January 6, 2008
Many people are content to acknowledge Christ as a historical figure or moral man, but nothing more. Scripture, however, declares that Christ was born to be King. He reigns over all creation—and as Alistair Begg notes, His rule extends over our lives as well. When we respond to the Gospel invitation to bend the knee to Christ’s lordship, we are transferred into His heavenly kingdom and transformed into His likeness.
Sermon Transcript: Print
We’re going to read again from the Bible in Isaiah chapter 9. Isaiah 9 is on page 489 in our church Bibles, and we’ll read, as we have done for these last five weeks now, the first seven verses of this prophecy of Isaiah.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
Gracious God, what we do not know, teach us; what we do not have, give us; what we are not, make us. For the glory of your Son’s sake we pray. Amen.
Now, the first seven verses of Isaiah chapter 9 provide for us one of the clearest and most meaningful prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. Isaiah writes in his own time, as his own man, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as Peter tells us in his letter. And in the confusion and uncertainty which marks the time of Isaiah, he is enabled to describe the coming events with a certainty that speaks of completed action. And as we noted in our very first study, we will quickly go wrong if we don’t understand this, if we don’t recognize that what will happen is described by Isaiah in terms of what has happened. And he uses, for those of us who are interested, prophetic perfects in the original in order to make that point. But since we don’t have the original, we need to be told that. The very terminology and phraseology and verbiage that he uses allows the reader to understand that although these events are yet future, he is absolutely convinced under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that what will be is in some realistic sense already the reality.
And “the people,” he says, that have been “walking in darkness have seen a great light.” This metaphor of darkness and light, which we noted some weeks ago now, runs all the way through the Bible. And the picture of darkness is a picture not only of the circumstances of the people here in Isaiah’s day, centuries before Christ, but it is a fitting picture of the circumstances of each of us by nature as men and women: either rebellious by nature or passively just indifferent to God himself. And the Bible explains that we find ourselves in the dominion of darkness by our very nature, and the only way that we would ever be in the kingdom of light is a result of our coming to trust in the one who is himself the Light. But we run ahead.
The darkness into which the light has come is aptly described at the end of chapter 8. You will remember there, from verse 19 and on, that the people in Isaiah’s day were looking for answers in all the wrong places. Verse 19: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter”—which is, of course, what men and women are told to do today. This is not something that is away six hundred years before Jesus. It’s as up-to-date as your newspaper this morning, where some of you may be tempted to read your horoscope and look to those who may be able to whisper and mutter to you, or read your palm, or go up the stairs in a darkened room and look at a crystal ball, and so on. All that has been going on for ages. And the people were engaged in it. They were looking for answers in all the wrong places. It was indicative of their darkness.
They were intrigued by information, but they ignored revelation. That’s verse 20: “To the law and to the testimony!” He’s pointing to that. He’s saying, “This is where we should go: to God’s revelation of himself.” And he says, “If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” This is the only source of light. All the rest is darkness. And instead of looking where they ought to look, they look either to those who are blind guides, or they look in upon the earth, as if the earth itself would produce the answers. And in verse 21 and 22 we find them as “distressed and hungry” and despairing and angry. And it is into the shadowlands, as it were, of oppression and of arrogance and of despair that this light shines.
And the thing that is so wonderful about it—and I hope this has come across to us; it certainly struck me this year with renewed forcefulness—lies in this: that when the individuals then, subsequent to then, and now look for this source of deliverance, look for the one who is able to liberate, to break the bar of oppression, to set them free, to burn the warfare weaponry, and the clothes of the soldiers, the uniforms of arrogance and tyranny—when they go looking for that answer, they find the face of a child peering back at them.
And when you read through here and come to verse 6, it is only our familiarity with it that stops us from being completely bowled over. The Midian circumstance gives indication of the defeat that follows: the burning of the boots and the garments and so on. And why is this? “Well,” he says, “for to us a child is born”—that the answer to oppression, to warfare, to despair, to all the darkness and all of the sin is not found in a concept that the Bible urges us to understand but is found in a Christ that the Bible urges us to trust. And in this Christ, in this Messiah, is light, and that light was the life of man.
