One thing is for certain: God’s people are praying more – more often, more intensely, more urgently, with more faith and less self-interest than usual – none of which will harm us.
As to why this pandemic has spread with such virulence, I have no idea. Whether it is the outcome of cross species contamination or a lab leak, I speak with no authority. Beyond this, we speculate.
Apportioning blame is something for Governments, not God’s church. We are the antidote, not the accusation.
What can we pray?
There is no better place to start than the Lord’s prayer, which currently makes more sense prayed in community than in the closet. It is a prayer that glorifies our Father, a prayer that invites the uniting of “things in heaven and things on earth,” and a prayer that situates us with our daily needs being met, forgiveness being extended to us and from us, testing with limitations, and deliverance from evil.
This prayer has an ‘eschatological horizon’ realised in the resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of God’s kingdom – as in heaven, so on earth. We are invited into much more than just anticipating a nice time here, as up there. Kingdom will here, on earth, in your city, your community, your family, as it is in heaven! We are praying with prophetic boldness the realisation of the will of the one who is far above all power and authority, be it human, angelic or demonic.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
We might also pray what Paul writes to his understudy, Timothy, urging him in the right direction to use all manner of prayer for all people, “for kings and all who are in high positions,” with the purpose that we, God’s people, may live in peace with quiet dignity, resulting in people coming to salvation in Christ. Whatever we pray for our governments, with whatever political preferences we adhere to, the point of this prayer is not that our Prime Ministers, or Presidents, become Christians, but that we, the church, can lead a quiet and dignified life so that the Lordship of Christ might be experienced in salvation.
Nothing wrong with praying for the saving power of Christ to be extended to our Government leaders, but this prayer isn’t about that – it is about a different sort of governing; it is about a governing, a lordship, that isn’t compromised by “the principalities and powers” of this “present evil age.” It is about peace for the sake of the church, his body.
This isn’t how this prayer is normally comprehended, but it is what it was written for, if a plain reading is allowed.
Praying these prayers in lockdown is a good place to start. Who knows where it might lead as the Holy Spirit prays through us, with prayers beyond our finitude, in intercessional groanings?
On Earth as it is in Heaven.
A crisis is what it is: a time of intense difficulty and danger. And this is never nice or a good thing. As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on health, finances and overall wellbeing, people have been talking about a big “re-set” and taking time to refocus on the things that matter. I like these ideas, but with a future that seems uncertain, with the swirl of bad news, losses and death, it’s hard, on a day-to-day basis, to look on the bright side, to make the most of a bad situation, no matter how positive or faith-filled you might be.
When this is over, we’ll all look back and see the places of shelter in the storm, but right now that might be difficult, and as far as I’m concerned that’s ok.
Here’s what I am finding though, and for my part I am making every effort I can to use this time for this purpose: sharing the good news of what Christ has done for me – and all humanity. People are worried and scared, and they need, more than ever, a saviour.
The brightest, the boldest, the best are all in it together. No one, in over 48 countries (and counting), is exempt. This is happening to 1.5 billion of us. We are in lockdown, the things we’ve always taken for granted, a casual trip to the grocery store for something as ordinary as milk, has become a complicated chore. Never mind the poor and disadvantaged in our cities, the ones that have always had it hard. For them, sadly, it’s even harder now, in some cases fatally so.
Right now, I am doing all I can to share the love of Jesus. There are open doors all around, people we work with, family members that have never taken kindly to our faith, neighbours we’ve wanted to chat to about Jesus but were afraid it would ruin the delicate fabric of our social structure. This is the time. If there ever was a good time, this would be it. And you don’t have to hit them over the head with the Bible, all you have to do is offer to pray for them when they’re feeling down, maybe share a scripture, or how your faith in Jesus is giving you strength.
The door is open, we just have to ask permission to walk through it, and very few people are saying no.
