Apr 11, 2017

He Always Wanted to Be a King ~ Spring 2017~ A Season of Renewal

It was refreshing to sit out in my front porch rocker this morning, taking in the steady, cool rain.  Spring is just around the corner, as they say.   The dead-looking flowerbed will soon literally explode in greenery and bright colors.  The rain will be drawn into the plants, photosynthesis will soon work its created annual magic.  Buds on the lilacs and maples are pregnant with their expectations of waking from deep winter sleep to burst out new life.  I look forward to the first scent of those lilacs. This time of year, makes us excited, doesn't it?

Simultaneously, the christian calendar excitingly approaches the most significant time of the year. Not that Christmas looses it's significance in comparison, but Christ was literally born to die that I might have new life in His Resurrection!  He was sent to us, to die willingly for us.  Raised on victorious hymns, seemingly a thousand poignant verses and their sweet melodies come out to refresh my mind of the significance, value and thankfulness the Church has for what Christ did at Calvary. Now thousands of years ago, the story just doesn’t get old.

I recently listened to Ira Stanphill's "Crown of Thorns" over and over again.  Writing in 1952, Stanphill’s beautiful words highlight the ironies in the “upside-down kingdom” that Christ presided over, as paradoxically he surveys that kingdom from a cross.  

“A rugged cross became His throne; his kingdom was in hearts alone; He wrote his love in crimson red, and bore the thorns upon his head”.

I'm reminded that He's always wanted to be my king:

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him (Samuel): “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king. 
~ from 1 Samuel 8

What a heartbreaking Old Testament chapter.  God always wanted to be their king, but he was rejected by the very people he loved so much.  God allowed Israel to have their earthly king after they rejected him.  Perhaps this was the first time he faced so major of a rejection of his theocratic kingdom; - he cared for them and fought their battles, he deserved honorable-mention, but they just couldn't "see" him as their king.  So many of their neighbours had visible, brave, strong and handsome kings.  I guess that if you're trying to keep up and compete with the neighbours, and if he personally is not your King, it must have been very hard to desire him corporately as their nation's King.

Different bible figures viewed him differently.  Kingship was not his only attribute.  Isaiah "saw" him prophetically 750 years before his arrival in very great detail, but not always majestically (Isaiah 53).  He was accurately portrayed as the "suffering servant".  Before that, Moses "saw" him prophetically very much a king: 

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." ~Num. 24:17

David certainly saw him majestically and very much a King. David and his Almighty King had much in common; they were both shepherds, both kings (with compassion I might add) and from the same family, same hometown. It seemed easy for David to identify with this king. 

In Revelation, Jesus says, “I am the Root and the Offspring of David.” That is, He is both the Creator of David and the Descendant of David.  David composed about Him, He sang about Him.  He worshiped and praised his King.  God identified David as "a man after His own heart".  David, wretched man that he was definitely "saw" Him.

It's a sad New Testament scene when God, rejected as Israel's king then sent his only Son to be their very special King. But through Jesus the Son, God's kingdom was again rejected by humanity and murdered on a cruel Roman cross.  Rising again and defeating Death itself,  the promised Messiah ascended from David's royal line to rule as King of a very different kingdom. "The kingdom of God is within you!" he proclaimed, because that was where he really reigned.  While earthly kingdoms all end, His is a coming everlasting kingdom!  To be clear; Not only will he reign in authority as our King, but also as our Judge.

I've been studying Matthew's rendering of the story of a King and His Kingdom. This king is very different from all the rest. He wins by serving, he triumphs by losing, the first is last and the last is first.  This king teaches that to be great, you must be the servant.  Faith propels this kingdom forward, while prayer unlocks its doors. Righteous, obedient living is in focus and brings great blessing.  His own Holy Spirit provides its subjects with great power; - and often in that order. Little wonder authors through the years refer to it as the "upside-down" Kingdom.  It's all backwards to our natural way of thinking.  In His Kingdom, service and humility trumps rivalry and climbing the corporate ladder.

This king welcomed the despised, ate with sinners, preached love for enemies, criticized prevailing religious practices, and was such a threat to both Jewish leaders and Roman rulers that he was tortured on a cross until he bled to death.

Last year I toured Stirling Castle in Scotland where King James V lived in the 1500's.  I learned first-hand of a king's privileged life. I was told of the lavish lifestyles, parties, feasts and high society and exclusivity that accompanies a King and his ultimate authority. Yet gracious King Jesus seeks out sinners, the sick and the lower classes of his society.  He "enslaves" them with righteousness, healing, goodness, kindness and fruits of His Indwelling Spirit!  

Because YOU are the thing that is most important to God, he loves your passion, and He can work with your pain, but your lukewarm heart makes you an acquaintance and not a friend! That's why in God's kingdom, HOT is best, COLD is OK, but lukewarm is repugnant to Him. He warns us in Revelation 3:16 that if we are LUKEWARM toward this King, he will vomit us out of his mouth!  He is indeed a very different and extraordinary King.

Matthew a tax collector and later an evangelist, paints this king well as he vividly gets right to the heart of the matter. He relates this tragic yet amazing story of how my sin was paid for by this loving king.  King Jesus was my Propitiation (Romans 3:25), my sin covering.  Twenty centuries later, my eyes water when I read of how much this king loved me. ...And that's all backwards too!  I have heard many "kingdom" stories, where subjects have died for their king, but how astonishing to learn of a kingdom where the king gives crowns to his subjects and even dies for them! 

Christian, this Easter season, appreciate anew all Christ our King has done for us through his death on the cross. He is our Soon Coming King.  Can you "see" Him?  Is He your King?   
~ St. Mark

Ira Stanphill’s words:

There was no crown for Him of silver or of gold 
There was no diadem for Him to hold. 

But blood adorned His brow, 

And proud its stain He bore, 

And sinners gave to Him the crown He wore. 

          A rugged cross became His throne 
          His kingdom was in hearts alone 
          He wrote His love in crimson red 
          And wore the thorns upon His head. 

He did not reign upon a throne of ivory 
But died upon the cross of Calvary. 
For sinners there He counted all He owned but loss 
And He surveyed His kingdom from a cross. 

No purple robe He wore, 
His bleeding wounds to hide 
But stripes upon His back He wore with pride. 
And from the wounds there flowed a crimson, 
cleansing stream 
That was a cover for the soul unclean 

~ Ira Stanphill

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