Now, the child with four names, as we’ve considered him—and his names are there in verse 6—is a child who’s born to be King. His kingdom is different from any other kingdom. He’s going to establish his government in peace. His principles will be the principles—verse 7b—of righteousness. His procedures will be marked by justice, so that he’s not going to establish a kingdom by the force of imperialism or the force of tyranny; he’s not going to beat back oppression with oppression; he’s not going to overturn the coercive arrogance of the proud dictators of the world by, as it were, taking them on at his own game. But actually, this King is going to come meek and lowly in heart, riding not on a white charger but actually on a donkey, on the colt of a donkey, into Jerusalem. And the peace that he brings is lasting, and the kingdom that he establishes will never come to an end.
That’s, you see, what makes this so enigmatic and so profound. Where has there ever been a government that has established peace that will not end? Search in vain through the annals of history. Where might we look for a king who will emerge and reign in “justice and righteousness” from this time—the beginning of his reign—and then forever? There is no king that reigns forever that we can find in the history. There is no establishment of peace that is everlasting and eternal in its significance, save this peace and this King.
Now, all that by way of introduction. I have three words to gather our thoughts. The first word is expectation, the second word is fulfillment, and the third word is application.
Expectation. These verses that we have become familiar with, some of us, almost knowing them off by heart now, are in keeping with the rest of the Bible. They’re in keeping with the rest of the Old Testament. And I know that to go where I’m about to go is to go down pathways over which some of us have trod routinely, and I certainly don’t want to weary you by this, but I also want to take full responsibility and remind myself of it on this first Sunday of a new year. We all start again. We go back to our jobs. We have to begin all over again. A fresh sheet. A new beginning. I have to remind myself what it is I’m supposed to be doing. And this is what the Bible expositor is supposed to be doing, at least in part: opening up what for others is closed, making plain what is obscure, unraveling what is knotted, and unfolding what is tightly packed.
Of course we all read the Bible by ourselves. Of course we go to home Bible study groups. And we can help one another, and we can read concordances—and indeed, if that were God’s purpose, there would be no one like me, and I would be out of a job, and so would my colleagues. But the Bible tells us that the ascended King, Jesus, has given to the church gifts that he has given to the church. And in that collection of gifts, he has provided pastor-teachers, those who would be the shepherds under the shepherding role of Jesus; those who would be the teachers not of their own ideas but of the Bible, so that the people taught by them would become people who learn the Bible so well that they would know at any point when their teachers began to deviate from the truth. That’s the objective.
It is an easy thing to take what is clear in the Bible and for the person in my position to make it very unclear for everybody in the pew. That’s not a spiritual gift. That’s a grave concern. And what we need to be praying about is that God would give us increasingly the ability in our study and in our proclamation, in our listening, in our understanding, in our trusting, and in our believing to come to it possessed of a clarity which the Bible itself owns.
So, let me just give you a little background—a quick rush through the history of the Old Testament—on this matter of expectation. I’m not gonna turn to all the references, because it will be tedious. But the first book of the Bible, Genesis, ends with this expectation. Indeed, in the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis, where the blessings of Jacob are extended to his sons, he says concerning Judah that “the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,” and then there’s not a full stop but a comma, and he says this will not happen “until he comes to whom it belongs.” So the reader knows that there is going to come somebody to whom belongs this scepter and this rule and this reign. But we don’t know who it is at this point.