I’ve had so many opportunities to share, and there have been moments where I’ve thought, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe later.” There might never be another time. For me THIS is the time to share the love we live in with those who need it so, so much. I’ve read Psalm 91 over co-workers, prayed for someone who had their team furloughed, explained that this week I was ruminating over the fact that Jesus forgave my SIN even though I continue to sin, and how that helps me feel safe and free while making me want to do better.
If you’re reading this post my biggest hope is that you will step outside of your comfort zone during this crisis and make the effort, no matter how uncomfortable, to share Jesus with those around you.
If you’re leading a church, encourage your people in this great opportunity. With all the bad news being communicated all day long, people are more open than ever to hearing some good news. And guess what – we’ve got it. Don’t be afraid, don’t wait for later, let’s share it – now.
For 21 years I was a paramedic.
I’d put on the uniform, get in the road ambulance or medical helicopter, and respond to emergency calls for help, ranging from the most minor of falls to the most unspeakable of disasters. And despite extensive on-going training, and exposure to almost any situation you could conjure in your mind, that sense of heading to the scene and feeling unprepared for what lay ahead never went away.
As we journey through this global pandemic, the feeling of being unprepared as a pastor is very real and is very present.
From providing counselling sessions via Zoom, to preaching in empty halls or even your own living rooms, to passing worship teams in the hallway of make-shift recording studios at acceptable distances . . . pastors have suddenly found themselves positioned on the very frontline of a community that is crying out for help, and doing it without some of the tools of the trade we’ve used for so long.
In 1 Kings 17, we read where Elijah responds to a call from God, sent to help a widow in the village of Zarephath. The call is firm, yet also vague and unusual. In a time of drought, Elijah is to ask a widow to feed him: counter-cultural for the times, and counter-cultural for a minister of God.
As a paramedic working on the frontline, I rarely received clarity in the initial call for help. In fact, often the information received added more confusion, building up that feeling that I was unprepared for what I was about to step into.
Elijah does exactly what God tells him to do, and then is thrust into a situation that he neither asked for nor had the natural skills to deal with. The widow’s son would get sick, very sick, and we read in v17, “he grew worse and worse, and finally he died.” Elijah was not a doctor, a nurse or a paramedic; in fact I’m not sure he expected to be thrust onto the frontline of this kind of crisis. Yet here he was – faced with the dead son of a widow. In a desperate call to God, Elijah cries out to save the boy’s life, and God moves. The boy is raised back to life, as God responds to Elijah’s obedience and faith, even though he was unprepared on the frontline of a crisis.
You may not have signed up to be pastoring on the front line of a global pandemic, yet God chose you, and will use your obedience as healing for His people.
Elijah didn’t have the skills or training to deal with his situation either, but he responded to the call, and he had faith in God.
On so many occasions, I would fly into a situation feeling unsure of what to do next… but I knew then, and I know now, that God is on the throne, and He is always in control.
We find ourselves living in days of rapid acceleration on many fronts. There is an acceleration of change and uncertainty within the world. Yet there’s also an acceleration of opportunity for believers.
The Kingdom of God never stands still, so we need to be prepared for an acceleration as we enter this season of harvest.
The way we disciple new believers during this season may also need to accelerate, leaning more towards a ‘hands on, learn as you work’ approach, driven by the urgency of the harvest at hand. We see this model of ‘hands-on’ discipleship during a harvest, within the book of Ruth.
We meet the recently bereaved Naomi, who has been living away from God’s people in enemy territory for years. She hears a report that ‘the Lord has given His people a good harvest.’ Good news – God has turned up in a big way, and is moving unmistakably! Stuff is happening, both blessing & harvest! Naomi wanted in, so she made the very significant move to position herself with God’s people, in God’s harvest field.
This prodigal brought along a ‘plus one’ – her pagan, Moabite daughter in law, Ruth.
I believe this is a prophetic picture of the last days harvest we’re entering into now. The prodigals will return. They’ll hear that God’s moving amongst His people, they’ll get a bad case of FOMO, and, not wanting to miss out, they’ll come home!
