Titles of the Father – The King

Titles of the Father – The King

Titles of the Father – The King.

Then Manoah, father of Samson, asked the Angel of Yahweh, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?’ The Angel of Yahweh replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is a name of wonder. It is unknowable, and too wonderful for you to understand!’” (Judges 13:18).

Trying to determine a list of God’s titles in the Hebrew Bible can be a tricky business, a daunting task. For one thing, the differences between a name and a title are unclear and they often overlap. There are times, too, when one is tempted to consider a common noun or adjective or metaphor to be a title if it happens to reference God. And there are plenty of times when we read of a character description of God, or a unique ability of God, and we find ourselves turning them into titles. So the titles of the Father that I will highlight in this series is a list, not the list. For all I know, there may not even be a definitive list of God’s titles. I aim to provide varied glimpses of God the Father in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament… who He is, what He can do, what He represents, what He has done. Most importantly, I pray the readers of these titles are able to maintain the Jewish tradition of using God’s titles as ways of addressing the Almighty. As we address God in prayer and worship, may we feel free to put a capital letter at the beginning of each title, making the title an aspect of His identity. In that way each title could be another way to honor God and recognize His greatness.

“Lord Yahweh is King, robed in majesty, robed is the LORD and girded with power. The world is indeed set firm; it can never be shaken. Your throne is established from of old, from all eternity you exist. Yahweh is majestic in the heights. Your instructions stand firm, unshakeable. Holiness is the beauty of your house, Yahweh, for all time to come.”  (Psalm 93:1-2, 4-5).

King = Hebrew, Melekh (noun) and Malakh (verb); the chief ruler with supreme authority; the ruling sovereign who is the final judge; the absolute monarch who is in complete control in establishing justice and keeping peace in his domain; the commander-in-chief of the realm’s armed forces; the one who has unquestionable power and authority to govern his realm. The term “the Lord reigns” is actually a verbal noun implying ongoing action, and since the word “king” is not a verb in the English language, the literal translation of “the Lord reigns” is “the Lord is kinging.” Many saints have addressed God as “your royal highness” or “your royal majesty” to remind themselves of God’s kingship over them and the world.

Kingdom = Hebrew, Malkuth; the spiritual reality in which Creator God reigns as King in dynamic power and righteous authority; wherever God’s authority rules over those who decide to submit to the King of the world. Having a verbal root, kingdom implies the activity of doing the King’s will through obedience, of daily disclosing to the King, “Your wish is my command.” The fact that God is “kinging” throughout the universe is a literal reality and has been true since creation.

The phrase “kingdom of God” is not found in the Hebrew Bible, but the Chosen People on through to the present day have been very King-conscious people. Their concept of God as King is found throughout the Hebrew Scripture. In Psalms alone, there at least seventeen “royal psalms,” because of the references to God as King. Yahweh has been acknowledged as King in many different ways:

(1.)  King over Israel. The Israelites were misled into believing at an early point that they wanted and needed a human king. That proved to be a grave error, “You want a king to rule over you, when the Lord your God was your king!” (1 Sam. 12:12). Despite that mistake, God and His prophets never let them forget that God was their King, and thus He was more often than not worshipped as such.

(2.)  King of Creation. David blessed the Lord Yahweh and said, “Yours is the greatness, Yahweh, the power, the splendor, the length of days, and the glory; everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, Yahweh, yours is the sovereignty; you are exalted, supreme over all. You are ruler of all, in your hand lie strength and power…” (1 Chronicles 29:10-14).

(3.)  King over all the Nations. “There standing in the Temple of Yahweh in front of the new court among the assembled people of Judah and Jerusalem, Jehoshaphat said, ‘Lord Yahweh, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven, and do you not rule all the kingdoms of the nations? Your power and might are such that no one can resist you.”  “Yahweh, there is no one like you, so great you are, so great your mighty name. Who would not revere you, King of the nations? Yes, this is your due.” (2 Chron. 20:6; Jeremiah 10:6-7).

(4.)  King of the Universe. Central to the text of the daily Jewish prayers is the important introduction, “Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the universe.” There are over 100 daily blessings to offer in Jewish life and worship, and that opening phrase reminds every believing Jew of God’s Kingship. Would that we had a similar tradition in the Christian life.

(5.)  King of Jerusalem.  “Great is the Lord Yahweh and most worthy of praise in the city of our God, His holy mountain, towering in beauty, the joy of the whole world; Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King; God himself among its citadels, revealed as a strong defense.” (Psalm 48:1-2).

(6.)  King in the Tabernacle. There are many references in the Hebrew Bible to God who dwells as King between the cherubim in the Holy of Holies. For example, “Shepherd of Israel, listen, you who lead Joseph like a flock, enthroned on the winged cherubim, Shine forth!” The people of Israel thought of God as King who sat on His throne over the Ark of the Covenant, between the cherubim, whether in the Tabernacle or in the Temple.

(7.)  King in the Temple. ‘Your processions, God, are for all to see, the processions of my King, my God, to the sanctuary; singers ahead, musicians behind, in the middle come maidens, beating their drums. Bless God in the congregations, Yahweh, since the foundation of Israel.” (Psalm 68:24-25).

