[Read When He Comes part 2 here.]
If only they had known.
The simple truth was that in both of these stories, the kings were deeply flawed. King Arthur was often naïve, jealous, and angry—eventually tearing his own kingdom apart and driving it to destruction. Richard the Lion Hearted, the real-life king of the Robin Hood stories, was so focused on crusading and gaining power in France, that he completely neglected his own kingdom. Neither of these guys was someone that you wanted to pin your hopes on.
Too bad they weren’t like King David.
David, of course, was the great king of Israel, a man after Gods own heart (Acts 13:22). He defeated most of Israel’s enemies and established a kingdom of note in the ancient world. Indeed, he was such an amazing king that after his death, all future kings of Israel would be measured against his standard. Did they love God as much as he did? Did they rule as wisely as he did? Were they a king like David? David was the gold standard for kings in Israel.
David was a jerk.
You heard me right. David spent most of his life killing people. He got so good at it that people sang songs about how many people he’d killed. Now, you might want to excuse all the killing because he did most of it in battle. Still, you don’t get to be really good at slaughtering people by being a nice guy. Nice guys get dead. David was not a nice guy. Indeed, he even stole another man’s wife. As the king, he could have had any number of available women. Instead, he chose a married woman. And, to make it worse, when she got pregnant and his attempts to cover up his adultery failed, David had the husband killed. Even late in his life, David was still making decisions that ran contrary to God’s will. Just before he died, he led Israel to do something that he knew full well God did not want him to do. The result? Thousands of Israelites died (2 Sam. 24).
So, David was a violent, adulterous murderer who repeatedly acted against God’s will.
David was a man after God’s own heart.
What? How can that possibly be? Surely God does not want us all to be violent, adulterous murderers. Of course not. David made some terrible mistakes. But, what made him a man after God’s own heart was that he understood grace. David knew full well that he was broken and sinful, unable to love God perfectly, and prone to error. But, David also knew that God was loving and gracious, always ready to forgive, and constantly calling his people to return to him. So, when David blew it, he threw himself before God and called on his mercy and grace (Psa. 51). Even in his brokenness and sinfulness, he was a man after God’s own heart.
So, Israel had a pretty good king. He was a great warrior, a talented leader, and more importantly, he was a man after God’s own heart. But, he was still flawed, broken, and sinful. David defeated Israel’s enemies and established his kingdom in the land, but David could not restore shalom. Indeed, his life often resembled shoah more than shalom. And, like all of us who are locked in bondage to sin and death, David died. His reign ended. And soon after, his kingdom shattered. David was a great king, but the people needed more.
And God promised to send them precisely what they needed. God promised that one day he would establish David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:29; Dan 2:44). And, the king who would sit on this throne would be unlike any previous king. This king would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and there will be no end to his government and his peace (Isa. 9:6-7). His reign will be characterized by true righteousness, leading God’s people into the kind of security that only a perfect king could provide (Jer. 23:5-6).
Just as he did in the Garden (Gen. 3:15), God looks at the plight of his people and he promises.
I will send someone. And, when this one comes, everything will be better. I will establish my king on my throne, and he will accomplish my purposes. David was good, but the coming king is far, far better.
When he comes…God’s kingdom will be established forever.
[This is the third part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the rest here.]
I grew up on stories about King Arthur. Great stories. Every time you turn the page Arthur and his knights are feasting, celebrating, jousting, slaying monsters, and just having an all-around good time. It sounds like a great place to be, with peace, justice, and plenty for everyone (except the monsters, of course). And, at the center of it all, the king—leading, ruling, judging, and partying. It all works because the king is there ruling over his kingdom, making sure that everything is as it should be, striking out at anything that threatens the peace.
But, what’s a kingdom without a king? The depressing part about the Arthur stories is that you know it won’t last. By the end of the story, Arthur will be dead and his kingdom will lie in ruins. (If you didn’t know how the story ended, I’m terribly sorry for giving it away. And, by the way, the Titanic sinks.) Without Arthur, everything falls apart.
It’s quite a simple principle really: no king, no kingdom. Until he comes back, nothing is going to be the way that it should be.
The same idea shapes the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. From one perspective, this is a story about a bunch of men who spend all their time camping, drinking, wrestling, singing, and annoying rich people. To me, it always sounded like Peter Pan for adults.
At the heart of the Robin Hood story, however, rests something much more significant. The kingdom is broken. Richard the Lionhearted, England’s king, has been gone for many years. In his absence, Prince John, the king’s brother, and all of John’s cronies have taken over the kingdom, oppressing the people and pillaging the land. The land is now ruled by greed, power, violence, and hatred.
Robin Hood and his merry men have a very different vision of how things should be. They see a kingdom ruled by grace and peace, a kingdom where the rich help the poor, the strong serve the weak, and everything is as it should be. They see a kingdom where the king rules again.
In many ways, these are stories about faith and hope. Despite all of the problems the kingdom faces, all the enemies they encounter, and all the evil they see, Robin Hood and his men press on toward their vision of the kingdom. The king has been gone for so long, many begin to wonder if he will ever return. But, Robin Hood’s men continue to long for what could be, what should be.
However, it all rests on the coming of the king. Robin Hood and his men can trick Prince John day long, and it won’t change anything. They can steal from the rich, give to the poor, and have all the forest parties their hearts desire. But, without the king, the kingdom will still be broken, evil powers will still control the way things go, people will still be oppressed, the vision will remain unrealized.
When the king comes, however, it will all be different. That’s the hope at the center of the story. That’s what makes Robin and his men work so hard toward this future vision. That’s what makes them “merry”. In the face of all the injustice and oppression, they have their vision of the kingdom and they live out that vision to the best of their ability in the forest – their little outpost of how things should be. And they have hope.
