationships intolerable. Conditions would be far more desperate than what any section of humanity has ever experienced – even under such obnoxious despots as Hitler and Stalin. And one factor in the awfulness of a lost eternity is the absence of restraining grace there, so that lost sinners are – under the judgement of God – totally unrestrained in their reactions to each other. What added reason for sinners to flee from the wrath to come while they are still on mercy’s ground!
Wherever the gospel is undervalued, there is less of God’s restraint to be seen. This generation is departing from God and His ways, and it is clear that His restraint is being removed when rulers and people “take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us” (Ps 2:2,3). So we need not be surprised when the Most High leaves them increasingly to the consequences of their sins. Thus it was when a generation in Israel “forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them”. They “provoked the Lord to anger” and He left them to themselves. We are told more than once, in what seems intended to be an explanation for the unrestrained wickedness of the time of the Judges, that “there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. In the end we are presented with the shocking treatment by the men of Gibeah of the concubine of the “certain Levite sojourning on the side of mount Ephraim”. And when the tribe of Benjamin refused to repudiate that sin, it led to their near-extermination, as the other Israelites moved to avenge the wrong that had been done.
Today, in Britain and other nations, we have a sustained policy of promoting sins which the Bible describes as abominable. In parallel, God is clearly withdrawing His restraint in other ways as we are faced with ever-more-vicious crimes, and as offences against children reach unprecedented levels. On the other hand, more efficient policing and new technologies have, in God’s kindness, mitigated the effects of present-day ungodliness – at least in nations which have the blessing of a good degree of stable, orderly government.
Yet there can be no really satisfactory order in the world apart from something more effective than the best human government, something better even than restraining grace. And that has been provided. In these words, Scripture directs our attention to a better and higher King than the son of Jesse: “I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with My holy oil have I anointed him” (Ps 89:19,20). David was appointed King over Israel to bring order to a country whose previous king had proved highly unsatisfactory. But of the better and higher King it was prophesied: “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Is 9:7). King Jesus was appointed to establish an eternal kingdom where perfect order would reign, and whose subjects would be drawn from all over the world, including Iraq.
In this kingdom there is universal obedience to the King of kings. But all its subjects begin life as rebels. They must not only yield allegiance to the King; they must be reconciled to God in a way consistent with justice. Which means that this King must also come as a priest to offer up a sacrifice which will turn away the anger of God from those who are to be the subjects of His kingdom. And this Priest-King must also be a prophet to teach sinners “by His Word and Spirit the will of God for [their] salvation”. This is the God-appointed Mediator – Prophet, Priest and King – who has come to establish an orderly kingdom on the ruins of this disordered world.
As Prophet, He sends out His ambassadors to call on sinners to renounce the kingdom of Satan. With all the authority of King Jesus, they declare His will for the salvation of sinners: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. In connection with the call of the gospel, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, He makes sinners willing in a day of His power. He makes them willing to leave that kingdom where all is disorder, and to come under His yoke in that kingdom where they will experience the beginnings of an orderly existence. They may endure much opposition from their enemies – led on by Satan, their old king. But Christ, the king whose authority believers now acknowledge, “shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in His sight” (Ps 72:14). He will protect them throughout their time in this world, He will never allow them to be plucked out of His hand, and He will bring them at last to glory.
Through His teaching, they acknowledge that the laws of the kingdom are good. They are thankful to be rescued from that state of disorder where it seems altogether advantageous to reject the authority of the King and His laws. But they now confess: “Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart” (Ps 119:2). Yet they must still cry: “O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!” (Ps 119:5). And they so cry because they have understood how good these statutes are and how they contribute to the well-being of the subjects of Christ’s kingdom.
David, though King over Israel, was a subject of the kingdom of Christ. Towards the end of his time on earth, he confessed that his house was not according to the ideal that he pointed to in the opening verses of 2 Samuel 23. Yet he declared in these ever-memorable words: “Although my house be not so with God; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire”. All the Lord’s dealings with David were according to the terms of that everlasting covenant, and everything about it was absolutely orderly. And David will spend eternity contemplating the great grace of the eternal King who provided a place for him in a kingdom of perfect order. Whatever difficulties the subjects of Christ’s kingdom experience, they can all be sure that their King is bringing them on in an orderly way towards that part of the kingdom, in heaven above, where all is perfection.
Who, if they were wise, would despise Christ’s kingdom? Yet that is exactly what the vast majority of people today do. They say of the King: “We will not have this Man to reign over us”. He is to them “a root out of a dry ground”; they do not find anything attractive in Him or in His ways. Let such rebels, before it is too late, heed what is the best counsel possible: “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little” (Ps 2:12). These words are particularly addressed to the kings and “judges of the earth”. Those who occupy such positions of responsibility are directed to “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling”. How good if the rulers of Britain and other nations, along with their subjects, would obey! They would then begin to enjoy, even in this world, the blessedness of living under the authority of Him who came into the world to establish a kingdom were perfect order reigns.