The first proclamations of the coming of Jesus Christ go back to the very beginnings of history, to the birth of time. In the Garden of Eden, as sentence is passed on mankind, the promise is given of restoration through the seed of the woman, who shalt "bruise," or literally, crush the Serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). The coming of the promised Son is the institution of victory.
Later, the dying Jacob prophesied concerning the coming of the Son. Again there is the note of militancy and victory. The Son is to come through the Tribe of Judah, and Judah's military power is particularly noted. The great Victor of all history is to be born of warrior's blood. "Judah is a lion's whelp," Jacob declared, one who goes up, or grows up, on prey (Gen. 49:9).
But Judah is only a custodian of power, a symbol of dominion, who holds his sway until the Great One comes, He whose right it is. "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" (Gen. 49:10). Power must be husbanded for the Man of Power, Shiloh. The Jewish Targums paraphrase "until Shiloh comes," with "until the time when the King Messiah comes to whom it belongeth." The scepter of power and dominion belong to the Christ, and the source of law is the ultimate law-giver, the Christ. Shiloh is a name of the Messiah, and it can mean "To whom it belongs," or "he whose (right) it is."
The meaning of the name Judah is "God shall be praised." Jacob began his prophecy, "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." In Genesis 29:35, we read that Leah "conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord — therefore she called his name Judah." The hand of Judah, Jacob went on to declare, "shall be on the neck of thine enemies," and his brothers would acknowledge his authority and power. As E. W. Hengstenberg declared, "Judah would be his brothers' forechampion in the warfare against the world, and God has endowed him with conquering power against the enemies of His kingdom." But the meaning of Judah is Shiloh, and in Shiloh dominion will be realized. As Solomon declared, "All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him" (Ps. 72:11). David was equally emphatic: "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee" (Ps. 22:17). Again, "All nations whom thou has made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name" (Ps. 86:9).
The Messiah is the One to whom all dominion, power, and authority belong: He is Shiloh, He whose right it is. The scepter of dominion is His, and He is the law-giver and the source of all law. His coming will mark the beginning of a battle unto victory against all who arrogate dominion unto themselves.
According to Numbers 24:17, a scepter, the scepter of world and universal dominion, rises out of Israel in the person of the Messiah. He shall arise to wage war against and to destroy all sons of the tumult (or Sheth, Num. 24:17). The tumult of the nations shall give way to the reign of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
Unto Him shall be "the gathering" or obedience of the peoples (Gen. 49:10). Jesus Christ has a title to and an absolute claim on the obedience of all peoples, and He shall establish this right by overturning all things that deny, neglect, or oppose Him. The name Shiloh, He whose right it is, is echoed in Ezekiel 21:27, wherein God declares, concerning the ancient world, "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." The whole of the Old Testament era is a great shaking of the nations, a shattering of the conspiracies of men against God, to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Now that He has come, the great and final shaking is underway. Its meaning, St. Paul declared, is "the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Heb. 12:27).
Therefore, when Christ, the Great Overturner, was born, the world in the person of King Herod struck at Him, striving to kill Him, knowing that Christ alive meant the defeat and death of the fallen world order. Earth and hell joined in the events of His birth, temptation, trial, and crucifixion, in a grand design to overturn God's plan, to shake God's eternal decree, and to establish their own pretended right. The issue was joined: Who is Shiloh? The whole point of the fall was that man said, I am Shiloh, I am he whose right it is. This is and must be a democratic universe, one in which every man has the right to be his own god, choosing or determining what constitutes good and evil for himself. There is no paradise of man possible apart from this faith. On this premise, fallen man operates, and on this premise he claims autonomy, declaring his independence from God and man, from all morality not made by man, and from all claims of authority over him. And the result, from the days of the judges to the present is the same, whenever and wherever God the Sovereign King is denied: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Jud. 21:25).
The State as Shiloh
So too the modern state declares itself to be Shiloh, he whose right it is. The modern state acknowledges no law beyond itself, no law-giver save itself, no savior beyond man, and no binding power beyond time and history. It sometimes disguises its hatred by a show of tolerance for Christianity, but that toleration is itself a form of declaring that Biblical faith is irrelevant. If the claims of Scripture and the God of Scripture are true, then there is no way in which men and institutions can sidestep the absolute requirement of total submission to Jesus Christ as Lord. Their option is only Christ for judgment: there is no life apart from Him, not any order possible in contempt of him.
For the state to attempt, as twentieth century states do, to establish an order apart from Christ is to say that God is not the Lord, and that the universe is open to other claims of deity and sovereignty.
At the first Christmas, the battle was joined, church (the priests), state (Herod), and fallen humanity against the Christ-child. At the crucifixion, the battle continued, with priests, Sanhedrin, and Rome united in striving to destroy the King. In virtually every capitol in the world today, the battle continues, as new sanhedrins, called parliaments, congresses, national assemblies, and like names, seek to set aside and suppress the claims of Christ as absolute Lord and only Savior. The new Herods and Pilates seek sanctimoniously to wash their hands of Him and then to go about their own great business of creating a paradise on earth without God, and the only result is hell on earth.
Gil Elliott in his Twentieth Century Book of the Dead (1972), tells us that in the twentieth century, the era of the triumph of humanism, between 89 and 159 million people have died in war and revolution, and their related violences, famines, slave labor camps, and the like. His statistics err on the side of conservatism; at some points, very able historians would even double the figure. Nor does he include other forms of mass murders, such as abortions. What Elliot does point out, however, is that every attempt to call some other era more bloody is untenable: "[E]very attempt to do so shows the twentieth century to be incomparably the more violent period." (This, of course, does not deter humanistic scholars from viewing with horror the sins of Christian rulers in the past, while seeing all the events of the present as a prelude to paradise. But, as Solzhenitsyn observes, in The Gulag Archipelago, "pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig.")
To the question, Who is Shiloh?, the twentieth century rarely answers, Jesus Christ. Even among those who profess to call Him Savior, too few will also acknowledge Him to be the Lord. But, if He is not our Lord, He is not our Savior. Jesus Christ is not an insurance agent, writing out an insurance policy on us, and then making no further claim on us, as long as our policy is paid up with modest sums from time to time. He is Shiloh, He whose right it is, and He will not surrender His sovereignty unto any other.
Because Jesus Christ is Shiloh, our world is under judgment for refusing to acknowledge Him Lord and Savior. These troubled times should not distress or trouble us: they are evidences that Shiloh is at work, shaking the things which can be shaken, so that the unshakeable may alone remain. He will overturn our humanistic world, shatter its pride, autonomy, and complacency, and He shall reign in both judgment and in peace. It is He and not the world who is our peace. In the troubled world of His birth, the glorious song of the heavenly host was "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Lk. 2:14). The meaning of this peace, our Savior-King declares, is Himself. "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition" between God and man (Eph. 2:14). By means of His grace and law-word, all things are to be brought into and under His peace. His strong and calming word to us is this: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (Jn. 14:27).