When he comes, it will all be better. When he comes, the kingdom will be restored and things will be as they should be.
When he comes….
[This is the second part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the first part here.]
- Peter Wallace comments on the future of preaching, as he observed it at the second annual National Festival of Young Preachers.
I have seen the future of preaching, and it’s a beautiful thing.
- Andy Naselli offers some interesting quotes from Carl Trueman’s new book The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.
When Mark Noll declared that the scandal of the evangelical mind was that there was no mind, he meant to criticize the lack of cultural and theological engagement among evangelicals. I agree there is a scandal involving the evangelical mind, though I understand the problem in the exact opposite way. It is not that there is no mind, but rather that there is no evangelical.
- Russell Moore describes how he would explain the kingdom of God to a 15 year-old.
The kingdom of God, then, is the good news that the right rule of God, and the right rule of man—a rule our ancestors Adam and Eve lost—have come together in the right rule of one right God-man: Jesus of Nazareth. In his sin-resisting life, his wisdom-saturated teaching, his demon-exorcising power, his substitutionary, conquering death, and his justifying, victorious resurrection, Christ is king.
- Michael Jensen argues for an epistemology grounded in trust and the Gospel.
As Wittgenstein demonstrated, we cannot live, even at the level of everyday life, without trusting. And yet trust is a theologically ambivalent starting point for a theory of knowledge because of the persistent untrustworthiness of human beings after the Fall. Not only have the noetic effects of sin crippled our perceptions, they have given us reason to doubt the motives of others.
- Ben Witherington discusses the “two swords” in Luke 2:28, explaining that Jesus was not endorsing the use of weapons – even in self defense.
From a grammatical point, it seems clear that this is the right interpretation of vs. 38 which simply says in the Greek “he said to them ‘Enough’!” It does not read “Two swords are enough”. What we have here is an idiomatic expression used to close off a discussion.
- Byron Smith points out a nice summary of the first lecture that Bruce McCormack has given in a series entitled “Abandoned by God: The Death of Christ in Systematic, Historical, and Exegetical Perspective.”
- And, Mental Floss offers a list of Insurance Policies on 10 Famous Body Parts. My favorite is Gene Simmons’ tongue.
- Andrew Perriman discusses the “Missio Dei” in historical perspectives.
This shift of focus away from the activity of the church towards the activity of God, however, exposed a critical bifurcation in the argument, a fork in the road—and many theologians took the concept of missio Dei in a direction altogether unintended by Barth and the German missiologists….If the church participates in the mission of God, the possibility arises that the mission of God in the world may be thought to happen more or less independently of the church.
- Daniel Kirk has some interesting reflections on the seven “deacons” in Acts 6.
But there are other indications that though this event was used to bring about peace for a time, the twelve might not have been as faithful leaders at this point as we might have hoped.
- Roger Olson is frustrated that no one seems to know what “the kingdom of God” means even though they use the phrase all the time.
One of my pet peeves is the fact that most Christian lay people and even many pastors don’t seem to know what they think the “Kingdom of God” means or have no idea what the Bible really says about it and yet use the phrase all the time.
- Larry Hurtado offers an updated list all copies of all texts of Christian provenance from before the 4th century CE.
- Here’s a roundtable discussion on Christians an Internet Presence with Trevin Wax, Steve McCoy, and Brandon Smith discussing social media, blogging, and other forms of Christian presence on the internet. One interesting quote from Trevin Wax:
The blogosphere is a neat thing, but it’s also a gigantic echo chamber, and the noisy links create the false perception that we are very important and have something so valuable to say.
- If you were wonder, here are the 100 Best Selling Christian Books of 2010.
- If you spent way too much time during your teen years (or youth ministry years) watching The Princess Pride, here is the quiz for you: “Prepare to Die: A Princess Bride Quiz.” I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I scored a 10 out of 10 on this one.
- And, here’s a list of 10 bestselling books that almost weren’t printed.
I actually had work to do today, so I’m a little slow in getting this out. Nonetheless, here are some interesting links for your web browsing pleasure.
For believers…the most decisive turning point was the year 33, when a Jewish rabbi—the Messiah—was raised from the dead in Roman-occupied Palestine….This turning-point is not only celebrated but is deepened and widened in its effects every Lord’s Day. Wherever this gospel is taken, a piece of heaven—the age to come—begins even now to dawn in the dusty corners of this passing evil age.
- Sarah Flashing discusses the problem of Tradition without Truth.
While shame and remorse can be an appropriate motivating factor to correct ways of thinking and living, in the wrong hands it is often misused. Stigma unaccompanied by truth is merely an apparatus of a culture not oriented toward Christ, no matter how much they may resemble the Church.
- Brian LePort offers five excellent reasons why he reads C.S. Lewis.
All this being said, no, you do not have to read Lewis to be a thinking Christian. No, Lewis does not answer every question. No, Lewis is not the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. But I personally have found Lewis to be a worthy dialogue partner and someone who anyone can access, great or small, theologian or lay person. You don’t have to read Lewis, but you won’t go wrong in doing so either.
Give us some examples of university theology that has no ecclesial value or some ecclesial theology that reveals how this can be done better by pastors. I’m ready to be convinced but I want to see what is actually involved here.
- Corey Angst discusses how uses of the iPad are evolving and becoming increasingly effective in higher education.
- Stuart links to a tool on finding your Bible birth verse. (Mine was Mt. 27:5.)
- And, here’s a list of 10 essential nerd foods.
- The Structure of Paul’s Thought
- The Cross and the Spirit: Life as the Kingdom of God
- Paul and Judaism
- Salvation: Divine and Human Action
- Paul and Women
- Politics and Religion