Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Messiah Most High Pt. 1a

Sam Shamoun

This is a continuation of our previous discussion concerning the Old Testament’s witness to the divinity of the Messianic King.


The Problem

According to the Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh is not just the Most High over all the earth,

For You are the Lord Most High (elyon) over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.” Psalm 97:9

He is actually the only One that is:

“That they may know that You ALONE, whose name is the Lord, Are the Most High (elyon) over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18

And yet these inspired writings testify that God appointed king David to be the Most High over all the kings of the earth:

“I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth. For I have said, ‘Lovingkindness will be built up forever; In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.’ ‘I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever And build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah… Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, And said, ‘I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; With My holy oil I have anointed himMy faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, And in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea And his right hand on the rivers. He will cry to Me, “You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.” I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest (elyon) of the kings of the earth.’” Psalm 89:1-4, 19-20, 24-27

Here, the Psalmist reiterates the promise that God made to David elsewhere that he shall reign over the entire earth and all her kings:

“Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed (mashicho), saying, Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!’… ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not 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 2:1-3, 6-12

Thus, not only did God promise to exalt David to rule as the Most High,

“I myself make him the firstborn, Most High over the kings of the earth.” Psalm 89:27 New American Bible Revised Edition (NASBRE)

He even swore that his anointed king would share in his ownership of the world and all that it contains:

“The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all it contains, You have founded them.” Psalm 89:11 – cf. 24:1

“Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” Psalm 82:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Yet this immediately raises a problem, namely, how could David be allowed to reign as the Most High when the inspired Scriptures teach that this is a position which belongs to Yahweh God alone?


The Solution

The solution is to be found in the very promises which God made to and about David. We need to keep in mind that the latter never took possession of all the nations, nor did he ever rule over the rest of the kings of the earth. Therefore, it was left to one of his future descendants to fulfill all the blessings which God swore to give to David, just as the Scriptures themselves attest:

“‘My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever And his throne as the days of heaven. If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, If they violate My statutes And do not keep My commandments, Then I will punish their transgression with the rod And their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever And his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, And the witness in the sky is faithful.’ Selah. But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your anointed (mashicheka). You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown in the dust. You have broken down all his walls; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass along the way plunder him; He has become a reproach to his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice. You also turn back the edge of his sword And have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease And cast his throne to the ground. You have shortened the days of his youth; You have covered him with shame. Selah. How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? Remember what my span of life is; For what vanity You have created all the sons of men! What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, Which You swore to David in Your faithfulness? Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Your servants; How I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples, With which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, With which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed (mashicheka). Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.” Psalm 89:28-52

Here the Psalmist laments the fact that God seems to have neglected the covenant which he made with David since he hadn’t appointed a man to sit on David’s throne as King over Israel, even though God himself swore that his covenant with David is an irrevocable one, a fact reiterated in the following passages:

“Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you. When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.” 1 Chronicles 17:10b-14

“Remember, O Lord, on David’s behalf, All his affliction; How he swore to the Lord And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, ‘Surely I will not enter my house, Nor lie on my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids, Until I find a place for the Lord, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.’… For the sake of David Your servant, Do not turn away the face of Your anointed (mashicheka). The Lord has sworn to David A truth from which He will not turn back: ‘Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. If your sons will keep My covenant And My testimony which I will teach them, Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.’” Psalm 132:1-5, 10-12

With each newly appointed king, Israel hoped that God’s oath would finally be realized. Yet as the Holy Bible itself attests, none of David’s successors were able to realize God’s promises since none of them were able to serve God with absolute, perfect integrity.

However, the fact that the Holy Spirit inspired men to refer to the promises God had made to David during a time when Israel no longer had a king ruling over them, indicates that God hadn’t forgotten his oath to his beloved servant. God still had every intention of fulfilling the oath he had made to his anointed king, just as the following prophecies indicate:

“Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king’s son… May he also rule from sea to sea And from the River to the ends of the earth. Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, And his enemies lick the dust. Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him… So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him; And let them pray for him continually; Let them bless him all day long… May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines; And let men bless themselves by him; Let all nations call him blessed.” Psalm 72:1, 8-11, 15, 17

And here is how certain Jewish sources interpreted this Psalm:

Composed by Solomon, uttered in prophecy. O God, give your just rulings to the King Messiah, and your righteousness to the son of King David. (Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation, 2001; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The promise that the Messianic king shall rule over the earth is repeated, along with the assurance that all the kings and nations shall do homage to God’s appointed ruler.

What makes this rather astonishing is that the king is depicted as receiving the honor that only Yahweh God is supposed to receive. For instance, God expressly warned his people that they were to serve and bow down to him alone:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6 ESV

“You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” Deuteronomy 10:20

“Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’” 1 Samuel 7:3

And yet in Psalm 72, God expects all the nations to bow down and serve his appointed ruler in the same way!

This next passage brings this out more clearly since it speaks of the Davidic king receiving the same service or homage that God receives:

“‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. But they shall serve the Lord their God AND David their king, whom I will raise up for them… Their leader shall be one of them, And their ruler shall come forth from their midst; And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:9, 21

David here refers to the One who is to come from David’s line, as we are about to discover.

In fact, we are even told that the Israelites were to fear God’s appointed king in the same way that they feared God:

“My son, fear the Lord AND the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change,” Proverbs 24:21

The following text helps us see why God’s anointed one could be given such glory and honor:

“Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is HIS NAME by which he shall be called: Yahweh our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6 World English Bible (WEB)

The ruler who is to descend from David’s loins is said to be Yahweh himself coming to save and rule with perfect justice. Name here signifies the nature and function of this king, and therefore confirms that this coming Davidic ruler shall be Yahweh who justifies or makes his people righteous:

shall be called, the Lord — that is, shall be (Isaiah 9:6) “Jehovah,” God‘s incommunicable name. Though when applied to created things, it expresses only some peculiar connection they have with Jehovah (Genesis 22:14; Exodus 17:15), yet when applied to Messiah it must express His Godhead manifested in justifying power towards us (1 Timothy 3:16).

our — marks His manhood, which is also implied in His being a Branch raised unto David, whence His human title, “Son of David” (compare Matthew 22:42-45).

Righteousness — marks His Godhead, for God alone can justify the ungodly (compare Romans 4:5; Isaiah 45:17, Isaiah 45:24, Isaiah 45:25). (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible; bold emphasis ours)

During His reign, Judah and Israel would experience salvation and security. People would refer to Him as "Yahweh our righteousness." This strongly indicates that this King would be Yahweh Himself ruling in righteousness (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). His name appears to be a play on the name Zedekiah, which probably means, "Yahweh is my righteousness." If so, this prophecy probably dates from Zedekiah's reign. Ironically, Zedekiah was anything but righteous. (Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable; bold emphasis ours)

With that said, we are now ready to turn to the next section of our discussion where we will have more to say concerning the divinity of God’s anointed one.