Kingdom or Family?

This morning at our local assembly in the Boland College Hall, we had a continuation of a series on Jesus not preaching salvation per se, but rather the Kingdom of God, and it got me thinking again about the nature of our relationship with God. It’s been a while since I first started thinking, reading and praying about this, so now may be an appropriate time to write it all down.

The first point was: God’s purposes will ultimately prevail, no matter how many twists and turns are taken and how many apparently “wrong directions” are made at times. Much like a large river (e.g. the Mississippi in the US) does in it’s many snaking turns on it’s way to the sea, ultimately, it flows from north to south and ends up in the sea.

Secondly, it was God’s intention to establish His kingdom in the physical world, without physically coming into it. This I have often wondered about, since it does not appear to be what he actually did. Why? Well Gen 1:26-27 tells us that mankind is designed to have authority over the animals, plants and all of creation, but it does not establish dominion over fellow humans. Jesus also made that really clear in Mat 23:8 that we are all brothers and we have one Father. So the notion of kingdom per se is not in the picture at this stage. But let’s continue for the moment to the next point.

Looking at the what the purposes or original plan of God was, they could be listed as being to

  1. establish a spiritual family, and
  2. a kingdom of kings, not of subjects. Also
  3. a commonwealth of citizens, not religious subjects, and
  4. have relationship with mankind, not establish a religion, and lastly
  5. extend his government on earth and influence earth from heaven through mankind

The first point and the second are somewhat contraditory though, as are the third and fourth. Let me explain what I mean by starting from some principles.

Alexander Campbell, a wise man by any standard, formulated seven rules of biblical interpretation. Alan Dale quotes the first of these principles in an excellent essay on “Women Speakers” as being that “we must consider the historical circumstances that existed at the time of writing of a book of the bible, as well as the reasons that caused the book to be written.”

If we apply this to the topic at hand, some interesting realisations will be made.

When God created Adam (and Eve), he walked with them in the garden. He was there in person, the “Father of All” himself. Surely, if he did that, it was his intention to be with his creation physically, not so, and not just for Adam and Eve to represent him? Of course he instructed Adam to rule over creation, but it does not seem to be his primary purpose. His relationship with them seems foremost. So, whatever came after that, was not his primary original intention and purpose, otherwise he would have deceived Adam into believing that Eden and daily fellowship with God was only a temporary diversion for the sake of some greater goal (or whatever else we may want to call it).

At the fall things changed for the worse. What did not change, however, was that Adam was a son of God and Eve his daughter. They where His creation and he intended to be their Father.

So where does the notion of kingdom come from?

The first reference to a kingdom is in relation to what Nimrod established. (Gen 10:8-9). Wesley has this to say about Nimrod: “Nimrod was a mighty hunter – This he began with, and for this became famous to a proverb. Some think he did good with his hunting, served his country by ridding it of wild beasts, and so insinuated himself into the affections of his neighbours, and got to be their prince. And perhaps, under pretence of hunting, he gathered men under his command, to make himself master of the country. Thus he became a mighty hunter, a violent invader of his neighbour’s rights and properties. And that, before the Lord – Carrying all before him, and endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He thought himself a mighty prince; but before the Lord, that is, in God’s account, he was but a mighty hunter. Note, Great conquerers are but great hunters. Alexander and Caesar would not make such a figure in scripture history as they do in common history. The former is represented in prophecy but as a he-goat pushing, Dan 8:5. Nimrod was a mighty hunter against the Lord, so the seventy; that is, he set up idolatry, as Jeroboam did, for the confirming of his usurped dominion; that he might set up a new government, he set up a new religion upon the ruin of the primitive constitution of both.” The Geneva Translation (footnote f) says: “His tyranny came into a proverb as hated both by God and man: for he did not cease to commit cruelty even in God’s presence. ” Strong comments on the word gibbôr (mighty) as being: “by implication warrior, tyrant”, so the implication of Nimrod’s kingdom is negative for certain.

Then in Gen 20 we read of Abimelech’s kingdom and his interaction with Abraham and Sarah, but not a word at all in the relationship between God and Abraham.

