I’ve been a follower of Messiah by heritage since as long as I can remember, but I wouldn’t say I became a disciple until I was thirteen or so. My wife pointed out the other day that that coincides with my beginning of manhood in Jewish tradition.
That journey began as I first understood that God actually rewards or withholds reward from his disciples based on their faithfulness. The servant who used his talent was given more; the one who did not lost the talent he was given. 2 Tim 2:12 talks specifically about how those who suffer with Messiah will also reign with him. This shouldn’t be surprising, Messiah has a kingdom that we will be part of. There’s a reason he is called the King of kings.
But I was thinking about Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:18-19. Speaking of the Torah, Yeshua says that not one Jot (Yud) or a tittle (the flourish on some Hebrew letters) will pass away until all be fulfilled, and further those who break those commands and teach others to do so will be ‘least’ in the Kingdom. It occurred to me that if I were faithful, I could end up ruling over someone I knew and loved.
That kind of freaked me out! But I find that when something in God’s word seems . . . ungodlike . . . it is because we are reading the scriptures through the lens of our fallenness. If you read commands about the Sabbath as God is an arbitrary harsh jerk, I believe it is your jerkiness assuming jerkiness in God’s ways. You are projecting your failings onto God. But if you believe God is loving, any command must be from love, for our good.
As our idea of reigning needs adjustment, Yeshua specifically told his disciples that they would not rule, as the world does (Mar 10:42, Luke 22:25). The world’s rulers do put people under them/subjugagte/control them. God’s people are not to be so, they are to minister to the ones ruled over. The picture of God’s ideal ruler is a shepherd. The shepherd does not micromanage the sheep, he guards them and protects and provides for them. This makes sense if you start in Genesis.
In Genesis, God ruled man but gave broad freedom. Restricting only for man’s good, not God’s benefit (though God benefits when man does well). The first mention of a heirarchy (familial, government, or religious) is a result of the curse. When you get into the Torah; that view still seems to be in view (though encumbered by human hard heartedness). Both father and mother are to be honored; man is not given dictatorial power over woman (though the reflection of the prefall design of man and helpmate still shows up); there is no intent for a king; even the judges are very local. The original judges would have been people you would see every day, and only if they could not reconcile the matter it would be brought to God who would directly judge.
The point is, God’s original plan was everyone having a direct relationship to God. A chain of command of one in every direction. So if that is what was lost, then that is the goal to which God is moving us. As Revelation promises “there is no more curse” (22:3). Growing hierarchy comes because of the curse. When God gave us the Torah, much of it is to guide us back toward the goal. Notice he wanted a “kingdom” of priests (Exo 19:6-7). The idea was that everyone could have direct relationship with him. Because of unbelief, it didn’t work that way, but the point is, the goal in God’s government is that there be no government but a relationship with him.
So what do we make of the promise of reigning with God? The clue is in Rev 20:6. Why do the faithful mentioned there, reign for a thousand years? God’s kindgom is without end is it not (Isaiah 9:7)? Well, what is the point of the shepherd (God’s picture of ruling)? To bring the sheep to green pasture and still waters. Why did God set up judges? They were not to rule over, but to judge between. Two people could not see past their own desires so they went to a judge who know God’s Torah and asked, how do we resolve this?
Notice resolution is the goal. The goal is peace and love between the two neighbors. The judge is not brought in to benefit, but to help these two parties to love each other because the judge loves them (you cannot know the Torah and forget to love your neighbor). Only the inability of two people to do love to one another necessitates the government at all. If I love you, then I will not try to oppress you or harm you. And you likewise. If I happen to harm you in some way, you can simply say to me “that hurt.” And because I love you, I will want to make restitution. There is no need for a judge except for spiritual blindness.
So who will reign? Those who have been faithful to Messiah. Those who have not taught others to break Torah. So what kind of rulers will these people be? Subjugating kings or judges? Judges! The kind of shepherds whose goal is to protect the sheep.
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
That’s the kind of rulers God wants. And it explains why their reign is thousand years. Because what is the promise of the New Covenant? That every brother and sister would know YHVH. In the end, God’s work through these rulers who are the faithful brothers and sisters that we see amongst us, will end with those unfaithful stewards coming to the place of faithfulness.
Why then would you still need rulers? You wouldn’t! The promise of reigning will include reward. God’s word says the worker is worth his hire, so I’m sure those rulers will have many rewards, bigger house, the choicest land–sure–but part of that reward is the great work with God of ministering to people. Not being served grapes while you lie on a couch, it is the honor of being a shepherd of God’s flock.
No wonder I would dread the idea of being waited on by people I know and love. That may happen, but it will only happen in the context of what it does to bring them to the same place of faithfulness. That’s the beauty of God’s ways. His goal is never to leave someone down low, but to bring them up. His purpose is not to elevate one above another, but to put that person in a position to help someone who needs it.
The blessing of position is that its the place from which you can serve God in a greater scope.