Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Kingdom of God (in real life)

In the midst of remarkable suffering, ancient Israel anticipated a time when things would be different. Having been invaded (and enslaved) by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Seleucids, and (finally…and worst) the Romans the Hebrew people were desperate for God to intervene on their behalf.

They had now finally seen their ancient error in asking for human rule (instead of remaining a nation governed simply by YHWH). They had lived through thousands of years of broken government: Saul, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Pekah, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Seleucus, Antiochus, Herod, Ceasar.

They wanted something different. The image that best captured their expectation was “the kingdom of God.”

So what did that entail, practically, for them? And, concordantly, what does that entail, practically, for us?

Israel looked to a day when there would be “no king but God.”
• no allegiance to compete with God
• no security apart from God

The holy land, trampled and polluted by pagans, would be cleansed so that Israel could again live in communion with the Lord.
• reversing the curse of Sin and the sweat and toil associated with the Land
• healing the fruit of the land and of our labor
• redeeming workplace tension
• redeeming issues of worth and esteem for men based on their Work
• ensuring there would always be enough to sustain life, and that sustenance would be good
(non-toxic to the body, etc.)

God would return to the temple that he had abandoned and would once again dwell among his people (Malachi 3:1).
• there would be no separation between us and him
• we would be in his felt/experienced Presence every minute
• every place would be as the Temple – a liminal space where heaven and earth collide (…on
earth as it is in heaven…)

The nation would be liberated from its bondage to pagan oppressors, just as it had been delivered from Egypt and Babylon.
• we are freed from the bondage of our addictions, habits, evil desires, effects of sin, etc.
• the narratives of violence, control, dominance, consumerism, amnesia, no-belief,
hopelessness, despair and greed will be exhausted

The rule of Caesar in Rome and of his puppet kings and priests in Israel would be swept away, and the rule of God would set things right.
• authority and government will uphold justice in truth (not just in name)
• we will have confidence that our rulers/leaders serve YHWH and the people (in that order) as
suffering servants, rather than as despots, dictations, or power-hungry bureaucrats

The coming kingdom would mean liberation from foreign cultural dictates and an endorsement of Israel’s status as the elect people of God.
• our spiritual practices and preferences would not be watered down or compromised by the
state (or public opinion) in any way
• there will be no interference with worship (or healing [of the world, of others, etc…])

It would mean the reformation of the people in obedience and faithfulness toward God as he poured out his Spirit upon them and “circumcised their hearts” (Deuteronomy 30:6) so that they could obey the Torah.
• we will all be disciples and followers and servants, not merely cultural Christians who feel
entitled to the privileges of religious observation
• we would recognize that we are all on a spiritual journey
• we would all endeavor to continue shadowing God, becoming increasingly hospitable to the

Jews of past generations who had remained faithful to God throughout Israel’s many years of exile and bondage would be raised from the dead to experience—together with the living remnant—the coming of God’s kingdom (Daniel 12:2).
• our elders in the faith will see the fruit of their labors in our lives and in the lives of the
persistent church
• they will know that their faithfulness has paid off in the lives of those they’ve lead, corrected,
discipled, and formed
• the kingdom will be built upon the extended faithfulness of the saints through God’s grace;
meaning that, to whatever degree is possible in this world, the kingdom will be realized
through God’s people living in God’s way for a LONG time (as opposed to ‘fits and starts’ of
holy living)

Until the kingdom should actually arrive, the faithful in Israel lived in hope: they prayed, studied the Scriptures, celebrated the festivals to keep hope alive, remained faithful to the Torah, and continued to be ready for military action.
• even though the kingdom has not yet been fully realized in this world, we should continue to
live as though it has
• our lives should be lived consistent with the kingdom, keeping kingdom values and
perspective, etc…

The Message of Jesus Christ – his primary pet topic – was that the kingdom was both here (now) and is on its way (will be here fully soon). Hopefully, the bullets above can help you to understand what he meant by that.

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