From the Kitchen Window - Kingdom
Words by David Hollows
By the time you read this the government of the United Kingdom should have completed the Brexit process which should mean that we will be an independent island nation of three countries and a province consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
During our lifetime we have seen a massive movement in the way the United Kingdom has been governed in that more and more political power and decision making has been devolved to the parliaments and assemblies and even to the conurbations such as Manchester and Birmingham.
However, we are aware of the political demands for the secession of certain parts of the Union which may have a significant impact on the United Kingdom as we know it, should this happen.
In this generation we will see an end to the United Kingdom as has happened throughout history to other Kingdoms?
Kingdoms, as well as empires and republics, regularly rise then fall, although the length of time each one exists often varies; for example, the Persian empire lasted two and a half thousand years. The loyalty to the state often varies as well. For example, in the United States of America as well as in Kenya, each morning children in assemblies sing the national anthem and repeat an oath of allegiance, whereas in the United Kingdom this sense of loyalty does not exist.
Photo by Maxim Hopman via Unsplash
In the Bible there are several examples of Kingdom.
In the Old Testament there is Egypt which features in the story of God’s people who benefit from this nation in the story of Joseph but then become the slaves who have to be rescued by God through Moses.
When the Israelites begin to establish themselves in Canaan, they have to contend with many other groups of people which have a King and there are many accounts of the battles which take place.
In the Old Testament, Kings are absolute but many have weaknesses, even the superstars of kingship such as David and Solomon are flawed. When the Israelites asked God for a human King, He was not impressed but relented and the consequence was a long list of Kings, such as Ahab, who simply got it wrong. In the Old Testament there is no reference to the Israelites intending to create or maintain a Kingdom rather their focus was on nationhood. When the Israelites are taken into exile to Babylon it is in the Daniel story that we begin to see the issue of what Kingdom means from a human perspective in contrast to that of God. In Daniel chapter 4 we read these words; ‘His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation’ Daniel highlights the fact that God’s Kingdom never ends whereas he will give an interpretation of the dream Nebuchadnezzar has had of the statue which represents four different kingdoms all of which will fail (Daniel 4).
So, why is this issue of Kingdom so important? Simply because Jesus has a lot to say about God’s Kingdom.
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus recommends that we pray for the Kingdom of God to come and that His disciples seek first of all His Kingdom (Matthew chapter 6) For Jesus the Kingdom is extremely important: He compares the Kingdom to the value of a pearl (Matthew chapter 13) and that of a treasure hidden in a field. Jesus compares the Kingdom to a mustard tree which is able to accommodate many people and provide for their needs (Mark chapter 4) For Jesus, the Kingdom is already come as He has ushered this in and yet it is to come, a heavenly kingdom (Revelation chapter 19). The kingdom of God is not an earthly one in that it is determined by geographical boundaries rather it is determined by values and lifestyles as demonstrated by Jesus. In His story of the hidden treasure (Matthew chapter 13) Jesus explains that it is worth giving up everything for to be a member of God’s Kingdom.
A member of the Kingdom of God is both a citizen and a subject. The subject is the follower of Jesus who accepts the will of God for his/her life and is obedient to the call of God to discipleship. When the scribe converses with Jesus about the commandments (Mark chapter 12) and demonstrates his understanding of what god expects then Jesus says to him: you are not far from the Kingdom of God. The citizen of God is rather different. Jesus explains that the rich will not enter the Kingdom (Matthew chapter 19) whereas harlots will (Matthew chapter 21) Jesus explains to the Pharisees that the Kingdom will be taken away from them (Matthew chapter 21) whereas the poor and lowly will inherit the Kingdom (Matthew chapter 5) The citizen will have certain traits: love, obedience, a servant heart for others and be a peacemaker. The citizen will be a redeemed person, a saint (Daniel chapter 7) who grows by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit (sanctification). Jesus is very clear that the Kingdom of God is within us when the Holy Spirit is active in us.
Jesus is very clear about the characteristics He expects of those who will enter the Kingdom: you fed me when I was hungry, you gave me drink when I was thirsty, I was a stranger but you made me welcome, you clothed me when I was naked, you visited me in prison and supported me when I was sick (Matthew chapter 25) To reinforce His point, Jesus talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats in the final days (Matthew chapter 25) because He wants us to understand that Kingdom values are obedience, faithfulness and love.
We know that there will be a different colour for the British passport which will demonstrate all the countries we will visit. The only passport to the Kingdom of God is Jesus and our passport will demonstrate a lifestyle lived His way. Are you in the Kingdom of God?
You may find the following hymn useful:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Mission Praise 590)
You may find the following prayer helpful:
Eternal God, you are the God of good news, always present in your world so that we may share in your Kingdom. Open our ears to hear what you have to say to us through Scripture and prayer. Open our arms to embrace our neighbors in compassion and care. Open our eyes to see where you are leading and to follow. Open our mouths to share your good news. Open our hearts that may be your blessing to others in need. Eternal God, in our lives build your Kingdom in us and through us, we pray.
God bless you