The King of Love is My Shepherd

Written by James E. Bruce |
Thursday, November 24, 2022

Christ the king makes us his people (“in subduing us to himself”); he exercises authority over us (“in ruling”), and he protects us (in “defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies”). Though the exercise of Christ’s kingly office can be said to be judicial in some respect, because he does conquer his enemies (which serves as a kind of punishment), the focus on Christ’s kingship is intimate and familial. More than impartial judgment, we see special love.

God’s special love for his people rather than for everyone fits awkwardly with the spirit of the age. Christians may underplay the exclusivity of divine love for fear of running athwart the following contemporary consensus: God should love everyone, or he should love no one at all.

Indeed, some who call themselves Christians have abandoned the idea of exclusive love altogether, embracing wholeheartedly the maxim that God must love all if he is to love some. But that’s a rejection of the Christian view of the relationship of God to his people, not a modification of it. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray to “Our Father,” and Jesus himself prays, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9b).

This biblical emphasis on exclusive love — regularly elided in Christian conversation about God’s relationship to the world — cannot be avoided. In what follows, we will explore God’s kingship as a way to consider God’s relationship to the world.

God is the King

First, God is king. Psalm 47 speaks of God as “our King” — that is, the king of his own people — and also as “the King of all the earth” — that is, the king of everything. God is a king in a way mere mortal monarchs can only dream. Kings and queens have their own subjects, but not anyone else’s. God is different: His dominion knows no bounds.

God is not the universe’s democratically elected leader, selected according to rules acceptable to rational contractors. God is everyone’s king. He is king over his people, and he is also king over those who are not his people; he is king over his friends, and he is king over his enemies, too.

God rules what he owns, and he owns what he has made — and he has made everything that has been made. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). Why? “For he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:2). He made it. He owns it. He is king.

The King is a Judge

God isn’t just a king. He’s a good king. Not every king is good. After all, Ahab was a king, too — but a wicked one. So what makes God a good king? A good king is a just king. And God is a just king! If the goodness of God’s kingship requires impartial judgment that looks to desert, then the exercise of God’s kingship will resemble a judge. And God the king is certainly a judge. Indeed, Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25; cf. Isaiah 33:22).

A just king judges well. Indeed, 2 Samuel 8:15 praises David’s reign over all Israel using judicial language: “And David administered justice and equity to all his people.” No wonder: God executes justice impartially (Deuteronomy 10:17–18), and human judges should be like him. They should not be “partial to the poor or defer to the great” (Leviticus 19:15; cf. Exodus 23:3,6). So justice in judgment — for a judge and for a king — is impartial and looks to desert.

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