We need to get ready and make room for the ‘Naomis’, (the prodigals & backsliders) because they’re about to come home en-masse to God’s house, bringing their ‘Ruths’ (their unbelieving friends & family) with them.
Ruth declared her commitment to God in a vow, confessing faith in Naomi’s God. Their arrival back home coincides with the start of a bumper harvest, one they have not seen the like of for many years. Enter Boaz, a type/picture of Jesus. He is Lord of the harvest, owner of the whole field. Their place of meeting is significant – in the harvest field.
It is interesting to note that Boaz did not make Ruth jump through any hoops to prove her experience in reaping. He fully comprehended that she was a new believer, yet he let her have a go at harvesting! He didn’t make her get a theology degree first. Neither did he require her to firstly attain a semblance of maturity, or at least be saved for 5 years!
He simply encouraged Ruth to do her part and serve.
He instructed her to follow his workers, then let her loose in the harvest field. She learned about the Lord as she worked alongside His people in the field. Ruth was simultaneously discipled as she served. She didn’t learn about God in a class, she was immediately mobilised to work. Ruth learned by doing, by working alongside Boaz and his workers.
Today also, we are all called to make disciples – to mobilise God’s people, even new believers, and not to hinder them.
There is no hierarchy here. We’re all just workers in Jesus’ harvest field.
The need to release as many workers as we can into the harvest field now, is an urgent one. These new believers need not be sidelined by Christian bureaucracy of lengthy theory lessons within discipleship classes; they can simply be discipled as they serve alongside us in Jesus’ harvest field.
He needs them.
Luke 10:2 (Jesus) ‘The fields are ripe but the labourers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into the harvest field.’
Are there lessons that lockdown could teach us, because every new situation has the potential to speak to us. But it may be premature to speak of lessons, because, if the present situation resolves sooner than is expected I conject we will have learnt little. It will be business as usual, with an inconvenient hiatus – for most of us. To some, my inconvenience has been for them an occasion of great loss.
I suspect this lockdown will last longer than we’d wish. And time itself may be the only thing that effects actual change.
Of course, the temptation to pontificate will prove more than some can resist. We will hear every hue of prophetic pronunciation and denunciation. Some of them will be insightful, some will be bizarre, and others inconsequential (much to the chagrin of those would-be prophets).
Lessons may be a way off yet, but not observations. For instance, churches that are tech savvy have responded quickly, and in many cases very effectively. Some had already shown prescience doing online services. They have sophisticated systems that adapt to numerous platforms to keep connections alive among the church community. Many of these have resources to continue in high quality productions featuring worship and preaching. A normal Sunday, except online. But is this optimal? We may need to wind the clock back before we can answer this.
Until the time of the Reformation, church community gatherings were largely ‘us and them.’ The focal view of churches was the sacramental table, administered by ‘them’ – the priest. He celebrated the host, dispensed the wafer, and proclaimed the gospel in sacramental terms, all in Latin. Essentially, he did our religion for us. He had to, we barely understood what he intoned.
With the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the focus of the churches, in time, became the pulpit from which the minister preached the gospel in the vernacular, expecting adherence to its truth.
The pulpit, if not front and central by location, was elevated above the congregation (for voice projection reasons, but also a point was being made), and central to the mission of the church. If you visit a Roman Catholic or a Protestant church today, you will still see this essential difference.
This heritage is deeply embedded in the life blood of our churches – Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical. Preaching is the high point of a service – the direction they are geared towards. I doubt this thought will raise an eyebrow.
But does this focus tend to obscure, or take out of focus, biblical patterns/paradigms that the scriptures present for church life? And, maybe we have an opportunity to refocus due to this pandemic?
It sounds as if this is already being done in many churches, where connection with community is, at very least, supplementing preaching. Of course, it is never going to be either or, nor should it be. It is both, but a balance is being redressed.
