Here is Bruggemann[i] discussing the significance of Yahweh’s Kingship in ‘Zion: The Jerusalem Offer of Presence’:
‘The Kingship of Yahweh resolved the enduring battle between the life-giving creation order and the restless, surging destructiveness of chaos. Jon Levenson has shown that surging chaos is known in Israel to be still on the loose and as yet un-tamed by Yahweh.
Israel’s dominant metaphor for this threat of chaos, which is both cosmic and intensely existential, is “the mighty waters” that surge out of control so that the life of Israel and the life of the world are under threat. In the liturgy of Yahweh’s kingship, worship is the drama wherein the waters are driven back, defeated, and contained’ (2005, p.655-656)
This seems to contain a certain percentage of relevance to our contemporary condition (or it stands as a contradiction to our current conditioning).
The biblical text explains that God established himself as King, establishes himself as King and will establish Himself as King. (E.g.: The covenant formula: I will be their God and they will be my people)
Bruggemann points out, that psalm 48 in its entirety asserts the claim that this God-king is not the king Israel expects. Building on this it might be fair to say that this remains pertinent to humanity today.
He is the King who adopts[ii]; invites and exists for us. In a loving and just stand against our self-destructive ways he extends possibilities for correction, because ‘he wills not the death of the sinner, but their correction’ (Ambrose of Milan, ‘On Repentance’).
He is the King who acts in mercy and justice towards his people. Even in our rejection of him, we still find his acceptance of us calling for a response.
Even though God has revealed himself as the living embodiment of the King we long for, in our fascination with the righteous king of stories such as King Arthur and Robin Hood, attempts are made to make this God-King redundant.
History dictates that men and women who burn for total power are the napalm that burns everyone under them, or anyone who stands in the way of their quest for total power.
Take for example, some of Machiavelli’s more interesting comments which provide an insight into the socio-political condition of his day. Bare in mind these comments were made in 1513 (four years before the reformation):
People are so thoughtless they’ll opt for a diet that tastes good without realising there’s hidden poison in it…if a man or woman cannot spot a problem in the making, he or she can’t really be a wise leader’[iii]
‘For the ruler already in power generosity is dangerous; for the man seeking power it is essential’[iv]
‘So these rulers of ours, who were well-established kings and dukes yet still lost their states, should spare us their bad-luck stories; they have only themselves to blame. In peacetime they never imagined anything could change – it’s a common short coming not to prepare for the storm while the weather is fair.’[v]
These alone should tell us that humanity without this God-King cannot be trusted to rule a kingdom that bears the marks of His authority, but has jettisoned all acknowledgement of God’s current and future rule. (Man over Lord equals man overboard.)
Further back from Machiavelli, we hear the Old Testament prophets reminding us that the world must not fall to ignorance and complacency. When we hear this, we do well to listen because the pain and suffering of history is broadcasting warnings into the present; warnings about the ensuing calamity of ideological crusades when they are served by men and women, under the promise of establishing ‘God’s kingdom without God in it’[vi].
In this case Barth’s words ring true:
‘where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair.’
(Barth, K.1938 CD I/II Hendrickson Publishers p.668)
[i] Walter Brueggemann, 2005 TOT: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy Augsburg Press
[ii] Ephesians 1:5 ‘In love God predestined us for adoption as sons and daughters’ through Jesus Christ’
[iii] Machiavelli, N. 1513 ‘The Prince’ Penguin Classics, p.69
[iv] Ibid, p.63
[v] Ibid, p.97
[vi] Johnny Cash & U.2, ‘The Wanderer’
©RL2014; reposted 6th July 2017