God's Word on Sunday: There are no shortcuts to life-giving path

  • November 17, 2019

Christ the King, Nov. 24 (Year C) 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

The most effective way that God can teach us a lesson is to give us what we ask for. 

After their entry into the promised land, the Israelites lived for quite some time without a king or powerful government. The tribes governed themselves and existed in a loose confederation with the other tribes. 

In times of crisis, God would raise up and anoint a judge — more of a military leader — until one was no longer needed. The post was not hereditary — it could not be passed on. But that was not enough for the people, so they asked Samuel for a king “just like the other nations around us.”

They were struck with the pomp, glamour and power of kingly states. Perhaps they even endured taunts from people of other nations about not having a king. 

Samuel was horrified and grief-stricken, but God consoled him, insisting that the people were rejecting God rather than Samuel. But God warned what having a king would mean: abuse of power, economic exploitation, forced labour, military conscription and arbitrary rule. And so it came to pass. 

At first, all was well, but an increasingly unstable and erratic Saul led the nation further towards ruin. David was then the rising star and it was noticed by Saul, who tried several times to kill him. 

The nation lurched towards civil war. Then the people approached David, flattering him and asking him to be king. Before long, Saul was dead and David anointed king. But as great as David was in the eyes of posterity, his reign in many respects was disastrous. It was a time of imperial expansion, warfare and, ultimately, civil war within David’s own family. 

His reign ended with Solomon on the throne, who set the wheels in motion for the ultimate division of the land into two hostile kingdoms. So often people and nations are eager to hand over their freedom to strongmen or political ideologies in order to “make the nation great again.” It usually ends in sorrow and disaster. 

Humans must learn to reach into their own minds and hearts and be led by divine principles and the Spirit of God. We have but one legitimate ruler or master and that is God. All the others are genuine only to the degree that they walk in the ways of God.

Colossians confirms that message: God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. It is important to live as if we really believe that and not to treat this wonderful status with carelessness or indifference. 

As the image of the unseen God, Christ has reconciled all things to Himself and rules the cosmos. How strange it is, then, that people are so quick to give the allegiance of their hearts and minds to powers that are far inferior to that of Christ, and in many cases hostile to it.

The crowds, the soldiers and at least one of the thieves had the typical human image of kingship and power. Power was to be exercised for one’s personal benefit and rule was imposing one’s will on others. The taunts directed at Jesus on the cross were all designed to make Him forget His divine mission and act just like everyone else by saving Himself and coming down from the cross. 

Jesus refused to play their game. True power flows from submission to the will of God and the constant practise of love, compassion and forgiveness. That is exactly what Jesus had been doing, right up to the moment that He asked God to forgive His executioners because they were acting in ignorance. Only the one thief understood — Jesus was innocent and there was another reason for His suffering. 

We face much abuse of power in our own time and there are several wrong paths we could take. We could respond in kind, becoming exploitive, dishonest and cruel. Unfortunately, this is a rather well-travelled path. The other unhelpful path is to look for someone or something to “fix” everything. 

There are no shortcuts and unjust means cannot be used. The helpful and life-giving path is the one taken by Jesus: obedience to God, unremitting mercy, kindness, love, wisdom and forgiveness. The other paths have not been helpful — perhaps we can try it God’s way.