In our foundation texts Acts 2:42-47 describes the structure of the church after the day of Pentecost. Debate still exists as to whether these verses are prescriptive or descriptive. It is likely to be both, and may even bend towards prescriptive, as Luke is writing with specific purpose, including this part of the churches narrative in Acts to call his readers back to this pattern of church life. Even in his time of writing the church needed to remember.
Teaching is the mentioned, then fellowship, the lifestyle, followed by breaking of bread and prayers. Generosity to/amongst God’s people is also included in this list.
The picture is clear. Community contextualised everything.
Most of these elements were not temple based, as teaching may have been. They were connected to homes, meals and fellowship. Teaching is not minimised, but it doesn’t dominate – God’s people being together eating, praying and caring for each other does, even if for the purpose of hearing the apostle’s teaching.
In a further example the apostle John writing in I John 1:3 states that the purpose of his proclamation was so that those who heard would have fellowship with those that spoke. John didn’t preach to be merely heard; he preached to affect connection with his hearers and with himself, which in turn would be with the Father and the Son. This is a different purpose to preaching; it has shared community and shared experience as its end.
All to say, maybe in lockdown the observable trend of heightened community connection (so much more like the church Luke saw) is as important as preaching messages.
If Sunday online is no different than an ordinary Sunday, I suspect we may be out of focus. Why perpetuate a monolithic model, that fewer seem attracted to, and not use this time to ramp up and enjoy connections with your community – as well as, not instead of.
Some are forced to do this, simply because they have neither the technology nor the know-how to present professionally competent content. Others are choosing to add life giving community to content rich communication.
If the four or five fundamentals Luke presents in Acts 2 are about community then an overdeveloped emphasis on preaching pulls this picture out of focus.
Going back to our foray into history, in a reaction to a sacramental approach to church meetings preaching became the replacement. Even here it isn’t either or, but something has been left out of the picture; a picture Luke was at pains to ratify in Acts – the vital and sustaining role of community, a community that hears together, eats together, receives communion together, prays together, and cares for one another, together.
It appears ironic that we may now be doing this better online than we did offline. This is as incongruous as the pandemic is ubiquitous.
Self-care. Me time. Mindfulness.
Principles and practices, certainly in Western culture, that are elevated high above our fast-paced blur right now. And at its core, self-care is obviously good. Clearly the scriptures call us to look after ourselves, to carve out rest, to run our own race. Yet, like many of these principles they can become diluted and then largely hedonistic when the world takes them on. I would argue that self-care is currently wearing worldly (ill-fitting) pants.
So how do we negotiate this space? I think a semantic shift can be aligning for us as disciples.
In recent times I have shifted to thinking of self-care as soul-care. The state of my soul – that is, my being, my essence, the beautiful combination of my emotions and spirit – this is the landscape that requires care, attention and focus.
And yet this process is not cookie-cutter nor scientific. Our soul is at home in art, and art lives in expression, emotion, risk, colour and creativity. Art breathes in paradox and nuance. Art shimmies up beside vulnerability and makes friends with it. Art is messy and beautiful.
So caring for our soul means a willingness to roll up our beige sleeves and get down to a gritty but creative business.
1. Engagement, not escapism.
Shouted from the worldly rooftops is the claim that self-care requires a moving away, an escaping to an island, a café, a bathtub, a cave of Netflix, a vortex of social media. That, to truly regroup, we must escape.
The art of soul-care, however, modelled time and again with our Jesus and superbly encapsulated by David in Psalms 23, is a that our soul is best cared for, nurtured and restored when we are engaged with the Good Shepherd.
2. Slow, sacred Sabbath.
I have been on a glorious journey of redefining the Sabbath in my life. Father God models this to us in Genesis 1-2. After six days of strategic, deliberate, purposeful, masterful creation he takes a day off – surely he wasn’t tired, right? And yet he took a definable time to exhale, to delight in his creation, to not work.
