Monday, December 12, 2016

The Tale of the Serpent-Slaying King

This is a story I have told twice lately in teaching the saints; I want to share it here, too. It is a beautiful and powerful tale, and, like all the best tales, is true.

On Wednesday evenings, we’ve been learning about God’s teaching concerning “Christ” in 1 Samuel. “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, but is the Greek translation (Χριστός) of the Hebrew word “Messiah” (מָשִׁיחַ), which means “Anointed One.”[1]

Prior to 1 Samuel, only the priests had the title “anointed one” (Leviticus 4:3,5,16; 6:22). Late in Israel’s Period of the Judges, however, there was a woman named Hannah who desperately wanted a child. She prayed to the LORD, and He gave her a son named Samuel. When the boy was weaned, she brought him to the high priest to be raised in the service of the LORD. Upon leaving her son, Hannah prayed a prayer of thanksgiving (1 Samuel 2:1-10).[2] At the end of her prayer, she prophesies of a great new work of God with His people - the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One would not just be a priest, but also a King: “He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed [מָשִׁיחַ, or Messiah] (1 Samuel 2:9,10).[3]

Let’s look at three who held the office of God’s Anointed One (Messiah/Christ).

Saul held the office first. After being anointed (1 Samuel 10:1), Saul faced off with Nahash, king of Ammonites (11:1-15). The name Nahash means “serpent” (same word used in Genesis 3). God’s anointed king over His people faced off with the serpent-king. Saul was ultimately rejected from the office of Anointed One/Messiah/Christ because of his disobedience to God (1 Samuel 15:22,23).[4]

David held the office next. After being anointed (1 Samuel 16:13), he faced off against Goliath, the giant “clothed with scale-armor” (17:5) - a serpent-warrior. David could not stay in the office of God’s Anointed One/Messiah/Christ because he aged and died.

Jesus of Nazareth holds the office of Anointed One/Messiah/Christ finally and forever. Saul and David were anointed with oil, representing the Holy Spirit.[5] Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism.

Compare these two passages about David and Jesus’ anointing. First, David: “…Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him… and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). Second, Jesus: “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:16,17// Mark 1:10,11//Luke 3:21,22//John 3:32-34). David, whose name means “beloved,” goes through a visible rite (anointing with oil) which represents his being given the Holy Spirit upon entering the office of God’s Anointed King. Jesus, pronounced “Beloved,” goes through a visible rite (baptism) and receives the Holy Spirit upon entering the office of God’s Anointed King.

Like Saul and David, Jesus, after being anointed into the office of Anointed One/Messiah/Christ, faces off against the serpent (Matthew 4:1-11//Mark 1:12,13//Luke 4:1-13). Jesus does not vacate the office because of either disobedience or death, since He is perfectly obedient to the Father and, though He “was dead,” is “alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).

God’s Anointed One/Messiah/Christ defeats the enemy of God’s covenant people, the serpent, fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15.

“The Lord God said to the serpent,
‘…I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise Him on the heel’”
(Genesis 3:14,15).

We know this theme is important because it is counter-balanced on the other side of the Bible from Genesis 3 in the Revelation (chapters 12 and 20).

Christ “must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).

Q. 30. How does Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executes the office of a king,
in subduing us to Himself,
in ruling and defending us,
and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.

-          Baptist Catechism, by Benjamin Keach (1640-1704)

It is a great tale. And it is true.

Remember the basic saving confession of Christianity: “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Confessing “Jesus as Lord” is not an empty statement. Jesus is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5), the One Who “overcame and sat down with [His] Father on His throne” (3:21), the One Who is named “King of kings and Lord of lords” (19:16), and is “the root and Offspring of David” (22:16). It is the voice of the Holy Spirit through believers (1 Corinthians 12:3), given by God the Father for His universal and eternal glory (Philippians 2:11).

Believe in Him, and give Him glory as King. It is your “Great Commission,” Church: “Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
hitchhiking along NM-9.

[1] It’s become popular in the last decades to emphasize Hebrew words in Christian devotion/worship, but notice that the New Testament doesn’t attempt to bring the Hebrew word “Messiah” into its language of Greek (outside of John 1:41; 4:25, where its meaning is explained). God’s work in the New Testament to today is beyond a single people’s language; the Lamb has “purchased for God” with His “blood men from every…tongue” (Revelation 5:9). God is not on a Hebrew-is-holy trajectory. I would put the use of “Yahweh” in this category, too. The N.T. doesn’t attempt to render this name (it approximates its meaning in Revelation 1:4 with “Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come”); Jesus Himself, in fact, commands us to address God as “Father” (Matthew 6:9). This peppering Christian worship with Hebrew (by non-Hebrew speakers) is akin to the language snobbery of 1 Corinthians 12-14 or the Roman Catholic Mass being in Latin (when the people had ceased to speak or understand Latin).
[2] Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) echoes much of Hannah’s prayer.
[3] In the same chapter, “a man of God” prophesies to Eli, the high priest, about the corruption of his sons. Through the prophet, the LORD says, “I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed [מָשִׁיחַ, or Messiah] always” (1 Samuel 2:35).
[4] Even after being rejected by God, David continues to refer to Saul as “the LORD’s anointed,” or Messiah/Christ (1 Samuel 24:6,10; 26:9,11,16,23; 2 Samuel 1:14,16).
[5] “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). For Saul and the Holy Spirit, read 10:1-16. For David and the Holy Spirit, read 1 Samuel 16:13.

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