Have you ever forgotten – or even refused – to pay an electricity bill? What’s interesting is that if you do, Synergy won’t immediately disconnect you from the grid. They’ll send letter after letter, encouraging you to make things right with them. There are schemes of grace available should you be in financial difficulties. But should you steadfastly refuse their authority, you will rediscover the joys of living without electricity.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been considering the good news that Jesus came preaching from God: that God’s kingdom had come near. God has always been king – and we have been living in rebellion against his claim over our world and lives. But the grace of God is much better than that of Synergy. God doesn’t offer us a payment plan to make things right with him; our sins are beyond our ability to pay. God’s grace comes to us and says, if you trust me, I will pay your debt with the life of my own beloved son. Won’t you trust that life with me is the best life possible. Won’t you submit your kingdom, you will, to mine? Can you live without my power? (Answer: ultimately, no.)
Jesus is more than just the messenger of God’s kingdom: he is also it’s king – seated at the right hand of God the Father. As Paul said, “…Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.”
As Christians, we are those who recognise that God is utterly supreme, and that Jesus is his chosen king. And yet, as humans, we come from a long line of those who have rejected God as King. In 1 Samuel 8, we read of how Israel – God’s chosen people – weren’t content to live with God as their king. Until that point, God had raised up judges and prophets to lead Israel when necessary. But now they wanted better than how God had been leading them. They looked at the “successful” nations around them, and wanted to be like them. They wanted a flesh and blood person to be their king; to judge them and lead them into battle.
They weren’t content with God alone as their judge and leader. They thought that in order to flourish as a nation, what they needed most wasn’t God, but a dynamic leader like the nations had. They were, in essence, asking God to abdicate in their favour.
But God is more gracious than that. He is too good to abdicate for us. If God is perfect, then his will is perfect. His kingdom is the perfect place for his creation to live. He is the source of life. He alone is the only safe place of refuge. None can stand against him. And yet God gave them a king. Not a king to replace him, but a king to represent him to the people.
But would a king change the perpetual tendency of God’s people to rebel against him? A king or leader who reigned under God, leading the people in God’s ways, would indeed be a boon for their nation.
Saul, chosen by God as Israel’s first king, was given a chance to be exactly that. He had his heart touched by God in an amazing way. When he led as God’s king, he did an amazing job. And yet he was humble to a fault.
And yet, when push came to shove, he decided that what he needed most wasn’t to obey God, but to do “what had to be done.” He moved from “may your kingdom come, God” to “may my kingdom come – or at least survive!”
Ultimately, Saul was let down by his own sinful nature. His heart wasn’t totally God’s. And so he rebelled. And he rejected God as his king. And there were consequences, because God actually is supreme over everything everywhere.
What we need is a different kind of king to represent God to us. What we need is a king whose will is perfectly submitted to that of the Father. What we need is a king who will lead us to the Father.
What we need is the one who came one silent night…