The Kingdom of God has been a topic of interest since I become a believer. In seminary, my studies in Biblical Theology afforded me the chance to really dig in on some aspects of it. I remember reading George Ladd for the first time and realizing that the word “kingdom” in both Hebrew and Greek could mean a place (England), a people (the English), or the reign of the King (During Henry VIII’s Kingdom, the Reformation began in England), with the latter being the primary use when discussing God’s Kingdom – it’s about HIS REIGN. That was mind blowing for me.
One thing we did not discuss as much was the nature of the Kingdom flowing out of the nature of the King. We did discuss what God’s consummated reign my look like, but we failed to connect it to the very character of our God-King himself. The reign of God is the way it is because that is what GOD HIMSELF is like! That’s something that has been of interest to me recently. So, in this and the next 3 posts, I’m going to unpack what that means for us.
I heard Glen Scrivener tell a story once about Tom Wright. Tom Wright was a chaplain at Merton College, which is a part of Oxford University from 1975-1978. One of the rules at the time was that every student had to meet with the chaplain at least once. As you can imagine, that was often quite uncomfortable for the majority of students who self-identified as agnostic or atheist. Often a student would say, “I have to meet with you, but I don’t believe in God.”
Eventually, Wright grew curious, and started responding, “That’s interesting. Which one? Which God don’t you believe in?” Taken aback the students would think for a moment and then describe the god in which they didn’t believe. After they shared, Wright, with relief in his voice, would say, “Oh, that’s fantastic, I don’t believe in that god either.”
It was fascinating how close the descriptions all seemed to be. They used different words, but all were essentially in agreement on the key content of who this god was. They spoke of a god that was more like…
- A cosmic hall monitor, the govenator, dishing out divine decrees simply to flex his muscles.
- He’s a withdrawn, fickle, and impersonal deity, looking for whom he might smite with a great smiting…smoting…let’s go with smiting?
- He’s what James Torrence called “a contract god.” If you want his blessing, or at least for him not to wipe you off the face of the earth, you better perform.
What they all have in common is that these are all descriptions of POWER. That’s what comes to mind. A Lord, that is, a King, that is all power and little of anything else.
Well, no wonder they didn’t want a god like that. Michael Reeves says “you don’t love a god like that. You might be grateful that he doesn’t kill you, but you’ll never love him. that this sort of god is like a cosmic speed camera. He may let you off with a warning, for which you may be grateful, but he’s never won your heart.”
AND THESE DESCRIPTIONS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE GOD OF THE BIBLE. What we’ll see instead is that God’s kingship, his dominion, even when he gives law (because he does that), but everything he does, every part of his kingship – it flows from a completely different fountain. At the heart of God’s dominion is this principle: MY LIFE FOR YOURS.
Think of it like this: What was God doing before Creation? Jesus said a few very interesting things. In his prayer in John 17.5, he talks about the glory that he and the Father shared together before the world existed (17.5). In verse 24, he says to the Father, “you loved me before the foundation of the world.” From all eternity past, we see fellowshipping together, sharing together, giving to each other. I’ve heard one preacher say this: “There are no mirrors in the Trinity.” Jesus isn’t checking himself out making sure he looks as good as the Father. The Holy Spirit isn’t worried that the Son is receiving more glory…NO, they are enjoying each other, giving to each other. And that is the heart of God’s Kingship. Self-giving, self-deferring, sacrificial love is THE mark of a real king because that’s the marker of the real God.
But that’s nowhere near what most people think, even Christians, when they consider that God is King, God is ruler. God’s Kingship is this: MY LIFE FOR YOURS. Or we might say from our perspective “His life for ours,” “THE KING’S LIFE FOR MINE.” That is what Biblical Kingship should look like, because that’s what God’s rule looks like.
So, let’s look at this MY LIFE FOR YOURS kingship in Scripture. We’re going to see that this is what good earthly rule looks like, but we’re also gonna see WAAAAAAAY more that it’s all here to point us to His rule, to our good King – King Jesus. We will see, in the end, that our God isn’t a cosmic traffic camera, willing to give us a free pass in return for good behavior and a little gratitude. No, He means to win our hearts. To WIN OUR HEARTS.
So, in the next post, we’ll look at King David and how God’s character shaped his reign. The following post, we’ll look at Absalom, David’s son, as a negative example of what we’re talking about. Finally, we’ll look to Christ, and ask about how we ought to respond. These two earthly kings are going to help us see Jesus more clearly and that His reign flows directly out of His heart!