K is for King
In the Divine Alphabet, K is for King. God is our king, and it’s no metaphor. That is to say, he’s not “like” a king, but he really is one.
The kingship of God is manifest in his authority over his people. The other nations had their human kings. By unique contrast, Israel was to have no king, because her king was the Lord. He was hers, and she belonged to him.
There are three elements to this.
First, the Lord saves his people. He goes to battle for them and wins them victory over their enemies. Which is to say, the Lord has real power, effective power that is capable of protection.
Second, the Lord judges his people. This is present tense, on-going, something that happens every day. That marvelous verse from Psalm 7 speaks of this: “God is a righteous Judge, strong, and patient; and God is provoked every day.” That’s the traditional Prayer Book version; the 1979 clarifies it: “God is a righteous judge; God sits in judgment every day.” But we must not forget that injustice does indeed “provoke” God!
Third, the Lord gives an identity to his people. This is, first in the Scriptures, the promise of land. But it is also the Law, which forms Israel’s identity after she, through her unrighteousness, has been punished and removed from the land. Most deeply, the Lord is himself the identity of his people.
Kingship—or political rule more broadly—is important to us. Jesus’ work was the work of a king. He saves his people. He provides true judgment. He gives us our identity. The feast of Christ the King, added to the Christian calendar only in the 20th century, is not an abstraction or a diversion, but is true to the heart of the gospel.
As Paul and others work it out in the New Testament, it means that we live in a state of dual citizenship. We belong to God, but we are also, say, Americans (or Texans or Canadians, etc.), and that is an important, indeed eternal, part of our identity. (Nations are to be redeemed as well as individuals, and at the end nations are to come in humility before the throne of the Lamb.) But we are first of all citizens of God’s kingdom.
Oliver O’Donovan points out that the second element of political authority—the execution of judgment—is what God has given to the political powers of this world. They are to execute judgment in humble acknowledgment of God’s higher and full political authority. The political powers of this world are not in the end to be the guarantors of our safety nor the source of our ultimate identity. Our safety, and our identity, is secured in God in Christ, and that is true whether we speak of individuals such as Victor or Maria, or political realities such as Navaho or Britain.
---. On the Web. I am to preach at the traditional online service this Sunday, June 28, at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. The 11:15 a.m. service will be live-streamed and also on the website for later viewing/listening at incarnation.org.
Thanks to a sharp-eyed reader who caught an error in last week’s column. I spoke of Isaac wrestling all night with God. It was of course Isaac’s son, Jacob, who did that. I imagine that Isaac, whose name means “he laughs,” is bemused by this mix-up.
Finally, in the Shameless Commerce Department: Friendship: The Heart of Being Human by yours truly is to be released mid-July. The usual on-line monoliths seem to be offering a pre-publication discount for electronic versions (e.g. Kindle). And christianbook.com, the website of a company formerly known as CBD (before those letters became famous for something else), has the paperback at a discount.
I’ve been waiting for years to refer to “a company formerly known as CBD.” Christian Book Distributors was around before the Internet. Their newsprint catalogues were frequent arrivals in all our mailboxes at seminary. I’m glad they’re still around, even if they no longer promote themselves as cbd.com.