A Different Kind of Kingdom (Thurs. March 4)

The word of the day is “kingdom.”  As our reading of Hebrews 1:1-12 begins, the apostle argues that the angels may be magnificent.  But the divine Son of God is greater than the most stupendous angel.  Through Him, the worlds were made. He was the agent of the creation who laid the foundations of the earth.  In Him, the brightness of God’s glory shines.  With Him, there is no change or alteration.

On Him, God has poured the anointing oil of kingship, for He came to earth to establish an everlasting Kingdom, a reign that is far superior to any rule or authority on earth. Other kingdoms rise and fall.  Other kings make laws, collect taxes, govern lands, exercise authority, appoint administrators, order servants, make alliances, muster armies, and fight battles.  Yet for all their efforts, their reigns come to an end.  Even their heirs cannot secure their reigns.

His Reign is Forever

But the eternal Father who anointed Him King said, “Your throne, O God is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).  The Greek phrase translated as “forever and ever” means “from age to age,” that is, from one era to the next (Strong’s #165, 10).  The Son made the heavens and the earth.  But like the kingdoms of this world, they will reach their end.  The apostle quotes the psalmist who says, “They will grow old like a garment, like a cloak You will fold them up” (vs. 12 quoting Psalm 102:26). The Greek text reads, “like a robe, you will roll them up, they will also be changed like a garment” (Hebrews 1:120).  The sense is that the Almighty will wrap up the universe as if it were a worn-out outer garment (Strong’s #1667, 85 and #4018, 198). Then the heavens and earth will be exchanged for another and better cosmos (Strong’s #236, 14).

However, the quotation from the Psalm continues, “But you are the same and your years have no end” (Psalms 102:27). In other words, the Lord’s Kingdom will endure forever because the King will live forever.  This immortal King fulfills the vision of the Prophet Daniel, “The God of heaven will raise up a kingdom, and it shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44).

Thus, the One who will sit on the throne of David is no ordinary king (Luke 1:32).  Nor were the circumstances of His birth typical.  He is the Son of God who descended from the glories of heaven to reside in a stable.  He left his royal throne to be cradled in a manger.  He took off the robes of his kingly majesty to be wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Yet He is a King.  He springs up from the  “root of Jesse, and is the descendant of the great King David (11:1).  The humble conditions of his birth reflect the nature of His Kingdom.  The prophets foretold that God would anoint a King unlike any other, a ruler better than any who came before Him.

The Rule of the King

In the Vespers service for the Eve of the Nativity, we read in Isaiah 11:1-16 about the nature of the Lord’s reign.  In this lofty passage, the Prophet Isaiah wrote that He will be filled with the Spirit of God with all wisdom and understanding (Isaiah 11:2).  He will judge without partiality and will champion the cause of the poor and humble (Isiah 11: 4). Conversely,  he will strike the ungodly with the “word of his mouth” (Isaiah 11:4).

Then Isaiah adds that His reign will be a lasting era of righteousness, truth, and peace that has no end (Isaiah 9:6). Moreover, he will gather the Chosen People who are scattered throughout the earth (Isaiah 11:12) while he will be the Gentiles’ hope (Isaiah 11:10).  Finally, the Prophet declares that the King will vanquish His enemies (Isaiah 11:13).

All of these promises of an everlasting King and eternal Kingdom are fulfilled in the Lord who descended to earth in humility to raise those who belong to His Kingdom in glory.

For Reflection

In the context of Great Lent the understanding that the Lord Jesus Christ is the King of a different kind of Kingdom takes on new importance. In this time of spiritual struggle, we realize that the Kingdom over which Christ rules is not merely different from earthly kingdoms, but the two types of kingdoms are opposed to each other.

The disciplines of Lent are, therefore, a test of our allegiance. Which kind of kingdom do we serve? Do we trust in the powers of this world or in the Almighty will of God? Do we conform to the values of earthly kingdoms or the ideals of the heavenly reign? Do we hunger for worldly food or the Bread of Heaven? Do we pursue what the world offers or seek what the Kingdom of God promises?

These are the ultimate questions that we face in choosing and following the disciplines of Lent. Fasting is not just a choice of what food we eat. It is a test of what food means to us. Prayer is not just a choice of how we spend our time. It is a test of how we opt to use our time. Almsgiving is not just a decision of whether to give to the poor and needy. It is a decision about our stewardship of what God has entrusted us to share.

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