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One of the first Bible verses I ask believers to memorize is Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (NKJV).
The “things written before” aren’t stand-alone stories, independent books, single instructions, separate warnings, or unattached commands in the Bible. Rather, They are all different parts that connect to tell the one complete story. The Old Testament stories, laws, poetry, prophecies, and wisdom literature all hold specific positions in the telling of the Big Story, and their application to the present day believer.
For an example of the way to make these type of connections we will take an Old Testament regulation regarding the kings of Israel, their failure to live up to the law, the fulfillment of this regulation in Christ, and the application New Testament believers can draw from it.
God’s Standard for Kings
When God prepared the second generation of newly-liberated Hebrew people to enter Canaan, He gave them regulations to guide them centuries later. One such regulation, Deuteronomy 17:14-20, includes five points:
“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’
(1) You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.
(2) But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’
(3) Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away;
(4) Nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
(5) Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel” (emphasis added).
The Judges Era transitions to the Kingdom Era when the Hebrew people request a king like those of the people around them. In their desire to be like all the other nations, They reject God’s reign over them (1 Samuel 8). God informs Samuel to give them the king that they think they want. He will be a taker, not a giver. He will not do for them as they envision.
God’s Evaluation of Israel’s Kings
Israel’s first three kings fail in one or more of the areas listed in Deuteronomy 17. Saul apparently doesn’t know Scripture when he presumes to offer a burnt offering to the Lord (a role given to the levitical priesthood). Further, he fails to totally destroy the Amalekites (Moses records God’s promise to destroy them in Exodus 17:14; Deut. 25:19). Both David who had a heart after God and Solomon who was a recipient of great wisdom from God failed. It didn’t help that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! The OT story highlights their horrific moral and spiritual failures (adultery, murder, idolatry). Further, after the kingdom divides, all of the kings of northern Israel and most of Judah’s kings embrace idolatry.
God’s Perfect King
Israel needs a better king—One who is both morally and spiritually perfect. They need the Seed promised in Gen. 3:15—the One who would enter humanity from outside of humanity through incarnation. Jesus fulfilled all five of the above regulations. Only He qualifies perfectly:
He descended from the tribe of Judah (The Seed promised in Gen. 3:15 and designated to the tribe of Judah in Gen. 49:10; the better prophet than Moses in Deut. 18:15).
He could have called for the armies of heaven to deliver Him. He did not.
He has only one bride—yet to be claimed. He’s waiting for her! (“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready”—Rev. 19:7)
He had no place to lay His head. And, He rejected Satan’s offer of a physical world in which He would rule. Even His clothing was stripped away from Him on the cross. He was laid in a borrowed tomb.
He knew (often quoting at length) and fulfilled Scripture. He always did the Father’s will.
Jesus, who will bear the government upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), is the king who doesn’t disappoint.
The Church under God’s King
Christ’s perfect kingship reorders the lives of all who bow the knee to Him. His salvation provides us with new identities completely dependent on our King. As Christ- followers, these five regulations are transformed and applied to us throughout the New Testament:
1. We have been born-again (1 John 5:1), our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), and we are grafted into Israel’s root (Romans 11:17). Our identity and purpose are tied up in Christ. We are accepted in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6). We descend from the King of Judah!
We aren’t to be anxious about anything that we pray about (Phil. 4:6-7); we are to cast our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Christ is our Protector.
We, Christ’s bride, are taken from His side. The wedding feast awaits us. We are to live in light of that hope. (Revelation 19:7-8). We, alone, will be eternally joined with Christ as His faithful covenant partner.
We who are “in Him” are instructed to love not the world nor the things of the world (the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—1 John 2:15-16). Our lives do not consist of the abundance of our possessions (Luke 12:15). We are not the sum of our possessions.
As we abide in His Word and His word abides in us we can know the mind of Christ, reign in life by the Spirit, and pray according to His will. (John 15:7; 1 Cor. 2:16; Romans 8:6, 17; Colossians 3:16). Bible literacy is our life’s breath.
No more thrilling words describe our union with Christ than these:“If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12, emphasis added).