The Bible presents a binary perspective on kings and kingdoms. On the one side is the true king of the kingdom of God. On the other side are the fake kings of the kingdoms of men. The true king not only rules over kings, he also rules over sin. However, fake kings have no rule over their own spirits. They are not only ruled by sin, they are even often ruled by their own subjects.
Fake King Herod
In the New Testament, King Herod of the kingdom of this world is juxtaposed with King Jesus of the kingdom of God. While the kings of this world like Herod become king, Jesus was born king. During his early childhood, wise men came from the East to Jerusalem asking: “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2).
When Herod heard about this, he felt threatened and went on a rampage. He killed all the male children in Bethlehem below two years of age in the determination to kill Jesus. But God alerted Jesus’ parents and they escaped with him to Egypt.
Herod’s madness and genocide provides a sharp contrast with Jesus’ righteousness and tranquillity. Jesus never sinned. He killed no one and even raised the dead back to life. This established him conclusively as the true king. The true king does not ride roughshod over the lives of men. Instead, he gives his life for them. Indeed, the true king Jesus gives his life as a ransom for men.
In effect, the scriptures compel a choice. We can either see true dominion in terms of the power to kill and destroy; or we see it as the power to heal and bestow life.
Dominion of Sin
Herod believed John the Baptist to be a prophet. But when his wife’s daughter danced at his birthday party, Herod, in an expansive mood, promised to give her anything she asked for. However, only the true king can keep such a promise without remorse. Only the true king can faithfully honour Jesus’ unlimited blank cheque: “Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7).
Therefore, when at her evil mother’s prompting, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist, Herod was caught in a bind. He was not inclined to kill John because he was afraid of the political consequences of killing a popular prophet. But then he would lose face if he reneged on the promise he made in the presence of his highfalutin guests. Therefore, against his will, and knowing fully well it was the wrong thing to do, Herod ordered that John the Baptist should be beheaded as requested.
Hundreds of years before Christ, the philosopher Plato speculated that if only a man could know the right thing to do, he would do it. How wrong Plato was. Herod’s act shows it is not enough to know the right thing. A man must have the power to do the right thing. But kings of the earth, no matter how powerful, have no such power. Kings of the earth are slaves of sin.
In effect, the scriptures reveal Herod to be a fake king. He was a king without self-control. He was a king who ostensibly ruled over men but could not rule over sin. On his birthday, Herod was shown to be susceptible to public opinion, making him subject to the very people he was ruling? Herod was a fake king because he could not even do what he believed to be right. Instead, he was manipulated by a little girl and her mother to act against his better judgment.
Therefore Jesus counselled against Herod’s hypocrisy: “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (Mark 8:15).
Fake King Darius
The Old Testament is full of fake kings. The books of First and Second Samuel; First and Second Kings; and First and Second Chronicles; detail one fake king after another. So also do Esther and Daniel, among others. Not a single one of the kings in these books had any authority whatsoever over sin.
In Daniel, King Darius of the Medes and Persians was fooled into proclaiming an edict that no one should petition any god or man except the king himself for thirty days. Anyone who violated this decree would be sent to the lion’s den. But unknown to him, the motive of the authors of this decree he signed into law was to trap Daniel, who he was thinking of appointing as prime minister.
Daniel’s enemies knew the only way they could discredit him was on the question of his faithfulness to God. Just as they had planned, Daniel broke the law because he would not stop praying to God, and the matter was promptly reported to King Darius.
The king was in a dilemma. He was supposed to be the king, and yet he discovered his subjects had manipulated him in order to destroy his most faithful servant. He was determined to deliver Daniel but was powerless to do so. Daniel’s enemies reminded him that the law of the Medes and Persians states no decree the king established could be altered. In effect, “mighty” King Darius’ hands were tied by his own decrees.
So, against his wishes, the king was forced to send Daniel to the lion’s den. As a result, it became evident even to Darius that the only king who could help Daniel is one who can issue decrees and not be trapped by his words. Therefore, he expressed the hope that what he was unable to do, Daniel’s true king would do. He said to Daniel: “Your God, whom you serve continually, he will deliver you.” (Daniel 6:16).
King of Kings
With Daniel in the lion’s den, King Darius spent the night fasting. No musician was allowed to come to him. The next morning, he rushed to the lion’s den and cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel: “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
And miracle of miracles, Daniel answered: “O King, live forever. My God sent his angel to shut the mouth of the lions so that they have not hurt me because I am innocent.” (Daniel 6:20-22).
So the king commanded that Daniel should be taken up out of the lion’s den. In replacement, he ordered all those who had accused Daniel to be thrown there with their wives and children. Before they even landed on the ground, the lions snapped them up and ate them.
As a result, King Darius became a believer in the true king. He then proclaimed this decree to his subjects:
“To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and steadfast forever; his kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall endure to the end.” (Daniel 6:25-26).
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