Reading Time: 7 mins

The Fact of Our Need for a King

Reading Time: 7 mins

We still think we can sort own own problems with more money, more education, more resources, more techniques, more, more, more.

The principle metaphor in the Bible is that of “kingdom.” From its opening pages, it directs us to read each line, paragraph, chapter and book through the lens of kingdom. It is an axiomatic hermeneutical principle. Consider how Genesis depicts God enthroned, issuing forth His royal decree — “Let there be light” — to which there can be only one response: “And it was so.” Adam is fashioned as the LORD’s viceroy, and with Eve they are together a king and queen purposed to image forth the divine likeness in “dominion.” This was the way the ancient world understood itself and its surroundings, people, relations, structures. We were made by a King, for a King, and that’s because we have a basic need for a King. Advent heralds the good news of the return of the world’s rightful King and, so, He who satisfies the fundamental needs of mankind, namely to be loved and to be governed in love.

Neither our first parents nor the ancients invented the kingdom paradigm, and yet it spread to the four corners of the world. King and kingdom were baked-in from the beginning, the very beginning, just as Isaiah reiterates: “‘Heaven is My throne and the Earth is my footstool,’ declares the LORD” (66:1). When man became conscious of himself, he was at the same time conscious that he was a servant of the LORD, and that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1-2). Indeed, in the movement from Genesis 1 to chapter 2, that is, upon the creation of our first parents comes the parameters of their relationship to the Creator: He is “the LORD God” (2:4). Mankind has a King, and it is the LORD God.

When man became conscious of himself, he was at the same time conscious that he was a servant of the LORD.

This great King is the Lord and God of all. In the law, He establishes the boundaries of His kingdom and limitations for mankind. But this King is also a great God of love, as we heard during the first week of Advent. In His great love He loves, fashioning humanity in His regal likeness, and issuing a royal land grant — the Earth (Genesis 2). The law, too, is given from a disposition of love. It’s for our own good; His good for us. He even endows Adam and Eve with the Holy Spirit that their posterity may abound in divine love and obedience (Genesis 2:7). And things continued that way … until chapter 3, that is, until the theocracy was despoiled by autocracy. And since that day, each and every government—from nations to autonomous free agents, from federations to families—has been permeated by corruption, self-interest, indeed, by sin. The world as it was divinely created in regal goodness, and such that it has become under our all-too-human governing, establishes the fact of our need for the King.

The law, too, is given from a disposition of love. It’s for our own good; His good for us.

Advent heralds the coming of the King and the reclamation of His global kingdom as the world’s rightful Lord. What makes Advent particularly good news is that the King comes, not wielding His right to take that which is properly His according to the Law, by to give according to the gospel (Philippians 2:5-8). The King comes to rule by grace, mercy, truth, peace and love, and to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). That makes Advent, so far from being  potentially the worst news given the disasters of our self-governing, the greatest possible news.

Advent heralds the coming of the King and the reclamation of His global kingdom as the world’s rightful Lord.

We need a king. It was that way from the beginning and it was that way for our own good. We need the wisdom, care, and love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to govern us lest we remain ever blinded by the illusion of self-governing and the enslavement of this world’s pharaohs, Caesars, philosophers, politicians, and elites.

The pattern is there throughout history and still needs to be relearned with every succeeding generation: When we engage in self-rule, our self-delusion of self-sufficiency leads to self-initiated disaster (see Genesis 6:5, 11-12; 11:1-5 and the rest of the Old Testament!). Every human government, every earthly kingdom has had its day, has come and gone and suffered the same consequences of the same pattern: Our self-delusion of self-sufficiency leads to self-initiated disaster. Notwithstanding your political affiliation or choice of politician or even your passion for the movement of the moment, the cycle continues unabated, unalterable, inevitably because human nature cannot change human nature. When the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.

When we engage in self-rule, our self-delusion of self-sufficiency leads to self-initiated disaster.

This establishes the second fact of our need for a King: We’ve always failed at this endeavor of self-government and we always will. We need a King, a King with the ability to govern differently over us than the way we self-govern, and with the ability to govern within us, because only one who has the power of super-nature (i.e., “supernatural power”) can change an otherwise unchangeable human nature (Jeremiah 13:23; John 14:6). And the one thing about unaltered human nature is that it just cannot, will not have the LORD God be King over us because we all believe we are justified in the way that we do things, the way we see things, the way we want things to be (Judges 17:6). Self-justification, then, is the pretender upon the throne, ruling in a tyrannical way.

