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Jan 07, 2018

For King and Country

Passage: 1 Chronicles 17:1-19

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: The Grand Story of God

Category: The Grand Story of God

Keywords: actual, catholic, covenant, king david, kingdom, kingdom of god, mystery, response, righteousness, virtual

Summary:

Our fifth EPIC Sunday introduces to us the key biblical reality ‘the Kingdom of God.’ So far we’ve celebrated creation and mourned humanity’s fall into sin. And now we are in the longest earthly chapter of the story, redemption. God is out to get back what belongs to him. The Lord responded to sin with the covenant promise of grace. ‘Covenant’ is another of those key words we need to know. It means promise and it is stronger than a contract because covenant keeping is the means to love God, love our neighbors, and love Christ’s church. When the Triune God makes a covenant with David to make him king over Israel, the Lord also promises to provide an eternal ruler. Remember all those Christmas carols that refer to Jesus as David’s son? Jesus is Lord, he is King of kings. The Kingdom of God is God’s rule over all creation, already being fulfilled, but not yet fully completed. The Kingdom of God is the reason faith in Jesus is not just about Sunday worship, but also Monday work, and Friday night leisure, and Sabbath rest. Praying God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, has blessed the world with education, medicine, freedom, scientific discovery, and artistic beauty. We’ll learn together about the ‘Kingdom of God.’

Detail:

King and Country:

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,

celebrates the reign of Aslan

and the restoration of Narnia

with a coronation ceremony.

Peter and Edmund are crowned kings,

Susan and Lucy are crowned queens.

“Aslan solemnly crowned them

and led them to the four thrones

amid deafening shouts of,

“Long live King Peter! Long live Queen Susan!

Long live Ling Edmund! Long live Queen Lucy!

“Once a king or queen in Narnia,

always a king or queen,” said Aslan.

“Bear it well, sons of Adam!

Bear it well, daughters of Eve!”

CS Lewis is saying that all God’s people

are to be kings and queens in the Kingdom of God. Each one of us shares in the anointing

of the Lord and Savior

to join in the rule of righteousness and peace,

to use language from our catechism.

 

Faith means bearing well our anointing.

For we live in the kingdom of God.

That’s key to understanding

what belief in Jesus is all about

and what faith is supposed to mean and look like.

 

But if I say, ‘kingdom of God,’

do you know what that is?

How to define it?

What that means?

Say the word ‘kingdom’

and images of World of Warcraft

or Game of Thrones, not so good for you,

or Lord of the Rings, better for you,

come to mind.

Kingdom sounds like spears and shields

and lords and vassals to us.

 

But kingdom language starts in the Old Testament with the covenant God made to David.

We read it from 1 Chronicles 17.

The promise is a king from the family line of David will reign forever over God’s people.

verses 7-8:

‘This is what the Lord Almighty says:

I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock,

and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.

8 I have been with you wherever you have gone,

and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name

like the names of the greatest men on earth.

and verse 14 - I will set him over my house

and my kingdom forever;

his throne will be established forever.’

 

God promises – God covenants – with David the King, and so with the people of God,

to establish a ruler over the people of God

for all time and into eternity.

Through the king God will reign over his people

and bring peace, meaning, human flourishing,

and all creation being made right.

When we pay attention to the words of this passage we hear echoes of the covenant promise to Abraham.

There God said: I will establish you

I, I, I, over and over – this is grace, the LORD

choosing to act in our lives

to deliver and complete godly intentions for life.

Now here too, in the promise of a king

from David’s family line.

The occasion is David desiring to build a temple

for worshiping the Lord.

But God thru the prophet Nathan says NO,

this is not for David to do.

Instead, God insists on what the LORD will do

for David:

I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock,

and appointed you ruler over my people Israel . . .

I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever;

his throne will be established forever.’”

 

5 times God said ‘I will’ to Abraham –

12 times God says ‘I will’ to David.

This is God’s gracious response to David’s desire

to build the temple.

The Lord accenting God’s sovereign rule and power

in order to take away any temptation David

might have in his own status and power.

Living well in the kingdom of God

is found in submitting ourselves

to the Lord’s way and will.

To pray: Your kingdom come;

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Rule over my life;

reign over my circumstances.

 

David responds in thanksgiving:

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family,

that you have brought me this far?

For the sake of your servant

and according to your will,

you have done this great thing

and made known all these great promises.

 

That’s gratitude language.

