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Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1)
It is a wonderful promise: Behold, a king will reign in righteousness. Yet it is important to remember that Isaiah the prophet made this promise in a certain context. In the previous chapter, God assured the rulers and people that the Assyrians would be judged and Judah would be delivered. But God didn’t want only to remove the threat; He also wanted to bless Judah with a righteous king. Therefore this promise was made.
The kingdom of Judah had endured bad kings, so it was a great promise: A king will reign in righteousness. In some sense, King Hezekiah fulfilled this prophecy. It was written of him: “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done… He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:3, 5-6). That certainly describes a king who reigns in righteousness.
Yet when we read the words, a king will reign in righteousness we also recognize that ultimately Hezekiah was a picture of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 23:5 announced this about our Messiah: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.”
So this promise may well have had its original reference to Hezekiah and the godliness and success of his reign. Nevertheless, Hezekiah and his reign was in some ways a picture of Jesus and His ultimate kingdom. We can say with the Puritan writer Matthew Poole, “So this prophecy looks through Hezekiah unto Christ.”
We also notice the second part of the promise: and princes will rule with justice. It wasn’t enough – and it is never enough – to have a righteous king. The king must have helpers (here called princes) beside him, who will also rule with justice. Hezekiah had such loyal princes, such as Eliakim, Shebna the scribe, the elders of the priests, and Isaiah himself (as described in 2 Kings 19:2).
These men were not princes in the literal sense of being sons of King Hezekiah. The Hebrew word for princes can mean any ruler under a king; simply, someone who helps the king and carries out His orders under His authority.
Think about it for a moment. If Hezekiah, the righteous king, points to Jesus, then who are Jesus’ princes? We can say that His people are His princes and princesses! Read carefully 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Or again at Revelation 5:10: “And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
This is a high and glorious destiny that God has for His people in ages to come. Such a high and glorious destiny needs a special preparation. We should care about faithfulness and justice right now; not only for the moment, but also because the present moment has a wonderful purpose in the world beyond. We are in training to be “princes,” faithfully ruling with King Jesus. We can think about this destiny, and thank God for how He prepares us for it.