Then in Exodus 19:4-6, God says to Israel “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (WEB). So God starts to use the paradigm that the Israelites see around them, that of a kingdom, for the first time, to explain to them that as their Father, he is also their King and as his children, they are his kingdom. He uses it rather as showing that they are not like the kingdoms, a system of subjects and rules, but rather relatives (my own) being priests, separate (holy) for Him. He communicates to them what he’s wanted all along – an intimate family related to Him – all priests, all able to approach him, converse and commune with him.

But the “greener grass on the other side syndrome” hit them and the world systems soon appeared better to the Israelites, it seems, and they insisted on also having an earthly king too. 1 Sam 8:4 says “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah and they said to him, Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. Samuel prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.” (WEB)
So, firstly God took their terminology (king / kingdom) and then he, on their insistence, gave them an earthly king as well. We must not be deceived, though, into thinking that this was God’s purpose or intention. I think it is very clear that it was the case, but that by their ungoldly ways, Isreal brought this state onto themselves.

Yet, despite all this, God still goes with that which they now relate to, in order to try to woo them back.

The kingdom of David is established, as is Solomon’s kingdom and eventually he aligns the birth of His Son with that of the line of David. He, Yeshua, becomes the first born of the children of God, those that are not under the dominion of Satan anymore, due to their acceptance of the salvation Yeshua brought. And although he speaks of His Kingdom, he makes it really clear that it is nothing like the earthly kingdoms around them.

Let’s put this train of thought on hold for a moment and look at the historical circumstances under which Yeshua spoke of his dominion – his kingdom. In a world where all authority was vested in the kings of the Romans and their delegates, the provincial governors, it would have been really difficult to explain Godly authority outside of this paradigm. How would the Isrealites understand now what they had missed for so long? In the same way that Yeshau used parables, he now explains his authority to them by embraces thier terminology. But he very clearly points out the difference:

  • Don’t give each other titles, you are all brothers (sigh – where does this leave the charismatics with their incessant titling of pastor to all that bear their system’s stamp of approval?)
  • Servants are the most important in His order (diaconos: servants, but we have made it sound all religious by translating it as ‘ministers’ and all chauvinistic by translating ‘submission’ when is applies to women)
  • Die to self to live (a message not popular at all in the wake of the skewed prosperity twist on the gospel, which became just as over the top as the roman catholic orders that avowed themselves to poverty)
  • Give freely and without expecting back (not the legislation of tithes – and the curse be upon all who dare to defy it – which has bound believers into a dogmatic dungeon where God can be manipulated into blessing them)
  • Smaller is better (He sends them 2 by 2, picks only 12 eventually and only three go with him to pray in Getsemane). Gatherings in the homes of “men of peace”: the wise, experienced elders of the city, leading the flock of believers and watching over their souls. Believers – disciples – that drive out demons, heal the sick, feed the poor, care for the orphans, dispense justice and deal righteously in civil matters and in that way bring the Kingdom wherever they are and operate (not the extremely proficient business moguls that run franchise-style, mega-church enterprises under the guise of church growth to somehow advance the Kingdom of God)
  • One God – Yahweh, the Father; One King – Yeshua, the Christ, the Savour, The oldest of the brothers and sisters; One Teacher – Parakletos, the Helper, Teacher and guide. The simple nature of it all boggles the minds of wise and learned to this day as they attempt to add all sorts of extras to improve on God’s simplicity. In doing so, they sideline millions of simple people who really love God and should have been encouranged, strengthened and loved.

In a sense Parenthood and Kingship are directly opposed to each other. Parents reproduce by nature, their children inherit and reproduce. Kings on the other hand have subjects that at most share in the king’s wealth, but they never inherit, nor do subjects produce kings.

So in relation to each other and our Father, we are family, yet in relation to the rest of creation we are kings.

Is it God’s Kingdom or God’s Family? I believe in relation to the outside we are a Kingdom, yet by nature and structure we are a family. Are we schizophrenic? No, never. Nothing in all eternity can take away that I am the son of my earthly father, Eberhard. In the same way, I am a son of God by re-birth into his family.

