A Biblical Survey of the Kingdom: Kingdom of Priests – Part 2

Israelites at SinaiThough promises were made to Abraham and his descendants through Jacob, the Israelites were not part of a kingdom for over four centuries.  After the Exodus from Egypt, the people came to Mount Sinai.  It was there where the LORD told Moses to tell the house of Jacob the following in Exodus 19:4-6:

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Finally, God looked to establish a kingdom once again!  Here is the first reference in Scripture to a kingdom unto God.  Israel was about to become a kingdom of priests, meaning that each citizen would have access to God.  This would also make her a holy nation in that she was to be separated from the others, entering into a special relationship with the LORD (v. 6).  The covenant was entered into by the people when they agreed to obey all that the LORD had spoken (Ex. 19:8).  This meant that they would have to obey God’s voice and keep His covenant (v. 5).

A ceremony to ratify the covenant is found in Exodus 24:6-8.  There, Moses took blood from young bulls and sprinkled it on the basins and the altar (v. 6).  After Moses read from the book of the covenant aloud to the people, they affirmed that they would be obedient to all that the LORD had spoken (v. 7).  In response, Moses took some of the blood and sprinkled it on the Israelites, proclaiming that it confirmed the covenant made in accordance with all of the LORD’s instructions (v. 8).  The birth of Israel as both a nation and a kingdom is intertwined with the giving of the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19-24).  Israel remaining a kingdom unto God depended upon the people staying in a covenant relationship with Him.

During this time of beginnings, the LORD made a special appearance, coming down upon the mountain in the form of fire (Ex. 19:18; 24:16-17).  God determined to have the people hear Him speaking to Moses so that they would believe in their leader forever (Ex. 19:9).  This let the people know that their Creator had chosen Moses to have authority over them.  They could never doubt that it was God’s law that Moses was enforcing.  Further governmental hierarchy can be gleaned from Exodus 24.  Moses, Aaron and his oldest sons Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel traveled part way up the mountain (vv. 1, 9, 14).  There, they were blessed to see God on what appeared to be a platform of sapphire (v. 10).  Despite seeing the LORD, the elders of Israel remained unharmed, enjoying fellowship as they ate and drink (v. 11).  Moses alone went further up the mountain to receive the stone tablets of the law (vv. 2, 12-13).  The LORD directly ordered the elders to stay where they were (v. 14).  The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, speaking to Moses for forty days and forty nights (vv. 16, 18).  This glory is the dwelling or nesting presence of the LORD, also known as the Shekinah.  The people of Israel could see the Shekinah glory from afar, as a consuming fire (v. 17).  The proximity that one had in relation to the LORD revealed his or her place in the kingdom.  The structure of rule began with God as the supreme authority, then Moses, then the elders and finally the Israelites in general.  This was the theocratic kingdom of Israel in her infancy.  Being great in the kingdom yields the reward of being closer to God.  This principle is highly applicable to life in the Millennium.

SQUANDERED POTENTIAL

On Exodus 19:5-6, Thomas Constable noted:

In short, Israel could have become a testimony to the whole world, of how glorious it can be to live under the government of God. The people experienced these blessings only partially, because their obedience was partial. Israel’s disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant did not invalidate any of God’s promises to Abraham, however. Those promises did not rest on Israel’s obedience, as these did (cf. Gen. 15:17-21 and Exod. 19:5-6).[1] 

Israel’s kingdom power matched the level to which she stayed obedient to the LORD.  Surely God’s desire was for the nation to show complete fidelity toward Him.  As such, the kingdom of Israel not only had the potential to overwhelm the world, but this was God’s ideal for her.

God’s aspiration for Israel’s exaltation is clearly expressed in Deuteronomy 28:1 and 28:13:

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.

 And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them,

Because Israel could not obey perfectly, she never extended the power of the Kingdom of God over the nations of the earth.  However, God was not thwarted and His desires cannot be resisted.  In the coming kingdom, people from mighty nations will flow to Jerusalem to entreat the favor of the LORD and learn His ways (Is. 2:2-4; Mic. 4:1-3; Zech. 8:22-23).  Finally, God’s purpose for Israel as head of the nations during the Kingdom of God will be realized.  The nations, with many not knowing God, will witness His kingdom.

THE KINGDOM DIVIDED

As Israel became more degenerate, the Kingdom of God in Israel decayed until it finally ceased.  Even from the time of Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel quarreled with each other (Gen. 37:3-11).  The disunity continued through the government of the judges, with the most notable conflict being a civil war against the sons of Benjamin. After another war against the rebelling Benjamites (2 Sam. 2-3), David finally united the tribes, becoming king over all of Israel (2 Sam. 5:1-3).  The consensus did not last long as David’s own son Absalom declared himself to be the new king, drawing away some of the people’s loyalty (2 Sam. 15:10-12).  More Israelites withdrew from David, when Sheba, noted to be a worthless man, led an insurrection. (2 Sam. 20:1-2).

Increased strife came under the reign of King Solomon when Jeroboam rose up against him.  Jeroboam was encouraged to seek power upon hearing the prophecy of Ahijah from Shiloh.  God told the prophet Ahijah, that because of the Israel’s sin under the king’s leadership, He would tear ten of the tribes from Solomon’s son and hand them over to Jeroboam (1 Kin. 11:26-38).  Solomon’s family was guaranteed to maintain control over one tribe so that David would always have a line of kings before the LORD in Jerusalem, the city where He determined to put His name (1 Kin. 11:32, 34, 36).  Only by the power of God’s faithfulness to the Davidic Covenant did Solomon remain a king (cf. Ps. 89).  The LORD said that He would afflict the children of David over their disobedience, but also that it would not last forever (1 Kin. 11:39).