(8.)  King of Heaven. “Lord Yahweh, His throne is in heaven; His eyes watch over the world, His gaze scrutinizes the children of Adam.”  “Heaven is my throne, says Yahweh, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you build me? What sort of place could you devise for my rest? Didn’t I myself make all these things? This is how they all came to be.”  (Psalm 11:4; Isaiah 66:1-2).

Song of Moses and Miriam at the Red Sea. (Exodus 15:18). Moses closes the Bible’s first official song with a shout of proclamation, that Yahweh is King, that He is establishing His Kingdom, and that He will reign for all eternity. “Yahweh will be King for ever and ever!” Other translations read, “The Lord will reign for ever and ever!” This is a powerful way to conclude his song. For God is their King now, not Pharaoh. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks likes to make the point that they are God’s possession now, not Pharaoh’s. They are not slaves to Pharaoh, they are servants of God. The Red Sea was the boundary line. On one side was the territory of Egypt, where Pharaoh was king. On the other side of the Sea is the desert, where there is no human king. There is only God, and He has brought the Hebrew people to a place where they will depend on Him as their Sovereign. Moses said all this when he concluded the song proclaiming Yahweh as King, Yahweh reigns for ever and ever. This is the first time in the Bible God is declared to be a King. And what a wonderful time for that declaration.

King of Heaven’s Armies. The title of King in the Hebrew Bible is often spoke in the same breath as “Lord of Hosts,” or Yahweh-Sabaoth. Being the commander of heaven’s armies is a role closely connected to God’s Kingship. Because God is King, He is thus the Lord of all the angels, His royal entourage, His kingly court messengers, His royal troops. “For I am a great King says the Lord of Hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth.” (Malachi 1:14; also refer to Isaiah 6:5, Jeremiah 51:57, 48:15, 46:18, and other passages).

Once and Future King. God has always been King ever since creation, and He will remain King forever in the future. Zechariah gave a powerful prophecy in 14:9 about this, “Then the Lord Yahweh will be King over the whole world. On that day Yahweh will be the one and only, and His Name will be the only Name.” It appears in a prophecy of Jeremiah 23:5-6 that the Lord Jesus as Messiah will also be the King…”Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will raise to David a Branch of Righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” It’s interesting to think about the idea that the Father doesn’t transfer His Kingship to Jesus in a way that dims the Father’s role as King of the world. God the Father and God the Son share eternal Kingship. Yahweh and Jesus are both Kings, forever and ever… God on the throne and Jesus right there at His right hand.

Your Kingdom Come. (Matthew 6:10). Perhaps we could pray our way into this part of the Lord’s Prayer this way… Your Son told us, Father, that Your Kingdom starts small, that when You establish Your reign on earth it will be with small beginnings. Your Kingdom starts in the fertile ground of the heart, God, a tiny Kingdom seed dropped into the very center of our lives. May our hearts truly be fertile, Lord, ready to receive the seeds of truth from Your Kingdom. Teach us patience as the seed grows quietly beneath the surface and the roots begin to develop. May we not interfere in Your holy process by trying to speed things up with the mysterious growth of that seed. Show us how to provide the nutrition needed for that seed to grow and become fruitful for the sake of Your Kingdom. We humbly ask You, Lord God, that we submit to You as You rule with authority in our daily lives. We pray that in our weak moments we will not attempt to replace You on the throne of our hearts and think we can establish our own little kingdoms. We invite you to be our permanent and eternal King, God, that Your Kingdom would come into our hearts and remain for all time. May we have a part to play in the spread of Your Kingdom on earth, from heart to heart. May all of us, every day, seek Your Kingdom like a treasure hidden in a field and like a pearl of great price. Train us to be like the wise householder instructed for Your Kingdom who reveals both the old and the new from his storehouse. We thank You for the ground that was prepared for your Kingdom by your Chosen People in the Torah, and that in the fullness of time You sent Your Son to bring Your Kingdom to this world. We thank You, Father God, for appointing Your Son to be the Lord of the Kingdom. Help us to follow You and Your Son in the power of Your Spirit until we see the fullness of Your Kingdom in the New Jerusalem.

Psalm 145: In honor of the King. “I shall praise you to the heights, God my King, and I shall bless your name for ever and ever. Day after day I shall bless you, I shall praise your name for ever and ever. Great is Lord Yahweh and worthy of all praise, His greatness beyond all reckoning. Each age will praise your deeds to the next, proclaiming your mighty works. Your renown is the splendor of your glory, I will ponder the story of your wonders. They will speak of your awesome power, and I shall recount your greatness. They will bring out the memory of your great generosity, and joyfully acclaim your saving justice. The Lord is tenderness and pity, gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and full of mercy. Yahweh is generous to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. All your works shall praise you, O Lord, and your saints shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your might, making known your powerful deeds for the children of Adam, the glory and majesty of your Kingship. Your Kingship is a Kingship forever, your reign lasts from age to age, and your dominion endures through all generations.”