A significant momentPhoto: commons.wikimedia.org
Not only are we ruled as people but our times are defined and governed by the character of those who rule. Elizabethan, Jacobean, Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian. Stalinist, and Churchillian .BUY THIS IS THAT
This is the way that the bible defined Israel’s history too. “During the reign of Jehoshaphat, Asa, Uzziah…” and countless other kings is a refrain that is followed by exploits of these rulers and more importantly their character and the character and fortunes of Israel and Judah. The apostle Paul in Romans 13 writes “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority. So we see that rulers and reigns really matter to God.”
It is therefore a spiritually significant time as our present Queen Elizabeth, after a reign of over 70 years, died peacefully this week. Although her rule is less political than Stalin’s or King David’s, nonetheless her influence above and through the government of the United Kingdom has brought influence and authority to the nation, Commonwealth and wider world.
The interest of the bible is in the moral character and image of God that a ruler might live out and display. This is regardless of whether we might be republicans or monarchists. Rulers rule, and their rule is reflected by and influenced by other spiritual rulers and authorities that are powerful over territories and peoples (Eph 6:12). Queen Elizabeth II has been known for her deep Christian faith and excellent character. And despite the turmoil of societal change and the publicly personal pressure of family life, she has commanded respect and affection from a massively wide constituency. The biblical lens on this would therefore be one of commendation and honour.
Paul’s words to the Roman church are complex and powerful. On the one hand he is advocating for a Kingdom that lives differently and even opposes Roman Empire rule. Jesus is Lord and not Caesar, which was sedition. And yet his approach is one where we are urged to be at peace with all people as much as we can, and to respect and honour those in authority even when they act contrary to the teaching of Jesus. This has huge spiritual impact - which then has political and societal impact. Our behaviour and not just our beliefs is both naturally and spiritually influential.
Everything is spiritual in the end, so the rule of a symbolic monarch in 20th and 21st century Britain is significant., as is the ending of that rule. Our Queen has outlasted every other ruler of her time. Her faith in Jesus has been public. Her words have been seasoned with the gospel. God has been with her and she has lived her life as a Christian seeker and worshipper. So the loss of such a ruler - for the whole world - is a significant moment.
What might be happening in the spiritual realm right now? When Constantine, the Roman Emperor found faith there was then a gradual change across the Roman empire. Some historians see this as a moment when Christian faith lost its edge as it became more socially acceptable and less radical. Others see this is as a time when culture became more shaped by the values of Jesus. King James I authored a version of the bible that is still read today and yet during his reign culture was also known for its confused and debauched excesses. The church in China has grown under persecution and the church in the free West has been pilloried for its doubles standards, fraud and sexual misconduct. There’s not a formula for successful reigning but there is a God who works in and through the Kingdoms of the world to bring about the goodness of his kingdom and to expose the frailty of selfish ambition. Although we don’t see in detail the full impact of Queen Elizabeth’s faith on our nation, God does, and from how we read the bible’s description of faith and rule, we can be certain that her devotion to God will have opened blessings for us and prevented cursings.
The loss of Elizabeth II is the loss of a voice for Jesus in our society. It is the loss of a stable and wise counsellor and political advisor. It is the loss of the past which is always a significant value for any society. So it is important to thank God for her witness and commitment. And to pray for Charles and for our nation that the Holy Spirit would be invited to hover and dwell in such a way that spiritual life is breathed into our world in new ways and through new people.
Here is Daniel’s - politician and prophet - first recorded prayer. We can make it ours too and ask God to use us to alter the course of history in small but meaningful ways so that the love and compassion of Jesus would be made known to all people, powerful and humble alike.
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king. ”
Pray thanks for our Queen and the presence of God for our new King. In the middle of whatever spiritual and natural upheaval we are seeing right now, we pray for the Kingdom of Heaven to be known on the earth.
Martin J Young