What kind of king do you want to follow?
What kind of king do you want to follow?
The historical biblical story follows a group of people known as the Hebrews. Their people’s name is synonymous with the “Israelites” and later the “Jews”.
In this story, the creator God, also known as YHWH or I AM, speaks to a man named Abram about his future. God says Abram will be blessed, or we may say, live a whole life. One part of this whole life includes a big family, a family so strong and healthy that they’d become a people… can you guess their name? Bingo, the Hebrew people.
So the Hebrew people are a people whose God is YHWH. They have a set way of living (the Law) and ways of remembering and celebrating (festivals) this good God YHWH.
While all this is happening, other nations grow up around them, but these other nations choose other gods and ways of living. Some parts of these other ways of living overlapped with the Hebrew people, but other parts included practices that contradicted YHWH’s way. For example, the people who followed and worshiped a god called Molech (also Molek or Moloch) would sacrifice their children in hopes he’d stay happy with them.
Well as time went by, the Hebrew people lived on, and YHWH continued to be their God and continued leading them towards living a whole life. But it wasn’t magic and wasn’t forced. The Hebrews received God’s way, then had to choose. Would they follow this God or would they follow another god like Molech of the surrounding nations?
As you can guess, while some of the Hebrew people held to YHWH, as a nation they drifted away and began acting like the nations around them. But, like stepping out from under the covering of an umbrella during a downpour, things began to change. They were no longer experiencing this whole life that YHWH had said was best. I wonder why. Side note, young people… choose your best friends carefully, you’ll become like them.
Fast forward a few generations and the Hebrews, who’d now become known as the Israelites (technically they’d split into two parts, or kingdoms: Israel and Judah), were in trouble…and they knew it. They needed a leader. They needed structure and organization and a way of life that wasn’t a pick and choose scattering of ideals from whatever sounded good to them. So, they began appointing kings over themselves. But the problem was, YHWH told them He’d lead them, that He’d be their king.
And so… except for a few good kings like Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah, and David (although even still these guys weren’t perfect), Israel was only lead further away from YHWH’s instruction on living a whole life.
But God saw this. And God still loved these people. So He spoke to them again, but this time about a king that would set things right once and for all. The word began to circulate, and the term used for this special king, unique from all others, was “Messiah” which meant “The Anointed One”.
Okay. So that’s the backstory. Then hundreds of years happen, but no real Messiah to lead them. Groups of people form within the Israelites (now known as Jews) called Pharisees (there were other groups too, but for now, we’ll stick with these guys) whose entire job was to read and teach YHWH’s way of a whole life to the people. A good thing. So they hold gatherings in buildings called synagogues where people can come to listen in hopes of aligning their lives with God’s way. All the while, the rumor of the Messiah still exists.
This leads us to John chapter five. A story about a man named Jesus healing a guy who’d been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. That’s a long time to not be able to walk or run or do much on his own. His body, in many ways, was a picture of the Jewish people’s history. They’d become crippled and needed help.
Well in the story, Jesus heals him. The guy has a chat with Jesus, Jesus heals him, and the guy walks away from the encounter. Amazing. But I’m not convinced that’s the focus of the story… the teachers of God’s way (the Law and the Prophets) are. These guys, whose job was to lead people towards God, had essentially memorized the words, but weren’t allowing the words to change their hearts. They were doing the right stuff for the wrong reasons.
And the problem was Jesus healed this man on the day everyone was to rest and enjoy God. Plus He says God is His father. Aka… “hey boys, I’m here (I’m the Messiah)”. In other words, God’s way is healing as you rest and allow Him to be your king. Do you see the irony?
But, they were so fixated on the “right way” and had become blind to the why of what God said was best that they verbally attack Jesus and decide it’s time to figure out a way to kill this guy.
So… all this lends a question. If these Jewish people were longing for a perfect king yet rejected Him when He came, what’s up with that?
Simply put, I’d suggest it’s because they wanted a king who created fear, not love. They wanted a tough king who “made stuff happen” and defeated the surrounding nations and who would make them rich and powerful and number one… sound like a nation you know?
But God said no. That wasn’t the way of His kingdom, and fear wasn’t the way of His king, Jesus. Love was. And this king Jesus was inviting all of humanity into His kingdom. The door was now opened and it was no longer just a Jewish one but a human one. This kingdom was build on love, not fear. Jesus did not support a nation, but an eternal Kingdom. Jesus did not fight for safety or power or position, but laid His life down when others wanted to take it. This forever God kingdom is a very different kingdom with a very different way of living than the ones they lived in and the one we now live in. It is a kingdom whose king leads by love, not fear.
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”
1 Corinthians 13v4-5
So for us today, the question is no different than it was for those in the story of John. What kind of king do you want? If you, in our culture of fear, want one whose way is using and creating and propagating fear in order to try and be number one in the world… go for it. But beware, as nice as it sounds, that kind of king doesn’t care about you, only themselves. They’ll sacrifice you for their goals. They couldn’t care less to talk with you. It’s a twisted illusion leading only to empty sacrifice.
But if you want a whole life, the same whole life the creator God YHWH intended for us… then His Messiah, Jesus is the one you want to follow. He cares for you. Protects you. Leads and talks with you. And longs for you to always be with Him. The sacrifice in His kingdom leads to a full life of hope and fulfillment and joy and peace… in the midst of hell.
Oh, and let’s learn from the Israelites when they picked and chose pieces of ways of living. It didn’t work out well for them.
Rhythm of Practicing Peace
Jesus invites us to follow Him as king. This means we submit our way of thinking and living to Him. The bedrock being our truest selves, the real reason we do, or don’t do things. Our motivation, or we may say “our heart” matters before our actions. The goal of our actions is only met when our reason for those actions is love.
Today, practice asking the Spirt of God to show you why you’re living the way you are. From simple interactions at the grocery store and gas station and in the office or in class, to the more intimate ones with friends and family and spouses.
Jesus taught us that’s the space that matters most. Our heart.
May you walk with Jesus today in whole ways, allowing yourself to come under His kingdom blessings. May you ask the Spirit of God to be your guide as you listen and obey The Voice of Love. And may you know the Father’s love for you and those around you.