Today there are hardly any kings left. Most people have no idea what a real king was like, nor do the Hollywood portrayals of ancient rulers do justice to true royalty, that, like Solomon, lead their people to prosperity, peace and a good life, instead of war, destruction and conquest. So how can people relate to a God that is proclaimed as a King? Is he mean, ill-tempered and does he wipe those he dislikes from the face of the earth? The fact few have insight into the way God chose and used Israel as his dispenser of justice or the earth, makes the matter even worse. Then, persuant to that course, the church is now the replacement for Israel, right? However, Paul clearly states that the assembly of the believers (I strongly dislike the term church – it is devoid of the meaning it was originally used for) is the plan of God since before the foundation of the world. Eph 3:10-11 “… to the intent that now through the assembly the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (WEB) So the model that Israel followed is not the pattern, but merely the way that God chose to deal with the nations and people of the world at that time in the way Isreal choose by rejecting God’s better way. It does, however, teach us a lot about the nature and character of God, and that we should apply diligently.

Would God then have chosen a modern leadership model to reveal himself, had he done it at this time? Would he have called himself the president? In a democratic society, the president may be ousted tomorrow by the popular vote. Even the public company in the business world is not fit either – public opinion can kill it within weeks.

It seems that that most appropriate way is the family model. After all, Christ and the assembly are modelled by the husband-wife relationship! The dilemma is, of course, that the enemy, Diabolos, has made great efforts to remove this bastion of society from the scene. Fatherhood is made as pathetic as a loser American sitcom Dad, motherhood is portrayed as superior, without need of a father, children as supreme beings that can raise themselves without parental correction or guidance, and so the battle rages for the minds of mankind. But deep in the heart of every person is the need to have a loving, caring father and mother, albeit numbed by the pain of rejection, absence and lack of care in many cases. That may be the greatest reason why we need Parakletos to possess us and heal us as humankind.

The family dynasty is still the way God originally chose to reveal and relate to his creation, his children. Even the kingdom paradigm must be understood that context.

Ultimately we are God’s family. All other models must be understood in that light.

The Head needs you

(copied from my old blog at http://ekklesia.giesler.za.net)
11 February 2007

No-one in the body of Christ can live without the Head. Eventually a headless body dies. We need Christ, the head, more than anything and we cannot do without Him.

On the other hand, God, the Father does not need us. He can exist in all his Glory without us. However, he chose to bring us to him, by having His Son die and be brought back to life and we with Him. So although he could have continued without us, he chose not to. He chose to include us in His plans, and through Christ, we are now part of him. By choice He now needs us. That is a profound thought and one which we must not take lightly. It places an enormous responsibility on us to do what he tells us. It makes each and every one of us important. We can no longer claim to be insignificant, just another little person who fades into nothingness compared to God’s greatness and glory. If He has chosen us as co-workers with Christ, we are making serious mistakes when we don’t build with Him.

Imagine for one moment the body of Christ is represented by the huge statue above Rio de Janeiro with it’s arms spread wide. Each person obeying his instructions makes the cement in it strong and able to weather storms and winds. However, each person ignoring his calling and continuing on his own path, makes the part where he’s built in weak, eventually causing gaping holes to fall in the arms, the legs, stomach and back, etc. Soon the whole statue looses it’s effect and becomes a shameful, laughable thing – a joke.

Dear saint, dear brother and sister, you are are a crucial component in the body of Christ. You are needed, you are important, you are wanted and you are chosen. Do not let anyone ever convince you of anything else.

Communion

Each time, in recent times, that I’ve had communion with an assembly of believers, I have sat there thinking that I have to write down my thoughts regarding this matter, and then I put in off due to other more pressing matters. Now, finally, I have done it 🙂

The matter of The Lord’s Supper, Communion, The Table of the Lord or even “serving of the Elements” is a very important part of our life as believers.

Firstly, it serves as a reminder. A reminder of what Yeshua has done for us, the price he paid for our redemption, and the new life he freely gave us. It reminds us that he paid the ultimate price for our lives, our redemption and our liberty. It also reminds us that we should continuously offer our own lives in service to God and to our fellow believers, and to the world, just like our Lord and Master has done.

Secondly, it serves as a confession. A confession of our dedication to Christ and to one another. It’s a statement that says we submit to our brother and sisters as we submit to Christ.