You turn into the next book of the Bible and into Exodus; you go fifteen chapters to the song of Moses after the great deliverance. Miriam his sister’s playing the tambourine, and Moses is singing, and he gets a jump start on the “Hallelujah Chorus.” And in the [eighteenth] verse of Exodus 15, you find that Moses is singing, “The Lord will reign for ever and ever.” And you can see him saying to Miriam, his sister, “Hey, play the tambourine a little louder in this. This is terrific.” His sister puts down the tambourine and says, “What does it mean, Moses, that the Lord will reign for ever and ever?” He says, “You know, I really frankly don’t have much of a clue. But I do know that he will reign for ever and ever. We’ll just have to wait and see. But that is our expectation.”
You remember that the book of Judges ends—the very end of the book of Judges ends—“In those days Israel had no king, and everybody did what they wanted. Everybody did what was right in their own eyes.” And the inference is, and the expectation of the people was, “If we could get a king, maybe we could fix this. We’d like to have a king.” And despite the fact that it was a lack of faith—because they already had a king in God—God acceded to their request and gave them kings.
But even the best of their kings weren’t that good. Saul was magnificent, but he failed politically. David was incredible, but he failed morally. Solomon was the wisest man who had ever lived, and yet he failed religiously; his many wives turned his heart away from God. So now the people who wanted a king and got the king and have had the best of kings find themselves saying, “We don’t just need a good king; we need a perfect king.” And someone said to his friend, “Well, where do you think you’re going to get a perfect king?” He said, “Well, I don’t know. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there might be one, because there has to be something better than this.”
And what you find when you read the Old Testament is that the expectations of the people finally outgrew the ability of any mere mortal to fulfill them. When they conceived of the kind of king that they would need, they realized that when they put together the profile—if you like, the job description, the character requirements—and they looked around, they said, “There has never been, there is not, and there is apparently not going to be anyone that will fulfill our expectations.”
And that consistent expectation of the Old Testament became an urgent expectation—and the closer you get to the end of the Old Testament, especially since the people by this time are aware of the promise that God has made to David: that through his line there will be an eternal and universal King who will come. A strange and an enigmatic statement in 2 Samuel 7; you can read it on your own for homework. But the people said, “Apparently, God spoke to King David, and he said that there would be somebody come from the line of David, and the king that would come as the son of David would reign universally and eternally. How’s that going to happen?” You see this expectation.
You see why it’s important to be students of the Bible and not students of the New Testament—of the whole Bible! Because, you see, if you come in on the second act of the drama, you don’t know who the characters are in the play. If you stay in the first act, you know the characters, but you don’t know the end. That’s why we need to read our Bibles.
And the Old Testament closes with this unanswered question. And then there’s the silence of four hundred years in the intertestamental period. Some of us were even alluding to this last evening. What was going on then? Well, of course, we don’t know, because we have nothing written down, but we know from secular history that people went about their business. Babies were born, and people got married. Religious people did their religious things. Pagans worshipped the earth. Life went on. People came. People went. People died. Generations come, generations go.
And there would be those who were devout—waiting, expecting a king. They would tell their children, who were aware of the fact that life was not all that it might be, “Listen, Reuben. Listen, Levi. Listen, Ruth. God has promised. He promised King David that he will send a king who will rule and reign and free us from oppression and tyranny and all these things.” And the children said, “And when will that be?” And the father said, “I don’t know.” And the father died, and the boy became the man, and the man became the father and then the grandfather. And the grandchildren ask the grandpa, and the grandpa gave them the same story. And the grandchildren became the grandfather, and the generations passed.
And all of that pulsing, urgent expectation builds virtually to a fever pitch until you find yourself in 63 BC with the overthrow of all of the Jewish world, and the Roman occupation holding these folks in absolute subjection. And as a result of that, the buzz in the air is “Perhaps our king will come. Perhaps the one who is to come, the Messiah, will come. Perhaps he will come even today.”
That takes us to fulfillment. Because when you read on in the Bible and you get to the beginning of the New Testament, you find exactly what you would expect.
Now, it comes out in Luke’s Gospel in a very helpful way—not that it doesn’t in the other Gospels, but I have always been struck by Luke chapter 2. And many of you are like me, have known this since you were a small boy: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree.”
