Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Kingdoms Of This World

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.  In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” – Isaiah 19:23-25

We usually say that Egypt is a type of the world out of which the faithful are redeemed and delivered, understandably, because of Exodus.  Assyria was, in Isaiah’s time, a new enemy and a new empire that had arisen to the north of Israel.  Centered in Nineveh, the Assyrian realm encompassed the city of Babylon and the Fertile Crescent.  This is where the Tower of Babel was built, typifying false religions, or, more charitably, man’s attempts to raise himself up to acceptability before God. 

Humans are almost hopeless utopian.  In every age, somebody has a better idea that results in lots and lots of people having to be killed – all those bitter clingers.  (We really ought to thank Obama for giving us that insightful phrase which exposes the true nature of our cultural conflict.)  The irony, I suppose, is that we were built for paradise, and there is a new kingdom coming which is peace, prosperity, wholeness, righteousness and joy.  That kingdom is not a synthetic or a substitute; it is Daniel’s stone hewn out of the mountain without hands that struck and destroyed the image of history’s man-made empires.

My old friend and pastor, Jordan, said – it would have had to have been more than fifty years ago but I still remember – that you could put the Book of Isaiah into the New Testament between the Gospel of John and the Book of Acts, and it would make perfect sense.  After all, Isaiah 53 gives a more detailed and graphic account of the suffering and crucifixion of the Lord than any of the gospel accounts.  Isaiah also tells us about the nature of the kingdom:  The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD (Isaiah 65:25).  He tells us of the healing of the sick and the deliverance of those in bondage and speaks of an end of calamity.  Those last few chapters of Isaiah contain numerous familiar quotes related to the New Covenant and the eternal spiritual kingdom.

God’s kingdom is – and we, as Christians, are part of it.  Through our faith, prayer, and practice, by our love for one another, we manifest that kingdom in this world.  Whatever the nature of earthly powers – whether military, economic, scientific, technological, religious, intellectual, or political – they can all be brought together in Christ.  He is the Highway to Heaven – the Highway Isaiah saw going up from Egypt traversing Israel connecting Assyria.  They all become part of God’s kingdom. 

To put it another way, there is not a political realm and a spiritual realm – not for us.  Our financial decisions, our investments, and how we plan for the future have to be based on kingdom principles primarily.  We are not merely consumers or workers or voters.  

Christians are not a special interest group.  The kingdom of God is within us. 

We obey the magistrates when possible, for, as Paul says in Romans 13, there is no authority except God, and all earthly authority is established by Him for the purposes of peaceful and lawful relationships and interactions.  That’s a whole other post.  I had better quit, except to say that authority can be abused.  There are such things as demagogues and tyrants, and when we encounter the IRS and the DMV, we ought to make our appeal exclusively to the Lord who can set up one and take down another, trusting Him to set things right. 

But, again, we are the kingdom, and God puts us in the earthly realm where we are needed and can be the most fruitful and productive.  We are all in the Israel of God who is Christ – but He may place us in Egypt or Assyria or some other earthly jurisdiction to do His will -- body, soul, and spirit.    

P.S., I wrote this then read Rogelio Beuno's post for today on "How the World Lost It's Story".  I didn't say it nearly as well, but the convergence is evident, to me at least.     


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Let the Kingdom come, for it is already here. Well said, Mushroom.

mushroom said...

Thank you, Ben.