Thirdly, it serves as a reminder of our unity. There is one body and one head, all living for the glory of the Father. By drinking and eating together, that symbolic action translates into a binder that links us together. Nothing magic happens, like the Roman Catholics would make us believe (that the bread and wine turn into Christ’s body), but the declaration of unity before the One that binds us together in His body, is a powerful force. That is why Paul warns against eating and drinking a curse over ourselves if we do not confess our sins to one another and don’t ensuring that there is nothing between us, whether is be “our fault” or not. See 1 Cor 10:16.

Maybe there is more symbolism which doesn’t come to mind right now. Please post a comment or let me know and I’ll add it in here.

How to

Well, for one, both Yeshua and Shaul (Paul) suggest that it should be often, if not daily. We all eat daily, don’t we (unless we’re fasting)? I have often wondered about the interpretation of Yeshua’s instruction at the last supper:
1 Cor 11:25 In the same way he also took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink, in memory of me.” (26) For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (Jubilee Translation)

Does this mean we should remember the blood and body when we have communion, or when we eat? The terms “as often as” being repeated surely indicates that we should to or frequently rather than now and again.

Taking from the Jewish context in which Yeshua was born and operated, it surely means at least every Friday evening when the Shabat meal is eaten, but there is nothing that prevents us from doing this daily. If this is indeed a proclamation of the Lord’s death, the we should be doing it at least daily! After all we do feed our bodies daily, how much more should we proclaim the death that saved our eternal souls.

Taking this one step further, I would suggest that this is where the christian custom of praying before we eat comes from. If we thank the Lord before each meal for the blood and body of Christ, and we take Shaul’s warning seriously, to ensure we are clean in our relationships, we would see an amazing blessing and a powerful demonstration of the power of unity in Christ.

One head: Christ

Another issue that we should consider doing as a rule, or at least whenever possible, is to take one bread and one jug and share it among ourselves. It’s so much better to portray the body and blood of Christ as one, instead of little tiny crisp-bread pieces and micro-cups that get passed around as if somehow the contents of the bread-plate or the juice in the cups hold magic. Satan has cleverly turned a powerful, frequent proclamation, into a whimsical, religious ceremony, devoid of the strong symbolism and powerful reminder that Yeshua has intended it to be.

Wolfgang Simson, in his 15 Theses puts it like this: Church tradition has managed to “celebrate the Lord’s Supper” in a homoeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the “Lord’s Supper” was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.

Be a father

I would like to see all fathers take the lead in leading their families into remembering the death of Yeshua whenever they eat together. Sadly, many will have a hard time doing this, since they seldom eat together. It may also not be the most appropriate action at the local MacDonalds!

We should determine to restore what was lost by many in society: A family that eats together at least once a day, remembering the death and resurrection of the One who gave them life. If you can start with a loaf of bread and wine, then great. If you can’t, then take what you’ve got. After all, in Jewish culture bread and wine was very much an everyday thing. When I was in the army, we used coffee and rusks, since that was what we had. I remember it to this day, which is exactly what this is all about: Remembering what our life is all about and why we are. If we forget that, we may as well not be Christians any more, since then we would become just like all other religions: A human ritual soothing the mind into believing that we have somehow attained something spiritual, when in essence we have simply misled ourselves.

If it works, should we do it?

Much has been said about the methods employed by the modern church. Methods to get people to come to church, the get them to tithe, to get them to support church functions, etc. Why should they come to church or get involved anyway?

When I was in my late teens, I remember Floyd McClung quoting a study that was done in Amsterdam, if I remember correctly. It went something like this:

In a survey, young people were asked if the were interested in the church and learning more about it. 99% said no. Then those same people were asked if they were interested in learning more about Jesus and his teachings and 99% said yes. When these results were shown to the pastor and leaders of the churches in the area, their response was shocking: “What is wrong with our young people?”.

The response should have been: “What is wrong with us?”

Here is a thought provoking piece about this state of affairs and the thinking that the end justifies the means: OldTruth.com

If anybody has a reference or more detail on the mentioned study, please mail post a comment. I’d be happy to quote the detail correctly.