The king enthroned

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Who knows what the future holds for the world now that the reins of power in what is probably still its most powerful nation are once more being wrestled over? Who knows what rulers and authorities will rise and fall in the coming months or decades or centuries, if God spares us?

God does. God always did. He ordained all these things: he "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph 1.11). Our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases (Ps 115.3 cf. Ps 135.6). We sing of the government of God:

The kingdoms of this world
Lie in its hand;
See how they rise or fall
At its command!
Through sorrow and distress,
Tempestuous storms that rage,
God's kingdom yet endures,
From age to age.

The civil authorities are appointed by God and are accountable to him. They will answer to him for the manner in which they exercise their power, and will be judged as men for the discharge of their authority. We who are Christians are also accountable to God, and are called to a righteous recognition of and responsibility to those whom God has placed over us.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. (Rom 13.1-7)
The apostle was not talking about modern Europe or modern America, or even modern Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or Ukraine. He was talking about ancient Rome, with all that meant.

But our accountability to God rises far higher than this world.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame - who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself. (Phil 3.12-21)
What of these realities, duties and hopes can be for one moment or to one iota altered by events in this world?  We must remember that we are citizens not just of some great kingdom, but of the greatest and only enduring kingdom that this world will ever know, a kingdom that is - in fact - otherworldly: "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here" (Jn 18.36). It does not depend on this world; it will never be advanced by this world; its progress may be relatively impeded by things in this world, but it can never be overcome by the world. When the world shows its teeth and claws to this enduring kingdom, the response is a simple one:
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."  (Dan 3:14-18)
A response like this is as much to honour all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honour the king (1 Pt 2.17) as when, in the present comfort and ease of our homes we obey the command that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1Tim 2.1-2).

We must remember that while the world cannot ultimately impede the progress of God's kingdom, neither is it the means by which God's kingdom advances. Again, while the world may, to appearances, provide an environment conducive to the progress of the kingdom, peace, justice, and righteousness are never secured by sinful men. There is only one who will beat swords into ploughshares; there is only one who will secure peace on the earth; there is none who is righteous - no, not one - apart from him; there is one Judge in all the earth who does right. We are grateful when this world enables us to pursue our Christian duty quietly and peaceably, but we do not hang our hopes in this world or the next on the civil authorities.

And, as we consider the future, who is to say that God will not confound all our expectations?  We are informed without a shadow of doubt that "the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; he turns it wherever he wishes" (Prv 21.1). God can do all his holy will against the wicked determinations of violently godless men, contrary to the foolish determinations of well-meaning sinners, and cutting across the flawed perspectives of mortal saints. If he wills, he can save the highest in the land as well as the lowest, and use them powerfully for his glory. The very men we might humanly anticipate would be for the downfall of Christ's kingdom may well turn out to be its greatest servants (might they not, Saul of Tarsus?).

What are we? We are strangers in the earth, sojourners and pilgrims in this world (Ps 119.19; 1Pt 2.11). We are citizens of an unshakeable kingdom to which our primary and highest allegiance belongs. We are servants of a King enthroned on high (Rev 4.2), and our attachment to him conditions our attachment to and relationship with everyone and everything else. And, when the false religions and idolatries of this fallen globe finally collapse, and the kingdoms of this world together fall for the last time, one faith and one kingdom shall yet endure, and one King shall still sit enthroned:

Through the rise and fall of nations,
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, his Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.
Posted September 26, 2012 @ 5:56 AM by Jeremy Walker

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