The origins of Christmas go back much further than Bethlehem. Christmas was first promised in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned and before their expulsion from the garden, when God promised that the seed of Eve would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Bethlehem was the place where that child was born and so we celebrate His incarnation as the prelude to that crushing blow He delivered at Calvary.
Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, believed in this promise and so by divine inspiration gave his greatest blessing not to his firstborn, but to Judah:
Judah, thou are he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thy enemies: thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and an old lion; who shall rouse him up? (Gen. 49: 8-9)
These words promise a position of prominence to Judah, one even greater than his brothers or their descendants. Judah’s future is compared to a lion’s cub; it will mature on prey; its power and strength will grow like a cub fed by it mother’s prowess. Judah’s prominence is also compared to an old lion’s: even when he crouches down to rest he will be dangerous so that none will dare trifle with him.
Then Jacob continued in verse 10:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come: and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
This speaks of a royal and religious power given to Judah, but a power that would be passed on to another, to Shiloh. “Shiloh” means “whose right it is,” or “he whose right it is.” Judah was given a preeminence even over other Hebraic tribes as a custodian of the kingship and royal line that belonged to another, to “he whose right it is.” The right was not Judah’s. Judah was a stand-in for the Messiah pending His coming. Because of Jacob’s prophetic blessing, Jesus Christ is rightly called “the lion of the tribe of Judah.”
Israel was all about Shiloh. In our era of envy, we wrongly see possession or position as someone else’s deprivation. We cannot be envious of either Israel’s general or Judah’s more specific privilege or we deny their privilege was of God. Israel was given a responsibility. In the tribe of Judah, it possessed a place and a power as a trustee of a royal power until its rightful owner came to claim it.
Likewise, we cannot say the church as the body of Christ has taken anything from Israel or we deny God’s sovereign prerogative to exercise grace. Neither Israel nor the church ever have possessed or now possess anything by right. All is of grace. All right, dominion, and authority belong to God incarnate, to Shiloh, He Whose right it is.
Bethlehem was God’s invasion of man’s pretense to control history. Bethlehem was the beginning of the end for Satan, and Calvary was the death-blow to Satan’s head. Since these watershed events, all men are now in one of two groups: those who know the Messiah by faith or those who will know Him as their judge.
Today we are far advanced in the Kingdom of God and His Christ. We ought not to focus on the current low ebb in the history of the Western church. The Kingdom is growing. Everyday the right of Jesus Christ becomes more apparent. This is why Christianity is opposed; the world knows its antithesis is the Christian faith.
God spoke of the overthrow of the ancient world and its pretentions to glory when He proclaimed to Ezekiel:
I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. (Ezek. 21:27)
Jesus Christ claimed this authority when He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt.28:18), and, based on this right, commissioned us in His name as co-equal with the Father and the Spirit to teach all nations and baptize them into citizenship in His Kingdom. To the churches in Asia (Rev. 2-3) God gave blessings on those who overcame the tree of life, immunity from final judgment, our name memorialized, power over nations, pure raiment, and the privilege of sitting with Christ at His throne.
When Jesus Christ, the overturner, He Whose right it is, came into the world, it plotted His downfall. Herod failed at Bethlehem, as did the later plots of the religious leaders until Jesus Christ yielded up His life for us. Since then, the world has often been vicious toward Christ and His church.
Humanism, my father once wrote, is the world’s second oldest religion. Humanism is the elevation of man to a position that rightfully belongs to God; it is, in effect, the worship of man, or at least his will. Humanism says the right is man’s. It says the lie of Satan that man could be as gods can still be made good, that the right can be man’s. But history is the progressive defeat of all such pretentions and the establishment of Shiloh as He Whose right it is.
The rule of Jesus Christ is without limit; it entails “all power” both “in heaven and in earth.” Man’s authoritarianism always unleashes the implications of his sinful nature, but the authority of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, unleashes the fullness of His righteousness and blessing. As the carol reminds us, there is cause for joy because “the Lord is come! Let earth receive its King!”
The battle of human history is not over, but the victory is sealed, and we can stand secure in being on the side of Jesus Christ, the victorious lord and King of heaven and earth, because He is Shiloh, He Whose right it is.
Rev. Mark R. Rushdoony is president of Chalcedon and Ross House Books. He is also editor-in-chief of Faith for All of Life and Chalcedon’s other publications.
Used by Permission © 2012