When we’re not able to enthrone ourselves because can’t get others to always choose our way, then the kind of “kings” we choose always seem to reflect the kind of positions and rhetoric that reflect our own self-justifying positions and rhetoric. Either way, we still think we can sort own own problems with more money, more education, more resources, more techniques, more, more, more. We think our institutions or, now especially, our technologies are the answer. But they always betray us. There’s a boomerang effect. Things bite back. And others, well, it turns out they don’t have our best interests at heart because they, too, are given to self-delusion and self-justification.

Our contemporary situation, just like every other time and place, needs a king. We are like sheep without a shepherd, a people without a king. We constantly choose the wrong kind of people and worst kind of things to lord over us: politicians, alcohol, drugs, the Internet, technocrats, status, brand-loyalty, faddish trends, “coolness,” subcultural identities, “likes.” Pop culture shows us that we gravitate toward mob mentality, that we’re readily susceptible to cults of personality, “groupthink,” and mass formation psychosis.

The good news of Advent tell us about a long-awaited King.

Notwithstanding, the good news of Advent tell us about a long-awaited King. Immediately after our first parents’ treasonous affair, the LORD God promised such a King, that God would be King again on the Earth through the likes of one like Adam — a son of Adam and yet Son of God. That this promised One would crush the “dominion” of the serpent and restore God’s rule on Earth in men and through a man (Genesis 3:15). The promise would become richer and thicker as Israel’s history unfolded. Moses would speak of his coming (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). Over and over the prophets heighten expectations for a king of God’s choosing (1 Samuel 16:1-11) who would be a “brother” Jew (Deuteronomy 17:15), [1] yet somehow the LORD God Himself (Ezekiel 34), climaxing in the prophesy of Isaiah who states that:


The government shall be upon his shoulder,

and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace

there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

to establish it and to uphold it

with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (9:6-7)


Further guiding us, Israel’s ancient Scriptures are framed with a narrative, an unfinished narrative of “a certain shape and type” [2]. The Old Testament leaves us with a sense that this story is supposed to be going somewhere, but that it hasn’t gotten there yet. Indeed, both Scripture and human history posit an overwhelming need for someone to take charge, someone to reset the course of humanity, someone to Lord over a people oppressed by harsh overlords and self-inflicted by the delusion of self-sufficiency. Moving into the first century, we have an unfinished biblical narrative, but also an unfinished governmental agenda. Self-governing has failed. Caesar and his proxy-kings are on the throne and yet the best kingdom of this world can offer is Pax Romana at the tip of spear or the threat of crucifixion. When humanity rules over humanity as the apex of governing what we get is the likes of Caesar or, closer to realities today, “isms,” world wars, cancellation, messianic personalities and movements. Then, following the Intertestamental Period, we turn the page to Matthew 1 to hear the sound of trumpets heralding the good news: “[This is] the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David” (1:1).

His name alone, “Jesus Christ” or, sometimes better, “Christ Jesus,” means that Jesus is King, Jesus is reigning. Jesus is Lord. This is the man of God’s choosing, for He is “Immanuel, God with us.” Advent brings the news of a reordering of the way humanity can be governed and by whom. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:7). The “us” suggests the entire world may be governed by Christ Jesus. “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The virgin is Mary. She conceives, not she and her husband conceive, but she alone so that the promise may be fulfill that the coming King would be the “offspring” or “seed of the woman” not the seed of a man. Rather, this One is “conceived of the Holy Spirit” and “born of a woman” (a designation evocative of Eve herself). He then is the God-man: truly the world’s rightful King.

Jesus has come as King to rule over us and by his Spirit rule within us according to his word and through his sacraments. It results from divine love. The consequence is freedom. Bound to him, we are free from the tyranny of self-rule and the oppressive lording of other people and things. The power of the “isms” is broken. We are free to love by the Spirit send to govern our hearts by the word and through the sacraments in the kingdom come — the Holy Church. What is more, even our consciences are liberated, as we are graciously justified by him fulfilling all that we must but never do, and taking the penalty for that which we do.

Advent announces what we confess to be a fact: We have need of a King, a King who is at the same time a Savior of his people and One who can translate us into a kingdom of peace and joy; One is at the same time the LORD God and true son of David. One who loves and governs by his Spirit of love. The fact of Advent, for St. Paul, gives way to the fact of the gospel:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

[1] The word translated as “countryman” (Heb. אָח) is literally “brother” in Hebrew.

[2] “A certain shape and type” is a favorite phrase of N.T. Wright.