Day 31: “Your Kingdom Come!” 09.20.2018
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV) “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”
Movie time. (I like to illustrate my ideas with references to good movies and/or books.) There is a scene in the classic “Fiddler on the Roof” whereby the leaders of the town become aware of persecution that is coming their way. The Jewish community of Anatevka in Russia has no means of defending itself from the promised “pogrom” that awaits. They are frightened. One of the men says: “Rabbi…we have been waiting for our Messiah to come for so long…wouldn’t this be a good time for him to arrive?” The Rabbi quietly agrees. My point is that the ancient believers lived their lives as fully and productively as they could. All the while keeping an eye open for the final wonderous redemption to come when the Kingdom of God would arrive here on Earth. Jesus stood squarely in that tradition. Earlier in Matthew, we read these words in his Gospel:
Matthew 4:12-17 (NIV) When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali– to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
It is without question that Jesus was deeply concerned about his friend John. But John’s imprisonment was the immediate spark that caused our Lord to accelerate and amplify his message. And what was that message? That it was time to turn away from worldliness and sin because the Kingdom of Heaven had come near. Namely, himself. Thus, to understand the Sermon on the Mount and nearly all of the teachings of Jesus, we must understand that he wanted one thing: the restoration of Paradise as the environment for human life. So, he admonished his disciples to hold off on praying for their own immediate needs and desires and to open in prayer with a plea to the Heavenly Father to bring His Kingdom to humanity.
This always raises questions about how the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven (synonyms) will work. Will Jesus reign literally on Earth for a thousand years? Will the earth be destroyed a new Earth created? Is that what Revelation 21: 1-4 is about? I am not sure. Far better scholars than I disagree on all of this. But I do suspect that the New Testament makes very little sense if Jesus does not come literally and visibly not only to take away his own but to reign upon Planet Earth. Or he will simply bring down the curtain on this sin-riddled existence… separate out those who are unredeemed and take his own to wherever.
In any case, he will come and be seen by humanity. The point is that there is a kingdom coming that conforms perfectly to God’s will and Holiness. And those who are children of God in Christ will live in it forever! God be praised! So, our deepest desire should be to join Jesus in pleading for that kingdom to come. Could there be a better time for him to return than this era of wickedness? Men marry men and women marry women and the innocent unborn are killed in the womb. Politicians destroy each other with brutal accusations and nations stockpile enough weapons to blow up a hundred earths? Clearly, this is not how God wanted us to live.
So … a question: if you could ask God for anything, and if you had reason to believe He would be pleased at your request … what would you ask Him for? What would I ask him for? I doubt very much if it would be for His Kingdom to come on the earth. It would be more likely that I’d go over my list of things I wish He would do. Like “Please save the kids. Please free the missionary. Please heal my friend. Please give us wisdom and bless your church….” All Godly and good requests. I am not mocking such prayers. I say them daily. But they show me my priorities. On the other hand, Jesus wants my priorities to be HIS priorities. So, with that in mind … he is teaching me/us to pray FIRST for the Kingdom of God to come on Earth. If that were to fully happen, all our other prayers might be answered. Let’s look more deeply.
This intrigues me immensely. Jesus prayed, and wants us to pray: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We should be tremendously encouraged by this! There is a place, in the presence of God, where only His will is carried out. Thus, we are promised by our Lord that somewhere, perhaps right here on earth, we will see a sinless society! As Dallas Willard has written in the coming kingdom we will be as surprised when someone acts wickedly as we are now when someone acts righteously. Picture an environment where everyone is eager to tend to each other’s needs. Where people truly love their neighbors as themselves!
Many times I’ve heard people say that in the redeemed world there will be “no more crying or pain” as in Revelation 21. How that could be on this planet is puzzling. It would need a very real re-working that God could surely do. Rain but never hurricanes. Sunshine but never droughts. Snowstorms but no driving accidents. Something about our fallen world that depends upon death to exist somehow does not fit with Paradise. All of these things will be answered in His time. Jesus did not give us the details. He just said pray “Your Kingdom come!” So, we shall do so!
Next: “Daily bread!?”
Blessings! Pastor Alberta