Strike the Shepherd–And God Becomes King

This morning’s musings had me in Zechariah. Zechariah 9-14 depicts a time of failure, punishment, and restoration.

The movement, the hopes, and the casting of the roles have the power to shape our imaginations about what God’s promised salvation looks like.

First, the hope of the people is thoroughly messianic. They will be given a king. This is the source of the people’s hope and joy. The king will bring peace. The king will reign over the whole earth.

It is from these hopes of a coming, Davidic messiah that Matthew draws his interpretation of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: “He is humble and riding on an ass, on a colt, the offspring of a donkey” (Zech 9:9, CEB).

Second, this is a time when the people are exalted. When YHWH protects Jerusalem, “anyone who stumbles will become like David, and David’s house will become like God, like YHWH’s messenger in front of them” (Zech 12:8).

This time of exaltation is one where people “play up”: they are assigned roles that do not fit them by nature, but to which they are exalted because of God’s great act of salvation.

Everyone is like a king.

David is like God.

Third, the great act of Israel’s salvation is the time when God becomes king.

This is the genius in the title of N. T. Wright’s book, How God Became King. It recognizes that for God to actualize God’s kingship over the earth, certain earthly realities have to be in place.

YHWH will become king over all the land. (Zech 14:9)

The people all come to Jerusalem to honor the king–who is YHWH (Zech 14:16).

Now, I’m sure my friends who are scholars of the Hebrew Bible will tell me that the varied visions of Zech 9-14 represent different theological strands and corresponding expectations for the future. O.k.

But in the book of Zechariah they all sit there next to each other: God becomes king precisely when the Davidic kingship is restored and the faithful king on earth becomes like God, leading the people in peace and righteousness.

We need to have our minds shaped by this fusion of heaven and earth: the claims scripture invites us to make about earthly events such as the coronation of a messiah are woven together with claims about God.

This is because, from the beginning, the role of people is to play the role of God upon the earth (Gen 1:26-28). To play roles typically assigned to God, or to say that God is at work, is not to say that a person is divine, but to say that God is present precisely in the way that God has always intended to be–through a faithful humanity.

In order to rediscover how it is that Jesus brings the biblical story to its fulfillment, we have to recognize that an absolute narratological necessity is this: a human king must be the agent of God’s salvation, so that God may be king through the reign of a faithful messiah.

5 thoughts on “Strike the Shepherd–And God Becomes King”

  1. Daniel, I just can’take get away from your question a while back, “does God need man?” In one way or another, you continue to allude to this. I notice you get far fewer responses when speaking of man’s actual living connection to the Almighty. Most people want to speak of high sounding theological ideas that have no living substance. What you’re saying here underscores my previous point of “peach the gospel” being in the middle voice. This post begs a slew of challenging questions, not the least of which is “in Christ, where does God end and man begin?” Isn’t this the essence of “storied theology?”

    1. Azion, it sounds like we’re tracking with each other.

      Question for you: what are you getting at with the middle voice thing that you mention here and in a previous comment?

      I do think that the humanness of Jesus has vast ramifications for us that have been largely buried under either (a) “human so that he has a body to die in when the time comes,” or (b) “human to show how awesome we all are all the time.” Jesus’ renovation of our humanity, and extending God’s reign as a human, are at the heart of the biblical narrative.

  2. I suggest investigating 1 Cor 3:9, 1 Thess 3:2, and the word συνεργός, synergos. I also have to believe that there needs to be an element of wrestling with God; how precisely to fit that into the NT, I don’t yet know.

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