The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.
Christmas. Not just one of the winter holidays, but Christmas. Here we are, after more than 2,000 years celebrating the birth of a Jewish baby, who by all reckoning should never have been noticed when he was alive, let alone remembered for two millennia. Why? Because He gave everything for us – for all of us -- and because one day He will be King.
As Americans we bristle at that word – king. George III left a bad taste in our national mouth. Barack Obama, like an undigested meal, has brought that back, but let us look at the idea of sovereignty differently. Sovereignty is one of the attributes of God (the attribute that scares those who claim to be atheists), but God’s sovereignty, unlike human free will, cannot be abrogated by anyone or anything outside of Himself. His ability to call the shots is controlled by His perfect goodness, by His absolute justice, by His love. His sovereignty is informed by His omniscience, held steady by His immutability, enhanced by His creativity. His sovereignty, like everything else about Him, is perfect.
And He chose to share it with us. We are made in the image of God. The Hebrew word here is tzelem – a shadow image. This means that God doesn’t look like us, is not just a huge human. As a child I pictured God as an old, white-bearded man who sat at a 1940’s-style telephone switchboard, desperately trying to answer all our prayers. That was inaccurate. The essence of the original man was like the essence of God – we are His shadow:
God is omniscient; we are intelligent.
God is righteous; man aspires to be – knowledge of God’s standards is embedded in our hearts.
God is love; we love, not as selflessly as God can, but we yearn for that.
God is just; we also work for that, and demand it when it isn’t forthcoming. God is the creator; we, too, love inventing, producing, responding to the world artistically.
God is sovereign; we have been given free will. That free will made our fall possible, but it also makes our salvation possible. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Our free will and our misuse of it have made human government necessary. Here in America we have attempted to create a minimalist government that allows a maximum use of that which God gave us. It may be that this experiment is failing; everywhere we look governmental inroads into our most private places are crippling the function of our volition.
So why talk of kings? Consider what it would be like on this earth if we followed, of our own volition, God’s laws. What would a society be like if we honored Him, if we eschewed envy and lust, violence and illicit sex? What if we chose not to lie? (Heavens, what would it be like if just our president gave up lying?). What if we actually loved our fellow man as we did ourselves? Would it not be a lovely place to live? That’s what would happen if we recognized the sovereignty of God.
As a side-note here, I do not adhere to the Calvinist worship of God’s kingship. The will of God must function under His righteousness, His justice, His love. He cannot just willy-nilly choose someone for salvation and deny that, eeny-meeny, to others. That is a blasphemous and un-scriptural idea. But that argument is for another time.
Another what-if: What if we had a human king who perfectly followed the precepts of God? That would be a perfect government – honest, fair, good, caring, to say nothing of efficient. Would we elect such a person? Never. As a people we have chosen to have very little to do – at least in public – with God’s laws. We have chosen to come up with our own laws like, “ Thou shalt not say ‘Merry Christmas.’ “ Or, “Thou shalt not call Santa Claus ‘white,’”(poor Megyn Kelly). We disallow singing Christmas carols, but rap is just fine. Sex is no longer illicit, no matter what the practice or with whom. No, we’re not likely to choose a perfect man (if one existed) to lead us.
Which is why there is no “peace on earth,” no “joy to the world.” So then, what’s the big deal about Jesus? He healed some folks, raised Lazarus from the dead, came back to life after being brutally killed, but things are still a mess. Yes. True. Not the mess they would have been without Him – history shows us that. There would be no orphanages or hospitals, no charities, quite likely no schools and therefore no progress, scientifically or technologically. But things are a mess. Are they a mess because we’ve adhered to God’s precepts for human behavior? I’m not asking about organized religion – that always goes bad, no matter where it begins. Like the second law of thermodynamics, it always tends toward chaos. I’m talking about the biblical principles for both personal and national comportment. Can we trace human misery back to a belief in, or obedience to, God’s commands? Of course not.
But wouldn’t such a Godtopia cramp the questionable style of those devoted to sin? Yes. Does that produce misery? Only if one chooses to be miserable about it. Willing obedience to God produces joy, gratitude, courage, and love. The more I align my thinking with His, the happier I am. I’ve lived long enough now to know, personally, that this is true.
Evil exists only because we walk away from those desirable traits. We are fallen beings and can be good only through God’s efforts, not our own. For at least another 1007 years we will still need government. The first seven of those years will be awful; people will think at first that they have found the perfect king, and then all hell will break loose. Once, however, the King of Kings returns, the earth will have, at last, perfect government. Men will turn their swords into plowshares and man will learn war no more. Joy to the World. Definitely.
The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! Thy people pray,
Come quickly, King of kings.