What is especially profound about this is the Sabbath here is described as holy (Genesis 2:3) – the only aspect of creative activity that is. Carving out a weekly designated space is essential for the care of our soul – a day where we are slower; a day where we feast and play and dream and rest and delight. To Sabbath is a truly sacred, and in fact holy, practise.
3. Regular rhythms.
The life of discipleship was never a call to balance, but a call to rhythm. The Message version of Matthew 11:28 remains one of my soul-care favourites – here Jesus says “walk with me, work with me, learn how I do it; learn the unforced rhythms of grace”.
Grace has a rhythm; discipleship has a rhythm; soul-care has a rhythm. That is, it ebbs and flows; it has valleys and peaks; light and shade, fullness and quietness; grace and grit. Jesus lived in rhythms and modelled these to his disciples, and then calls us to the same story.
4. Energy tanks.
Our time is static, but our energy isn’t. We can create and replenish our energy tanks by being deliberate and experimental in terms of understanding what fills and depletes our four internal reservoirs – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. We may even find one activity that replenishes all four tanks simultaneously and this is like a targeted soul downpour from a heavenly rain cloud.
Like most of the human experience, soul care requires a good dose of art and dust and beauty, yet a great measure of strategy and form and structure.
Let’s continue to spend our days watching and learning from the master Jesus at work (and rest) guided by the soul-filling, soul-anchoring, soul-aligning Holy Spirit.
I hope you have heard the message, ‘Return of the Shepherd,’ by the articulate Leanne Matthesius. The title has a Tolkien resonance to it, does it not?
Leanne has superb insight into, amongst other things, the value and glory of the task of caring for God’s flock, which, if we want to get Pauline about it, is largely what we are asked to do. “Pay careful attention … to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. The precious possession of the Lord’s church demands the care of attentive shepherds.
This got me thinking about the role of a shepherd and how vastly different it is from the other ascension gifts enumerated in Ephesians 4. We aren’t completely sure if Paul was referring to four or five roles/gifts. It would seem to be four as the pastor is also, necessarily, the feeder – the teacher. It is difficult to be or do one without the other.
But it wasn’t this that piqued my attention.
I spoke at an Evangelists gathering – yes, you heard right – and addressed the topic of the pastor and the evangelist, how they relate and how they can co-operate. As an aside to the conversation it struck me that, apart from the pastor, the ascension gifts by and large (and remember when reading this, you have to exaggerate differences sometimes to see the difference) are reasonably straight forward, almost black and white.
The apostle is a ground breaker, requiring resilience and focus. They normally don’t deal with the tangle of lives.
The prophet is a proclaimer, a revealer, and they are often black and white – in the sense that a picture, a word, is relatively clear and always a simplification.
The evangelist is a bringer of good news. The cross, forgiveness, faith are straightforward enough. Of all these the evangelist is probably the most black and white – they need to be.
The teacher speaks of truth, application to lifestyle, and is often systematic in presentation.
But the pastor, ohh yes the pastor, deals with the inconvenience of nuance, the complication of lives, the tangle of relationships, of humanity – messy, complex and sheep like. To pastor you have to reconcile yourself to nuance. Things are always less straight forward in the sheep pen.
I suggest pastoring may be the most difficult, the most awkward of the ministries, because nothing is so complex as people.
The other equally important gifts can avoid the tangle a little more easily, especially if they travel.
For the pastor the nuance of situations, that never seem to quite conform to biblical verities, has to be constantly navigated. Almost every situation requires a different approach. The sermon on Sunday has to be massaged into mess, bad decisions and self-orientation.
If you are a pastor, you necessarily will have to trade in nuance. If you can’t you are in the wrong job.
Go the pastors – you are the real heroes.
Balance… that silly little word we throw around in ministry and in life, yet we never really achieve it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that “all things are possible with God,” yet I don’t know if He ever asks us to live a “balanced” life? Thou shalt live a balanced life (insert sarcastic religious voice), is not the 11th commandment. Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly and He wants us to prosper in all things, in every area of our lives!
