JESUS, DIVINE WARRIOR
By John Telgren
We think of our savior in many ways. Some think of him as the mild and meek Lamb of God. Others think of him as a serene skinny hippie who is not capable of a violent thought. He walked around and talked of love and peace because he was the "Son of God." I reflected some more this last week on what the title "Son of God" means. The background for this title actually comes from the Old Testament. One of the better known passages concerning the "Son of God" comes from Psalm 2:
"…The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against Yahweh and against his anointed: 'Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, Yahweh scoffs at them. Then he will speak to them in his anger and terrify them in his fury. But as for me, I have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh; he said to me, 'You are my son, today I have begotten you.' … Now therefore O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth … Do homage to the son, lest he become angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in him! (Psalm 2)"
This song speaks of the coronation of the king of Israel. The king was appointed by Yahweh himself, and is therefore invincible. It is foolish for any enemy king or nation to go against Yahweh's anointed.
The term, "Son of God" was a common phrase used to refer to the King of Israel. In this Psalm, God himself says, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" which refers to the kings coronation. In Israelite thought (as well as other ancient near eastern cultures), the king was an "extension" of God. He was responsible for maintaining justice, righteousness, and order in the land. The king was not completely sovereign because he was responsible directly to God. When a king was anointed and ascended to the throne, he became "The Son of God."
Jesus fittingly appropriated the term for himself. Looking back toward the Old Testament, many New Testament writers saw passages like Psalm 2 in a new light. Jesus is the ultimate "Son of God." This was not just a nice, feel good term. It was a term full of hope and power. The second Psalm portrays this title with military imagery. To think of Jesus in military terms may seem foreign to many of us. We may think only of God in military terms because the Bible calls him "LORD of Hosts" (which means Lord of Armies). However, while not specifically called "Lord of Hosts," the Bible does portray Jesus as a divine warrior. Let's look at two examples.
"But to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on High, He led a captive of host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:7-10)."
The passage is talking about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In his resurrection, he led a "host of captives" or an "army of captives" and "gave gifts to men." There was more going on than met the eye. Jesus was doing battle and won. The imagery being used is this passage is that of a victory parade. The conquering general would proceed with his army behind him into the city after a victorious battle, and he would be tossing gifts to those along the streets. At the end of the procession would be the prisoners of war, the captives, in shackles. So Jesus was a conquering general who conquered the enemy and gave his people gifts.
A more detailed passage comes from the final book of the New Testament:
"And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who say upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many crowns; and He has a name written which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies, which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. And from his mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and he will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on his robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16)."
Military imagery for our savior may seem repulsive to us. That is a natural reaction, given our circumstances. However, if our children and parents were thrown to the lions for the entertainment of the masses simply because they were Christians, and our homes were seized because we believed in Jesus, we might see this a little differently. This is not justification for "holy war." God does the fighting, not us. Many of the early Christian's who read these words became martyrs and did not fight back.
However, these words have inspired hope to those suffering for their faith through the ages. Jesus is no wimp. He is a conquering king. He is king of kings. Psalm 2 stands as a warning to the enemies of God's anointed, and comfort for his people. For us, he comes mounted on a donkey, a beast of peace. For his enemies, he is a divine warrior who comes on a white horse with a sword of judgement leading the army of heaven behind him to rescue his people. He is our hero! No matter how bad things get, we win!