The Return of the King

A difficult concept for Americans to grasp is kingship. We are the nation who threw off the tyranny of King George III, ever since we have been led by elected politicians. Few ruling monarchs are left in the world. Those who still exist are often little more than figures of state, like Britain’s Queen. Our mental image of an actual king is closer to a dictator, tyrant, or despot than anything else. This puts us at a disadvantage when Jesus talks about his kingdom coming.

When God reveals himself to Moses and Israel as Yahweh (rendered in most English Bibles as ‘the LORD’ with all letters capitalized) he presents himself as a king. The covenant given to Israel, which includes the Ten Commandments, is presented in the form of a king making a unilateral treaty with his subjects. He is the King who won them from Pharaoh King of Egypt. He tells them that if they follow his commandments he promises to bless them and if they don’t they will be punished. It is essentially a constitutional monarchy with the king alone writing the constitution. This is the exact opposite of what happened when angry nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in England.

This theme of kingship is carried throughout the Bible. 1 Samuel 8:7 shows that Israel’s desire for a king was because they had rejected God as their king. When looking at David’s life you get the sense that he was such a good king because he recognized that he was a vassal king serving underneath Yahweh the Great King.  Fast forward to the New Testament and we discover people calling Jesus Lord. Not only is this a reference to Yahweh of the Old Testament, but the Greek word was often used to refer to rulers, including the Roman Emperor. Calling Jesus Lord has a lot of significance to it, probably most significantly that of kingship.

Christianity is not a democracy. It is not even a republic. It is a constitutional monarchy where we had no part in writing the constitution. Something about this grates my American soul. We Americans love voting, we voting over everything. Can’t we sign a petition about adultery or present a referendum. The law feels a little too strict; perhaps we could vote on a measure making it a little more inclusive. What should give us comfort is that our king is wholly good. The biggest problem with having a king is the possibility of a bad one. God is always good. Furthermore, he is a king who has “limited” himself by means of a written agreement. He has given clear instructions on how to follow him. He has given promises, binding himself to respond to our actions in certain ways. We have a good king.

When we realize Jesus is our king it forces us to change the way we think. If it helps remember what it felt like to read old stories about kings, Arthur, David, Beowulf, Aragorn, and Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. All good kings are only reflections of the one true king. A good king is someone you will follow into any danger and give your life for. He is your protector and master, deserving of all your devotion. An army without its king is like a body without its head. A good king is someone you follow, not just because you must, but because you also love following him. I could go on, but there are stories which capture what I am trying to say much better.

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