Balance by sheer definition would make us believe we need to give equal parts of ourselves to every part of our lives in order to be steady and successful. Yet I’m not convinced every part of our lives needs to have an even distribution of our time and energy in order to be full of life, to be prospering, and to be healthy.
I think we need to throw the notion of “balance” out the window, as well as the guilt that comes along with it!
I believe the right question is, is my marriage healthy? Is my family healthy? Is my ministry healthy? Because healthy things grow, healthy things flourish, healthy things prosper and that is what our Heavenly Father wants for us. And, if one of those areas is not flourishing, then could it be that we have neglected an area that needs to be nurtured?
In life, in ministry, in marriage and family, there will be constant ebbs and flows. In one season, ministry may be demanding the majority of your time, and that’s ok! And in another season, your children may require the majority of your time, and that’s ok too!
However, I think we need to be able to recognize when one area of our life has taken priority over the others and then intentionally create a season where the neglected areas can be nurtured again.
I know my husband Jon and I have had to be very intentional when it comes to the health of our marriage, our family and our ministry. Knowing the ins and outs of our ministry lives, our family nights and family vacations are absolutely non-negotiable. So are vacations for just Jon and I (because we all know family trips are amazing, but not necessarily a “vacation”… and all the parents said amen!)
Jon and I look at our calendar every year and anticipate busy seasons in ministry, and we purposefully plan our getaways or days off after those busy seasons so that we can reconnect, refresh, and nurture our relationships with our children and with each other. This has created such strength and health in our marriage and with our kids, not to mention amazing memories! And a beautiful bi-product is that we are happier, healthier leaders and pastors to those who God has entrusted to us!
I believe it’s so important as leaders and pastors to model what hard work and commitment looks like, but equally as important to model what it looks like to rest, to be refreshed, and to keep a sabbath.
Because, people who aren’t rested tend to make silly decisions, and people who only rest don’t accomplish anything. So let’s be smart. Let’s be healthy. Let’s give it our all whether we are resting or working. And, let’s remember to continually re-evaluate our season of life and nurture those things which may have been neglected, back into a place of strength and health. Amen!
Bushfires have ravaged Australia in the last few months, with 86 still burning in New South Wales alone. A staggering 18.6 million hectares of land have been left barren and charred, approximately 2,176 homes have been reduced to rubble, and 21 lives have been lost. Those not directly affected by the fires have suffered significant air pollution and power outages.
However, amidst such heartache, we’re seeing communities rally together as they rebuild.
Young & old are gathering together in towns, ports and cities to provide practical and emotional support, and we’re truly honoured to be a part of it. As widespread rain falls (thank you Jesus), C3 churches across the country are matching prayer with love in action.
C3 Church Camden
C3 Church Camden (just south-west of Sydney) have been able to offer ongoing support to families throughout December and January.
“Through communication with other local agencies, we are constantly looking to assess the needs and fill gaps wherever we can.” Ps Rohan Bell, C3 Church Camden
Donations so far have included:
- Food hampers
- Supermarket and fuel vouchers
- Bedding and linen
- Meals for the NSW RFS volunteers
- Purchase of full-face respiratory masks for RFS volunteers (many are only supplied with paper masks)
- School supplies for affected families
Funnelled through C3 Church Camden, efforts by C3 Australia have raised approximately $65,000, plus donated goods like food, bedding, clothing etc.
And the funds are still flooding in. Elevation Church (in North Carolina) in particular have reached out and offered a generous donation. We are so grateful for their support, and others like them, from across oceans.
For more information or to donate, head to https://chuffed.org/project/c3-fire-relief.
C3 New Hope
C3 New Hope is also playing a part in relief efforts. Across their 8 locations – Kiama, Mount Annan, Campbelltown, Blue Mountains, Oran Park, Wilton and Townsville – they held an offering to raise funds for families on the far South Coast of NSW.