That’s not how it was in the King James Version. It was more grand than that: “In the days of Caesar Augustus, a decree went out into all the earth that all the world should be taxed, and each one came to his own city,” or whatever it was. And even as a small boy, I thought, “You know, this is not something that happened away in a corner. This is not some speculative, philosophical notion. This Christian thing has roots. This Christian thing is verifiable in relationship to secular history itself.” Because Caesar Augustus has got nothing to do with the unfolding drama of redemption. He doesn’t lie there, as it were, in the lineage of David. But he’s a marker. And Quirinius is a marker. And so Luke, who sets out to carefully investigate, to talk to the eyewitnesses, to write down the story, he earths it in history: “(This was the first census that took place [when] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.”
We’re reading this and saying, “Oh, goodness gracious, who cares about censuses? Who even likes censuses?” Censuses! Because I never met anybody that liked the census. Anytime there’s a census, people say, “Don’t you hate this census? Why are they asking all these questions? I don’t want to sit around and fill in that form.” “Oh, you can do it online now.” “Couldn’t care less. Don’t like it. Don’t want to do it. Not doing it.” “Yes you are. Yes you are. Your wife said you are, and you’re going to do it. Go in there and do it. Fill out the census.”
It probably wasn’t any different. Mary probably said, “You know, Joseph—you know, I don’t know why you can’t just do a census here in Nazareth. What are you on about?”
“No, no, Mary, we have to go up to Bethlehem.”
“Well, why do we have to go to Bethlehem, for goodness’ sake? I’m gonna have a baby. I mean, this is no time for going to Bethlehem. Couldn’t you fill it out here and just send it up there?”
“No, we must go to Bethlehem.”
Well, that doesn’t mean anything to anybody who hasn’t been reading the Old Testament, does it? Say, “Well, that’s interesting. I wonder what that’s about? Bethlehem.” But anyone reads the Old Testament goes, “Bethlehem? Da-ding! Bethlehem—that’s where Ruth was, wasn’t it? That’s where she was in the fields of barley. ‘Take a walk among the fields of barley.’ That was Ruth, and that’s when Boaz fancied her, and that’s right around where he married her. And that’s when they became the great-grandfather of… David! That was where David looked after the sheep, the same fields where the shepherds are now found.”
Now you read, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and [the] line of David.” See? It’s just building. We’re putting in the background music now. It’s beginning to build, a sense of expectation. And is it any surprise, then, that when the angels make their announcement to the shepherds in those same fields, they don’t simply to say, “Today a Savior has been born to you,” but they say, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you,” increasing the sense of expectation even in the muddied ears of the shepherds, who, with their heritage, would’ve caught something of this?
Here, then, is the fulfillment, which gives rise to my favorite Christmas carol—not that you care, but it is:
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed:
[And] Mary was that mother mild
Jesus Christ her little child.
And then it advances. And do you remember where it finishes?
And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love,
For that child so [meek] and gentle
Is [the] Lord in heav’n above.
By the time of Jesus’ birth, many of the people had given up on the vision of the prophets. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans, establish them, rebuild the temple, put them to rights. A few were left that really understood what was going on. Simeon, for one. Joseph of Arimathea. They were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Simeon was able to take the baby in his arms, you will remember, and say, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
And Jesus steps up on the stage of human history in Matthew’s Gospel. Luke does the same, incidentally. My Bible is open at Luke 3, and again notice the history with which Luke 3 begins: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,” and “Herod [was the] tetrarch of Galilee,” and so on. Luke again is saying to his readers, “You need to understand that this Christ came to a place, a real place; and at a time, at a real time; and in a moment in history, he came and revealed God to us in all his fullness.” This is not insignificant. This is absolutely foundational.
