For the six weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ll be surveying the Old Testament. From creation and the fall of man to the prophets anticipation, the entire Old Testament points to the coming of Christ. The rest of this year we will accomplish two things: 1) Teach a very brief history of the Old Testament and 2) demonstrate how every stage of the Old Testament is leading us to Bethlehem.
We weren’t created to be alone. We tend to align ourselves with others. This grouping is evident in the plethora of Christian denominations. There are Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Christian, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, and (the denomination I am a part of) Baptist to name a few. And among Baptists, there are American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Northern Baptists, Great Commission Baptists, General Baptists, Particular Baptists, Bible Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Fundamental Baptists, Landmark Baptists, and Independent Baptists. Those independents are the funny ones. They are determined to be separate from all the other Baptists – so much so that they have formed two different Independent Baptist denominations in America! That’s right, they are so committed to being independent, they have joined together to show their independence. To quote Hermie the elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “Let’s be independent together!”
And so we see our desire to align ourselves with others. We are all followers. The question becomes, who are we following?
In our journey to Bethlehem, we have come to a place where the Hebrew people have been formed and freed. They are simply waiting for a land of their own. In the book of Joshua, God gives them this land. Joshua has some very important words for them before they settle in their new country. It has to do with who they will follow.
“But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh.” – Joshua 24:15
Who will you serve? Who will be your king. Let me take you through a fast and furious overview of the Old Testament by looking at three stages that follow the Hebrews settling into the Promised Land. In each stage, we’ll see the king they have chose to follow.
1. Yourself. Once the people settle into their new country, they have no king. God is their king. He appoints a series of Judges to lead the people, but they are not kings. The people repeatedly fall into the sin of worshiping false god and God sends judgment in the form of an attack from another people group. The Hebrews cry out to God for help, He sends a judge to save them. They live peacefully for a time until they rebel again and the cycle continues.
The Hebrew God in this stage was themselves. Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.” To demonstrate that this was an ongoing issue, the verse is repeated verbatim in Judges 21:25. The most common king we follow is our own personal desires. When we bow to ourselves as king, we find ourselves defeated and conquered – just like the Hebrews.
2. Power and Possessions. Eventually, the people demand a king. Although God warns them about the dangers of an earthly king (as opposed to God as a heavenly king), He grants their request. King Saul becomes the first king followed by King David and then David’s son Solomon. During this time, the nation prospers and accumulates a great deal of wealth. But these kings often fall into the sin of pride and entitlement just as God warned. And the Hebrews suffer.
During his life, Solomon was the wealthiest man who had ever lived. He accumulated material, relationships, finances, and power. Solomon records his lavish lifestyle in Ecclesiastes, saying he did not deny himself anything. Then in Ecclesiastes 2:11 he writes, “When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.” Making power and possessions king of our lives leads to futile life of wanting more and never being satisfied.
3. Cultural Acceptance. After three consecutive kings, the nation experiences a split. There are kings of the Northern Kingdom and kings of the Southern kingdom. The kings of the north are wicked and fall into worship of false gods. The people of the Northern Kingdom follow suit. The kings of the Southern Kingdom do a little better, with some good kings and some wicked. But eventually, wickedness wins out and the Southern Kingdom falls into idolatry as well. Both kingdoms were conquered and the people forcibly taken out of the land and into exile.
Idolatry was a common temptation, but nowhere was the pull greater than with these divided kings. As one example, 1 Kings 22:51-53 says, “Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became king over Israel…. He served Baal and worshiped him. He provoked the Lord God Israel just as his father had done.” These wicked kings did not set out to become Baal worshipers. But when the culture around them became their king, they had little hope but to give in.
Where the Old Testament kings failed, there is a proper king we are called to serve…
4. The Messiah. King David was promised that his family line would reign as king forever in 2 Samuel 7. While Israel did not have a Davidic king after they were exiled, one shows up in the very first verse of the New Testament. Matthew 1:1 states, “The historical record of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Jesus Christ was the promised, eternal King. He is who God the Father intended the Hebrew people to follow from the beginning. And He is who we should submit to as King today.
Just as they were with Joshua, the people of Israel were asked in the New Testament who their king was. While Jesus was on trial and waiting His sentence, John 19:15 says, “But they shouted ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Should I crucify your king?’ ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ the chief priests answered.”
“We have no king but Caesar.” Those words are condemning for the chief priests and they are condemning for us. Who is your king?
“We have no king but ourselves.”
“We have no king but power and possessions.”
“We have no king but cultural acceptance.”
Or will you submit to the King of Kings?