Humans as the king’s agents

What does it mean to be human?

To err is human, and I’m only human. The way we spin it, it sounds like being human is a liability. Perhaps we’re still seeking our identity.

The Bible takes a very high view of humanity. We’re designed and empowered to represent the highest sovereign in his early kingdom. Ancient kings loved to place statues of themselves throughout their realm so people would recognize their ruler. The greatest king of all set up not stone images but living images, authorized agents to help him manage his earthly realm (Genesis 1:26-28).

When you look into someone’s eyes, you’re looking at a God-representative, an image of our king. We need to see each other like that.

But God’s agents turned hostile. In an act of treachery, they grasped at his power, wanting to be gods instead of God’s agents. The results are devastating. Our coup failed, but we introduced conflict and strife instead of peace. By disconnecting from our life-source, we introduced death into his realm.

Inevitably, taking power over each other results in violence. Cain takes the life of his brother. Violence is the primary expression of our sin against God.

When you look into someone’s eyes, you see someone capable of asserting themselves violently, acting independently of the love of our king. That can be terrifying, especially when you’re looking in a mirror.

And yet, God still makes himself known through his earthly agents. Despite all the violence, our heavenly sovereign committed himself to never give up on us, no matter how hard we are to manage. This is the first formal covenant made by our king with the people of all nations, all creatures, his entire earthly realm (Genesis 9:8-17).

How will God’s kingship over the nations be restored, now the nations have gone their own way, under their own rulers, far from his kingship? What God did was to call one family out of the region of Babel where kingdoms like Assyria and Babylon assert themselves in opposition to God’s kingship (Genesis 10:8–12).

He calls Abraham to leave the region of earthly power, to set off for a place where God would create his own kingdom among the nations. God makes himself known through Abraham’s family. Of course he does: humans were designed to image God on earth.

The heavenly king frees his chosen people from the oppressive reign of Pharaoh. With the Sinai covenant and the royal law, Israel becomes the first nation on earth to be restored to the reign of the heavenly king.

But Israel struggled with their commission to reveal earth’s true sovereign to the nations. Resisting their heavenly sovereign, they fell back under the oppressive rule of the nations, the rulers of this world.

As they suffered at the hands of the beasts that run this world, Daniel heard the promise that our ancient ruler (the Ancient of Days) would take the kingdom from the beasts and give it to someone human-like (one like a son of man), so the people of God would reign with him forever.

And you know how Jesus received the kingdom. Though he did no evil (no violence was found in him), he was condemned to death by the beasts that run this world. He was raised to life by the eternal sovereign and given unlimited authority to represent him in heaven and on earth.

Here, for the first time in history, we see a true human — the son of man with no selfish agenda, the person who truly represented God’s reign on earth. Jesus is the face of the restored human, the face of restored humanity — with faithful allegiance and empowered authority to represent God’s kingship on earth.

So, what does it mean to be human? We’re God-reflectors, agents of the heavenly king to care for his earthly realm. Sure, we need to be restored: our king has that in hand.

Good news: the restoration of his kingship is the restoration of our humanity.

God is king. That defines who we are.

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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