And Jesus steps onto the stage of history, and Matthew records that he goes around the towns and villages of Judea, and he does what we would expect him to do: he proclaims the good news of the kingdom. Essentially, he says, “I am the King, and I am putting together a kingdom.” And that’s why he does his miracles—not as magic tricks but as an indication of the fact that the King has come, as little indications of his kingly rule, of his royal reign. Only God the Creator had control of the wind and the waves, and Jesus stilled them on Galilee. Only God the Creator had the power to give life and to raise the dead, and Jesus stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, his friend, and called him forth. Why? Because he’s the King.
But if you’re thinking, you perhaps track down this line—and understandably—which says, “If this, then, is the case and that Jesus is the King and he has a kingdom, would you mind telling me what in the world is going on? Because it seems to me that we don’t see any of this healing for the sickness. We don’t see any of this real liberation of the tyranny. Little insights, little glimpses, but nothing that would be regarded as full and final.”
That’s exactly right. And let me give you one verse, which is not a proof text, but it is indicative of a whole succession of Bible verses that reinforce the distinction—and if you take notes, this is all you need to write down, and that is “already–not yet.” And when you read concerning the fulfillment of the kingdom promises in Jesus, they are fulfilled absolutely, completely, and finally in the person of Christ. There is no successor to the Messiah. There is no other king who comes to reign upon the throne. He is it. But his kingdom, which he has begun, he has not yet brought to completion.
And Hebrews 2:8b and then verse 9 is as helpful in this regard, to me at least, as any. And this is what the writer to the Hebrew says, after he’s introduced us to Jesus in all of his grandeur and his glory. He says in verse 8, “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.” All right? So he didn’t leave any loose ends. There’s nothing hanging out there that isn’t under the sovereign rule of the King Jesus. But, says the writer, “at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus…” And that’s the truth, isn’t it? Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. Unless Christ returns, they will announce my death. I will be no more. People will carry me out. You’ll find me somewhere, who knows? Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. But it has already been dealt with at the cross. Satan is a defeated foe.
Christ in his atoning death has played the one move on the chessboard of redemption history that declares, “Checkmate.” If you’re a chess player—and I’m a hopeless chess player—if you’re a chess player, you know that even when checkmate is declared, it may still be possible to play out some moves on the board, but they cannot alter the outcome. They cannot reverse the checkmate. It is secured, it is sealed, it is done. That is what has happened in the death of Jesus and in his resurrection; he has dealt with all of that. “We do not,” as yet, “see everything subject to him.” True. “But we see Jesus.” And in seeing Jesus, we see the one who will come a second time, not to deal with sin but to establish his supremacy and his authority.
Our time is gone. Two points of application.
First, a personal point of application, and it is this: the promise of Jesus as the King has an inherent challenge in it. And the inherent challenge in it is this: that since Jesus comes as a Priest, he comes to deal with our ignorance of the things of God. So, he comes to speak to us from God. He comes as a Priest because we cannot make ourselves acceptable to God, so he comes as the very sacrificial offering himself. And he comes as King to reign and to subdue all the tyrannical forces that are operative inside of us. You can read again for homework and follow up in Colossians chapter 1—we’ve alluded to it already: we by nature belong to “the dominion of darkness,” but we are transformed and relayed “into the kingdom of the Son that he loves,” the kingdom of light. In other words, Jesus makes raids into enemy territory, he secures people for himself, he brings them out of darkness and puts them into his light, and they in turn are supposed to shine as lights in the darkness. That’s how people are supposed to see at least a glimmer of the kingly rule of Christ. That’s how people are supposed to know that Christianity has something to say to our world.
But the challenge in it is significant, isn’t it? Because it is the challenge of a King who comes to reign. It’s fascinating, isn’t it, all the things that have been done with Jesus in two thousand years? He is a wonderful stained-glass picture in many churches. But a stained-glass window holds no threat to anybody. It’s just something to look at. He’s a nativity scene that gets packed up and put in a box, and people can ignore it for the next twelve months. Maybe it’ll come back, maybe it won’t. He’s introduced to us as a sort of itinerant, rambling preacher who said some good things and did magic tricks, and it might be nice to consider him. That’s a very absorbable Christ. That’s a very ignorable Christ.