“Specifically we aimed to help those with school-aged children (and even local schools) to ease the burden of back to school shopping.” Bec Choat, C3 New Hope Kiama
With 2,176 homes lost since the beginning of the bushfire crisis in 2019, and school beginning by the end of January, back-to-school shopping will be a struggle for many bushfire-affected families.
Partnering with locals, and another church in Kiama (Generocity Church), C3 New Hope volunteers have so far compiled 25 backpacks filled with school supplies, to the value of over $2000.
C3 Jervis Bay
A small group of volunteers from from C3 Jervis Bay on New South Wales’s South Coast have been working tirelessly since January 2nd to clear away rubble and remains from burned properties. The volunteers, including Pastor Steve Ahern, have been using their own machinery – mostly bobcats and tractors – and their own fuel to support the clean-up.
“We’re just getting in there and getting it done.” Ps Steve Ahern, C3 Jervis Bay
This less glamorous side of the recovery efforts is often overlooked, but can be extremely costly to residents.
C3 Church Camden & Picton have offered to contribute some of the raised funds towards petrol and machinery costs.
Do you have a story to share?
There are countless other stories of people stepping in and providing relief for Aussies all over the country. If you have a story to share, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There aren’t an incredibly long list of kings ruling today, and if they are a king (or queen), they are mainly figureheads with constitutional power, but not absolute power. Belgium, Kuwait, Spain, Thailand, Tonga, are just a few nations with modern-day kings. The only three I could find with absolute power rule in Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Oman.
Kings in the older systems (and today as well) were there to take care of the people. They were there to make sure that there was a system in place that could provide for and protect their people in good times and bad. Bad times were often times of famine and war, and those kinds of bad times could topple a king, as he was seen as ineffective.
There were definitely good kings throughout history – kings who had absolute power and made life better for their people:
- Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire.
- James I of England.
- John III of Poland-Lithuania.
- Meiji of Japan.
- Gustav II Adolf of Sweden.
- Augustus of Rome.
- Cyrus II of Persia.
- Frederick II of Prussia.
But if you’re like me, it can seem like so many kings had a bad rep.
If you look at the Old Testament there were 33 kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and only 5 good kings. That should tell us something:
Absolute power has the power to corrupt absolutely.
David is considered the best king Israel ever had, a man after God’s own heart. But he was an incredibly flawed person, and even he did something profoundly corrupt by essentially having Bathsheba’s first husband, Uriah, murdered.
So, let’s take a look at several of Israel’s kings.
God’s People Request A King
It is believed that the Israelites came out of Egypt in the 13th century BCE. The Israelite’s were unique compared with other peoples at the time. They followed God as their leader, not a king. But after living for several centuries with judges and priests to rule over them, they wanted a king.
But this was not what God wanted for them. God had led the people through Moses and Aaron, and then through priests and judges raised up to govern the people.
Their request for a king was a rejection of God’s way of leadership over them.
The priest Samuel was a leading light for them, and they trusted him. But they didn’t have a lot of love for his children who they said did not follow his ways. In Samuel’s time, the people began to worry about who the next leader would be.
The Israelites wanted a king in order to be like all the other nations, but God had created Israel as a unique people. He was their leader.
When the Israelites wanted a king like other nations had, they were rejecting their unique, set-apart position as God’s people.
Israel, whose God was to be the only God, was envious of the nations who followed false gods. But they insisted. So, they chose Saul.
Saul’s Strong Start
Saul was born circa 1076 BCE in the land of Benjamin in Israel. He became the first King of Israel circa 1046 BCE where he united tribes and defeated enemies such as the Ammonites, Philistines, Moabites, and Amalekites.
While some people didn’t love the choice at first, he won a decisive battle against the Ammonites as one of his first kingly moves, and his first act was to forbid retribution against those who had previously contested his kingship. A very kingly move indeed.