Rehoboam succeeded his father Solomon in becoming the next king.  When he denied Jeroboam and the people’s request for a lower tax rate, ten of the tribes rejected the house of David (1 Kin. 12:12-16).  The ten tribes chose Jeroboam as their new king, leaving only Judah to David’s family (1 Kin. 12:20).  Thus, the prophecy of Ahijah was fulfilled (1 Kin. 12:15).  Later, the tribe of Benjamin allied with Judah in an effort to bring reprisal upon the rebels.  However, Rehoboam heeded the words of the LORD, as spoken through the prophet Shemaiah, and turned back (1 Kin. 12:21-24).  Benjamin remained joined to Judah.

The LORD gave Jeroboam the opportunity to serve Him and lead a moral kingdom (1 Kin. 11:38).  Instead, Jeroboam brought more contrast with Judah by making two golden calves, one in Bethel and one in Dan, for his people to worship.  The idea behind them being that the people would no longer need to travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices.  This would prevent them from becoming convicted and turning back to the LORD (1 Kin. 12:26-30).  Jeroboam further consolidated his kingdom by building temples on high places and instituting a fraudulent Feast of Tabernacles that was celebrated a month late (1 Kin. 12:31-33).  The Feast of Tabernacles represents the Kingdom of God in that the people dwell with their Creator.  Fittingly, the corrupt feast in Israel under Jeroboam represents the pagan kingdom that observed it.  The kingdom was now truly divided with the depraved kingdom of Israel or Ephraim in the north and the legitimate kingdom of Judah in the south.

The kingdom in the north became ever the more sinful by following foreign customs, serving idols, sacrificing their children and rejecting the LORD’s commandments and His Covenant (2 Kin. 17:8-22).  In 721 B.C. the northern kingdom was carried away into exile in Assyria as punishment (2 Kin. 17:23).  Meanwhile, the southern kingdom of Judah was ruled by King Hezekiah and he did right in the sight of the LORD (2 Kin. 18:3).  However, after his death it did not take long for Judah to play the whore just as Israel did (cf. Jer. 3:8).  From 606-587 B.C., Babylon besieged Judah, her people were taken captive through three deportations and the temple and Jerusalem were desolated (2 Kin. 24-25).

The LORD’s ideal intent for the kingdom in Israel is that it would be united and holy unto Him.  He has promised to bring this to pass in several passages, including Isaiah 11:12-13:

He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.

Sin brings division to any kingdom.  Thankfully, the Messiah can overcome the sins of men, bringing unity.  When Jesus reigns from Israel during the Millennial Kingdom, the tribes will truly serve their God and no division among them will remain.

THE KINGDOM DEPARTED

From the moment of Israel’s birth at Sinai, the Shekinah stayed with her.  The glory of the LORD dwelled among His people in the holy of holies, often between the two cherubim on top of the ark of the covenant, first in the Tabernacle and then in Solomon’s temple.  Finally, the dwelling presence of the LORD could tolerate no more sin and departed from the people in Ezekiel 10:18-19 and 11:22-23:

Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.  And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.  And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.

The Shekinah was so reluctant to leave that the LORD’s presence remained over the threshold for a time.  It did the same over the east gate, the city and finally on the Mount of Olives before completing departing.  Compare this to the immediacy of the Shekinah rushing into the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35), Solomon’s temple (1 Kin. 8:10-11), and when it returns to the millennial temple (Ezek. 43:1-5).  God is quick to be with His people and slow to depart.  The Shekinah glory’s departure marked the end of the kingdom.  There can be no Kingdom of God without God.

[1] Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Exodus (Garland, TX: Sonic Light, 2016), 115.

Comments

  1. richard dill says:

    Where is the verse that actually says the Shekinah Glory departed from the mountain “finally on the Mount of Olives before completing departing”?

    I just cannot find it, though everyone says so.

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      Ezekiel 11:23. The verse doesn’t specifically state that the glory departed the mountain. However, that is surely the implication as it did not stay indefinitely.

      Thanks for reading.

      • richard dill says:

        Thank you. Does the scripture state anywhere else that the glory departed. Is it anywhere in the scripture? I know everyone says that but why? The glory stayed in the Holy of Holies a long long time. How do we know what the glory did if it isn’t stated? There must be something that confirms departure somewhere in the Word, mustn’t there?

        • Matthew Ervin says:

          Yes, as included in the article, the Shekinah departed the Temple and past the threshold in Ezekiel 10:18. It is not as if the Glory occasionally left for a brief period and then returned. When His presence left the temple, that indicated the end of direct fellowship with the Israelites. The movement toward the Mount of Olives in the next chapter is all the more significant with this in mind. It represents a continued movement away from the resting place in the Holy of Holies.

          All the more incredible, then, that when the Messiah departed it was also from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12). And when He returns, it will be to there as well (Zech. 14:4).

          Ezekiel 10-11 are the cardinal chapters in the Shekinah’s departure. No other verse directly records that it left. But the lack of mention of the Glory’s presence after these events, including the temples destruction suggest it was no longer present.

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