That’s how we are to respond with our lives,

thankfully giving the Triune God the glory due.

 

And notice, David speaks

in such humble and thankful terms

DESPITE being told no.

He desired to build the temple.

At first the prophet said this is good.

And it was a good desire.

But it was not God’s will.

So the Lord said no.

Instead the Lord led David

to respond to God’s promises

and trust his choices and decisions

to the covenant way of God.

David responds with thanksgiving:

did you catch the royal language?

‘You, Lord God, have looked on me

as though I were the most exalted of men.’

I’m thinking of Narnia again.

Of Aslan commanding:

“Once a king or queen in Narnia,

always a king or queen,” said Aslan.

“Bear it well, sons of Adam!

Bear it well, daughters of Eve!”

What matters is not whether we get our way

or get to do what we want,

but if we live thankfully responding

to what God has promised.

 

We are citizens of the kingdom,

we are servants in the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, Seek first the kingdom of God

and its righteousness . . .

this is the key to living well and richly:

all these things will be added to you, he added,

he said of those who bear it well!

This gracious exaltation of the sons of Adam

and the daughters of Eve.

 

The kingdom of God:

This means the active rule and reign of God

over all people and creation,

and our delight and desire

to respond thankfully to the LORD.

3 big words to understand the Bible are:

kingdom, covenant and church.

The church is the fellowship

of God’s covenant people

and their mission is seeking first – desiring –

the righteousness of God’s kingdom reign and rule over all creation.

 

Jesus first words and last speak of the kingdom:

Mark 1:15 - “The time has come,” he said.

“The kingdom of God has come near.

Repent and believe the good news!”

Acts 1:3 reports what Jesus taught his disciples

after Easter resurrection:

He appeared to them over a period of forty days

and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

The Apostle Paul’s gospel teachings

are summarized this way

at the end of the book of Acts:

Acts 28:31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God

and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—

with all boldness and without hindrance!

 

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s kingdom promise.

Jeremiah 33 –

"14 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD,

'when I will fulfill the gracious promise

I made to the house of Israel

and to the house of Judah.

   15 In those days and at that time

   I will make a righteous Branch

sprout from David's line;

   he will do what is just and right in the land.

   16 In those days Judah will be saved

   and Jerusalem will live in safety.

   This is the name by which it will be called:

   The LORD Our Righteousness.'

 

The Christmas carols we sang last month

refer to Jesus as king

and from the line of David for this reason.

carols like:

Hark the herald angels sing,

glory to the newborn king . . .

and, Joy to the world, the Lord is come,

let earth receive her king,

and, O come thou branch of Jesse’s stem . . .

O come, O key of David, come . . .

 

And we trust and obey looking forward

to the time when God’s kingdom is fully come:

from Our World Belongs to God –

We live confidently,

anticipating his coming,

offering him our daily lives—

our acts of kindness,

our loyalty, and our love—

knowing that he will weave

even our sins and sorrows

into his sovereign purpose.

 

So let’s get some kingdom thinking into our faith.

What are the characteristics

of God’s kingdom reign and rule?

Robert Capon is helpful in pointing out

these teachings of Jesus regarding

the kingdom from the parables he taught:

 

First, the Kingdom of God is catholic, not parochial.

Catholic meaning universal,

found everywhere.

It’s not that God is only present in church things,

or good things,

or my things.

 

The cross reveals that the Lord is present,

reigning as king,

even in the worst of times and situations.

He is with you, always.

The Lord is present

in the life of your friend and neighbor.

And the Lord is present in the sadness,

sorrow and fear of your day.

He has not left you.

Of all the things Pilate could have written

over the cross where Jesus hung

in order to save you and not condemn you,

he wrote, The King . . .

Jesus is king over the crosses we bear, too.

He is king over our church and how we worship

and how we treat each other

and how we welcome the stranger

and how we seek for our communities flourishing.

He is king over your Monday morning at work.

He is king over your wallet and how you spend.

He is king over your friendships and relationships.

He is king over your marriage bed

and your sexual choices.

He is king over your Saturday night leisure

and over your Sunday honoring or dishonoring

of the Sabbath.

 

Frank Sinatra sang, I did it my way.

Billy Joel said, keep it to yourself it’s my life.

I’m sure you can think of similar things said

by artists you listened to this past week.

Christians know that is not the truth.

We confess I am not my own,

but belong, body and soul,

in life and in death,

to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God is catholic, universal,

what have you been keeping from him?

