I watched much of the coronation of King Charles III a few weeks ago. There was much pageantry, many hymns and lots of crazy hats. And it struck me that here in America there is no such reverence for any government official or any personage whatsoever. The concept of a supreme ruler with divinely appointed authority over all of their subjects is not just unheard of here, it is antithetical to our whole way of life. And that got me to thinking about God, our Heavenly King, and how we relate to Him.
God established His plan for the best form of government when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. A leader who would speak directly to Him and for Him and judge issues as they came up was clearly best. Moses and Joshua led directly from God’s command, but once Joshua died, they began worshipping other gods. So, the Lord handed them over to their enemies and used the surrounding nations to test them, seeing whether they would walk in His ways as their ancestors did (Judges 2:22).
That’s when the judges came in: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” Judges 2:16 But every time a judge died, Israel went astray again, returning to sinful practices and idolatry. It was a constant cycle of sin and deliverance.
Finally, Samuel, a Prophet and a Judge, led the people directly from the will of God. But the people were not satisfied. “…When they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8:6-9. And so, they ended up with King Saul and all of his drama.
And then I pondered, why did Israel think the Messiah would be a king when God had told them so many times why He and Prophets & Judges were better? They really should have been prepared for God to lead them Himself. God is better than any king. He knows our needs, as individuals, as nations and as humanity itself. He knows exactly how to meet those needs, and only He has the power to arrange everything so that His plans are accomplished. God doesn’t need studies, testimony, arguments or votes. He sees the need, He hears the prayers, He meets the need, or else gives something better.
Now, through Christ, we can “… approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 The curtain of the Temple has been torn in two so that we no longer need a mediator between us and God. Instead of a King, we have a Father.
But like the ancient Hebrews, do WE want a king? Do we put distance and barriers between us and God? Altars, ceremonies, rituals, fancy language, and costumes can all put distance between us and God. And many prefer it that way. Catholics need priests to hear their Confession and administer Last Rites. And although we encourage Baptism, it is certainly not a prerequisite to coming before God’s throne of Grace. Really, a contrite and repentant heart full of faith is all that is necessary. Shiny shoes, curtseying or bowing will not win you an audience with the royal court -- just reverence and adoration from wherever you are is enough.
Perhaps standing alone before an awesome, all-powerful God may just be too scary. Maybe we, like the Hebrews, say, “For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God, …and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” Deuteronomy 5:26-27. Maybe a personal, intimate God that knows all our secrets and loves us anyway is too close. Perhaps like C.S. Lewis imagined in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, communing with God is like meeting a lion –
"Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he -- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
He IS good. He IS the King. And He is our Father. We are His children: chosen, known and loved. Resist the desire to keep Him at a distance. Search your heart and let go of ideas, traditions and habits that push God away or keep Him in His throne room in Heaven. Instead, consciously open the door to your heart and let Him sit on the throne there without pretense.