But that’s not the Christ that we’re introduced to. The Christ we’re introduced to is the Jesus with the four names. He is Wonderful Counselor; he has a plan from all eternity. He is Mighty God; he is able to execute his plan. He is Father Forever, never letting us go. And he is the Prince of Peace, a peace that is eternal—and a reign that will reign forever.
I can’t stop here, but I am fascinated by the opposition to Jesus after all this time. Isn’t it ironic that the opposition to Jesus is so forcible, so vehement, from the lips, often, of people who say that he doesn’t exist, or that he’s an irrelevancy, or that he’s two-thousand-year-old history, or that he was a rambling prophet or a stained-glass window or a nativity scene? Okay, so what are you so concerned about? Why are you concerned about him in your school? Why are you concerned about him in your city? What do you have to fear from a rambling dreamer? What do you have to fear from a stained-glass window? What do you have to fear from a historical nonentity? But why are people opposed to him? Because they know he is actually the reigning King. They know he’s the reigning King. And the devil and all of his hordes seek to erode in the minds of everyone the notion of his transcendent deity.
Well, there’s a challenge there, but there is also a comfort. And the comfort is this: that at the cross he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. And since he has taken such lengths to deal with our most fundamental problem and predicament, he is the one to whom we may go and trust with everything. We may trust him in our tragedies and in our disappointments, with our hurts, with our fears, with our losses, with our failures, with our loved ones. He is absolutely, one hundred percent reliable. He is the King forever.
And incidentally, this is not some private little party with yourself. This is not “Jesus will come and live in your heart, and then you can go and live in a wardrobe.” This is not something that is sort of an esoteric experience totally unrelated from life. It is a significant tragedy that evangelicalism for fifty years has done a pretty good job—we have—of suggesting that it is; that all that really happens is that you have Jesus, and he lives in your heart, and then you pretty well try and be nice, and go to the prayer meeting or whatever it is, and sing songs that most people don’t enjoy, and that’s it, and then you finally die and go to heaven. And people say, “It’s got to be more than that.”
Of course it’s more than that! The whole creation groans in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of God. The kingly rule of Christ speaks not only personally to our lives but cosmically to our lives. It speaks to the issue of the ecosystems of our world. Of course we care about those things! Because there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth. This is what we have right now; therefore, don’t mess it up. It is because he is King that we care about life, that we care about the issues of life, that we care about how animals are treated, that we care about the discoveries of science, that we care about literature and art and poetry and good songs and music and melody lines. And when you cease to believe in a creator God who fashioned man in his own image, eventually the dust of death will settle on your tongue.
Darwin was a professing Christian. Darwin was a Cambridge student. Darwin was going to submit to holy orders in the Anglican Church—until he found himself in the middle of Romans 1, and he exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and he began to worship the creature rather than the Creator. And if you read Darwin, you will know that he was an honest man, which led him to his evolutionary hypothesis. But he was equally honest enough to say that as he approached the middle part of his life, he was niggled by the fact of design in the universe. He felt there were loopholes in his system. By the age of thirty, he no longer believed in a soul, he no longer believed in eternity. By the time he was forty, he said he had no interest in art, he had no interest in music, he had no interest in history. And when they asked him, “Do you have doubts?” he said, “Of course I have doubts. I believe that the human mind has emerged from the mind of a monkey. And who would trust the mind of a monkey?”
Well, we thank him for his honesty. But my friends, there is a significant difference between a view of the world which is the product of time plus matter plus chance and a view of the world in which the sovereign Lord of creation becomes the child in the manger, becomes the man of the proclamation and of the miracles, and ascends to heaven and takes his rightful place.