Fast forward to the battle with the Philistines and Goliath, the giant. The mighty king is confounded by his enemy until a young shepherd boy comes along, using his wit – and God’s great plan – to bring down a giant and set himself up to be king of the land.
David. Of all the kings of Israel, David is the one after God’s own heart. What does that mean? Let’s look at the Psalms*:
- Humble – Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Psalm 62:9
- Reverent – I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:3
- Respectful – Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9
- Trusting – The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
- Loving – I love you, O Lord, my strength. Psalm 18:1
- Devoted – You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7
- Recognition – I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1
- Faithful – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6
- Obedient – Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Psalm 119:34
- Repentant – For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:11
*Ten Reasons David is Called “A Man After God’s Own Heart” – Ron Edmondson
He was repentant, but he was flawed. His rein ended in a mess, with his own son coming against him.
The Rise And Fall Of Solomon
Solomon, the son of David’s infidelity, asked for wisdom. Although he received it (Proverbs is an exceptional book), he ended up bringing the whole country into idolatry through his many foreign wives.
Even the best king in the Bible wasn’t a truly good king. He wanted to be one, but you could say: “He was only human.”
The Messiah: The Promised Deliverer
No, we had to wait one thousand years until a small boy was born in a humble stable, in very unusual circumstances, in the backwater of the Roman empire – Judea.
This man would become king. But not in the way one might expect. And that was unfortunate for those who had been waiting. Because, sadly, some of them missed it. Missed Him.
All through its long, troubled history, the people of Israel, stubborn as they were, had been waiting for someone to come and save them. You got to give them credit, they toughed it out, year-on-year. Waiting and believing. Hanging together, holding to their beliefs and traditions while mightier kingdoms fell around them into dust and forgetfulness. A sturdy people, believing that the God of the universe would save them one day. He would come and rescue them from all the meanness of life, the cruelty and savagery.
And then along comes Jesus, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the one who holds all the universe together… and he blows all their stereotypes to bits.
He eats with sinners, he breaks the sabbath, he chats with the ladies, he washes his friend’s feet. He was the opposite of a religious person. He wasn’t doing it to thumb his nose at religion or authority – he came with all authority. He was showing us a better way. The way of love.
If most earthly kings lead from a place of brokenness, allowing their fears and insecurities to drive them, Jesus leads from a place of supreme authority and love. He came to save, not to destroy.
He came to SERVE and his currency – his power – is love.
This is the true good king. And this is the One we serve, the One in whom we have placed all our hope. God always wanted to be our King, and in Jesus his Kingship was re-established.
What king do you want?
So, in light of the frailty of men and women – which one of us can say we are above the sin that lies at the heart of man? Sure, most of us are pretty nice people, but we are all given to sin.
So what king do you want? A king that might be able to provide a good quality of life? Or, a king that can save your life – forever. One, that if you choose Him as king of your life will never leave you or forsake you. A king that came to serve, not lord it over you and crush you.
This is the King I serve, and this is the King I want. Jesus is King of my life. And I would submit that He is the best King we could ever hope for.
Colossians 1: 15-22 says:
“He is the divine portrait, the true likeness of the invisible God, and the firstborn heir of all creation. For in him was created the universe of things, both in the heavenly realm and on the earth, all that is seen and all that s unseen. Every seat of power, realm of government, principality, and authority—it all exists through him and for his purpose! He existed before anything was made, and now everything finds completion in him. He is the Head of his body, which is the church. And since he is the beginning and the firstborn heir in resurrection, he is the most exalted One, holding first place in everything. For God is satisfied to have all his fullness dwelling in Christ. And by the blood of his cross, everything in heaven and earth is brought back to himself—back to its original intent, restored to innocence again! Even though you were once distant from him, living in the shadows of your evil thoughts and actions, he reconnected you back to himself. He released his supernatural peace to you through the sacrifice of his own body as the sin-payment on your behalf so that you would dwell in his presence. And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored.”