From his rule?

When life doesn’t make sense or isn’t working

look for God’s presence.

With such confession we begin to

seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.

 

The kingdom of God is also a mystery,

instead of being predictable or logical

or able to be manipulated by human force.

David prays,

“Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family,

that you have brought me this far?”

The most powerful man in Israel

couldn’t manipulate this goodness from God.

The promise comes by God’s undeserved favor alone.

So don’t think you can make certain things

happen in your life or your family life

or the life of another by your own effort.

Yes, our faithfulness matters.

Yes, every prayer and hope is heard by the Lord.

But what does the prophet say:

not by might,

nor by power,

but by my Spirit, says the Lord.

 

We can live with mystery because God is good.

Before I rush to judgment,

or despair of hope,

or force my way,

I trust God’s good,

and live patiently, trusting thru the mystery.

 

Third, the kingdom of God is actually present,

not virtually present.

This is transforming news for us

who live more and more in a virtual world

and can wind up thinking of God and faith

in virtual terms too:

Like, all that matters to being a Christian

is that I go to heaven when I die.

That’s virtual thinking.

Being a Christian means to pray God’s will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven, right!

Virtual faith thinking says:

I don’t have time for God right now,

I’ll get to it when I’m older.

Virtual thinking says,

I have a hard time praising God today

because I’m so hurt,

when I’m better

I’ll be more of a witness or worshiper!

This day, this is the day that the Lord has made,

it may be a day of storms and grief,

but let us rejoice and be glad in it, says the psalm,

for Christ is present with us.

Actually.

So each choice or act is a matter of faith.

Holiness matters.

The apostle Paul calls the church: saints.

Saint means a holy person.

Peter cried out when he first met Jesus,

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5)

But Jesus didn’t run out on Peter,

even when Peter ran out on him!

Seeking first God’s kingdom

means desiring holiness.

What will I choose to do this week

simply because Jesus says so?

What will I refrain from doing simply because

I love Jesus more?

That’s actually living by faith in Jesus.

 

For fourth, the kingdom of God demands a response.

 

There is hostility to the Kingdom of God,

there is resistance to God’s reign and rule

over creation.

In our secular age Charles Taylor says

we are tempted to trust our own powers

in pursuing what we think makes for a good life.

What’s the pressure we feel?

Something like being pushed by life and the times to

feel that my highest devotion is

to my own personal human flourishing

which is whatever I decide it should be.

I am free to believe in the god of my making

in order to serve my desires and dreams.

Doesn’t ‘god’ want me to be happy?

My god does!

In so many ways the devil speaks to say to you today:

I must reject Christianity

because it calls for something besides

earthly personal flourishing.

Take up a cross?

Live for God’s glory and not my own?

My one obligation in life is to be true to myself.

 

But Jesus is my king,

so I can respond to such pressure this way:

this is a take on life, the universe, and everything

that comes impersonally,

not really having you in mind.

It is a spin in life that comes from Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche and those like them.

What’s to say this spin is what’s right,

or even right for you?

After all, to be authentic to yourself

you need to be real with your life, right?

Have you never been mistaken?

Are those desires of yours really fulfilling,

or are you just saying so

because everybody else says so.

Why not listen to the One who lived perfectly?

Who made you?

Who lived a full life

and promised abundant life to you?

 

Over and over Jesus said,

He who has ears, let him hear.

He meant we are made to respond

to the Word of God.

James described the healthy response

to Christ’s saving grace this way:

James 2 - 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

15 Suppose a brother or a sister

is without clothes and daily food.

16 If one of you says to them,

“Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”

but does nothing about their physical needs,

what good is it?

17 In the same way, faith by itself,

if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The kingdom demands a response.

 

― Mary Oliver poem:

When it is over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.”

 

We can say the same about the Kingdom of God.

We can’t think of our belief in Jesus

as something like a passport

that we just keep around for identification

or to help us go where we want to go

and get us home again.

We won’t live in the kingdom of God

by just visiting the kingdom

at Sunday morning worship.

 

Bear it well, says Aslan, of our royal coronation.

In each and every situation,

for God is reigning even there.

In the mystery of plans gone wrong or disappointments surrounding us.

Today, not just someday,

respond to the Lord in prayer

praise, trust and obedience.

Respond,

don’t think mom or dad can believe for you,

or faith is just kept in your head like facts and figures.

 

We live for King and Country.

The king is Jesus.

The country is his kingdom righteousness.