John T. Willis

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The People of God--God's Kingdom--II

[Continued from previous blog]

2. Several passages in the First and the Second Testaments affirm that Yahweh is "king" over his chosen people.
In the well-known report of Yahweh's commission to Isaiah to be a prophet in Isaiah 6, the prophet says in verses 1 and 5:
"In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw THE LORD [YAHWEH] SEATED ON A THRONE, HIGH AND EXALTED, and his train filled the temple. . . . 'Woe is me!' I cried, 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have see THE KING, THE LORD [YAHWEH] OF HOSTS [of the heavenly armies--see verses 2-4].'"
The prophet cries out in Isaiah 33:22:
"The Lord [Yahweh] is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is OUR KING;
it is he who will save us."
The possessive pronoun "our" in this passage, of course, is Israel.
Yahweh says in Isaiah 43:15:
"I am the Lord [Yahweh], your Holy One,
Israel's creator, YOUR KING."
See further Micah 2:12-13; 4:6-7; Ezekiel 1:26-28.
Similar passages appear in the Second Testament. 1 Timothy 1:17 says: "Now to THE KING eternal, immortal, invisible, THE ONLY GOD, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15 says: "God, THE BLESSED AND ONLY RULER, THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." The book of Revelation repeatedly describes God as sitting on his throne as king--see for example, Revelation 4:1-11; 7:9-17; 15:1-4; 19:5-7.

The message of the Bible is quite clear that GOD ALONE IS KING, RULER, LEADER of his people. Throughout the centuries, human beings WITHIN GOD'S PEOPLE have tried to usurp God's unique role as LEADER of his people. GOD ALONE is LEADER of his people. All of his people, whatever their functions in God's kingdom may be, are GOD'S SERVANTS.

God specified his vision of Israel's "earthly king" through Moses long before Israel ever asked for an earthly king in this passage in Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

"When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, 'Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,' you may indeed appoint over you the king whom the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, 'You are not to go back that way again.' He must now take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel."

Several very important teachings about LEADERSHIP stand out clearly in this passage.
1. GOD ALONE IS KING. The earthly "king" is merely God's representative to the people. His task is not to "rule" the people, to "run the government," to "decide what is right and wrong," or anything of the kind. He is "not to consider himself better than his brothers." What an important message for genuine Christians who have been placed in roles of responsibility--as CEOs in companies and institutions, as elders and deacons in the church, as political or community figureheads, etc., etc. When a person in such roles feels he or she is "too good" for his or her former friends and for "the average person," or "does not have time to waste" with those who are not "movers and shakers" in her or his opinion, or uses his or her position to "control" the words or works of honest, God-loving servants of God to benefit his or her own agenda or biases, that person is usurping the role which God alone has among the people of God--God alone is the LEADER of his people. There are no others, no matter how wealthy or influential or popular they may be.
2. All earthly rulers, including the king, are subject to God's law--read again verses 18-20. Just because a majority of people in a church or a community or an institution or a nation thinks that a certain person is a great Christian leader does not guarantee that that person is pleasing to God and is submissive to God's will and way. The stories of Saul, David, Solomon, Peter, and many others in the Bible make it quite clear that fear and temptation and desire to preserve one's image among people and many other factors cause individuals in "high position" in the eyes of human beings to desecrate God's will and to bring dishonor to his name by their actions, decisions, and way of life.
[To be continued]