As staggering as it is to contemporary thought, the declaration of the Bible is this: that Jesus Christ, the reigning King, is the source and the sustainer and the goal of all created reality. And when Abraham Kuyper, who was the prime minister of Holland, got ahold of that truth, he writes in his journal on one morning: “There is not one inch in the entire area of human life about which Jesus does not cry of it, ‘Mine!’” “Mine.” And we sing it, don’t we?
This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me [springs]
The music of the spheres.
And it all ends in the “Hallelujah Chorus.” If you have the Messiah, I suggest this afternoon, at some point, go to the track that takes us right here: “And he will reign for ever and ever.” And if you’ve been doubting it, just let it wash over you. If you’re unsure about it, ask God to make you sure of it, so that you might bring your life, and your dreams, and your hopes, and your disappointments, and all that represents the you that is you out from underneath your own tin-pot little kingdom and under the rule of his reign.
And for those of you who are gardeners, read Revelation 22. For all the thistles that you find in Genesis 1–3 are gone by the time you get to Revelation 22. How that works for the national emblem of Scotland, I do not know, but they will be gone by Revelation 22. And for those of you say, “Well, what am I going to do on streets of gold and everything else, and alabaster this and alabaster that?” Listen: there’s going to be a new heaven and a new earth. You’ll have a nice garden. You’ll have a nice garden! No Chemlawn. No weed removal at all. Just absolutely the best you could ever conceive.
Why? Because Jesus is King. “Hallelujah! For [the] Lord God Almighty reigns.” “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of [my] Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever.” And there is a higher throne before which every sovereign on every throne and every high court judge will bow. And the invitation of the gospel is to bow now and welcome him as Lord and Savior and King, or bow then and acknowledge that he executes his judgment justly, because you heard, and you said, “No, I will not have this King to reign over me.”
These, loved ones, are considerations worthy of your own follow-up.
Let’s pause and pray:
God our Father, we thank you that we have the Bible. We thank you that it is clear. Sometimes we make it unclear. And so we pray that the clarity of it—that which is helpful and true and useful—may be etched into our lives, and it may change our view of the world and the way we live in the world and the way we treat others in our world. And when they ask, we’ll tell them that there is a higher throne beyond all the thrones the world has known, and that we’ve come to know his majesty, and he took our old dirty rags of rebellion and gave us a wonderful new set of clothes—clothes we didn’t deserve. And when we walk around in them, since we know how dreadful we are as sinners, it just humbles us and reminds us to look away to Christ and to tell others that he is a wonderful Savior and a gracious King. Stir our hearts in this first Sunday of the new year. Send us out, Lord, we pray, under your rule and reign. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.
 See 1 Peter 1:10–12.
 See Colossians 1:13.
 See John 1:4.
 See Matthew 11:29.
 See Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.
 See Ephesians 4:11.
 Genesis 49:10 (NIV 1984).
 Judges 21:25 (paraphrased).
 Luke 2:1, 3 (paraphrased from the KJV).
 Luke 2:2–3 (NIV 1984).
 Sting, “Fields of Gold” (1993). Lyrics lightly altered.
 Luke 2:4 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 2:11 (NIV 1984).
 Cecil F. Alexander, “Once in Royal David’s City” (1848).
 Luke 2:30–32 (NIV 1984).
 Luke 3:1 (NIV 1984).
 See Matthew 4:17.
 See Matthew 8:23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25.
 See John 11:38–44.
 See 1 Corinthians 15:26.
 Colossians 1:13 (NIV 1984).
 See Isaiah 53:4.
 See Romans 8:22–23.
 See Romans 1:25.
 Charles Darwin to William Graham, Beckenham, July 3, 1881, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-13230.xml. Paraphrased.
 Abraham Kuyper, “Sphere Sovereignty,” in Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488. Paraphrased.
 Maltbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World” (1901).
 See Revelation 11:15.
 Revelation 19:6 (NIV 1984).
 Revelation 11:15 (NIV 1984).
 Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, “There Is a Higher Throne” (2002).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.