The Crown is Set
What do you think of when you hear the word “king”? I’m guessing a picture or a scene from a movie is one of the first things you think about. You picture a man in medieval times, sword, helmet, maybe on a throne, maybe not, probably has some kind of animal fur around him because it’s often cold and snowing in those movies - or maybe you went a totally different route and thought of Nate and Janene here at River City, because their last name is King.
I think of movies like Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, and because I have a bit of a twisted sense of humor, I also think of King Arthur from Monty Python and the search for the Holy Grail.
We aren’t used to kings here in the United States. In fact, foundationally we are opposed to them. The reason our government is set up the way it is, with Presidents who operate at most for two 4 year terms, is we are trying to avoid crowning a king. If you aren’t sure how kings work, 9/10 they inherit the throne. Every now and then, kings are chosen, or through rebellion or uprising someone can get on the throne by force, but most of the time, it’s handed down from generation to generation. If you are a king, you know your day is coming when you will die, and for your son to sit on your throne after you is to see your kingdom continue. And the longer future generations of your family sit on the throne, the longer your name will continue on the throne.
One of the most famous kings in the Bible, besides Jesus himself, is King David. He was a young shepherd boy when God came to him and anointed him to be Israel’s next leader. He was not heir to the throne, nor would he take it by force. God himself chose David to be king.
If you fast forward through David’s life you’ll see he wasn’t a perfect man or a perfect king. He made some very costly moves that brought pain to himself and people around him. Yet God had his heart set on David. David was a quick repenter; one who loved his people and loved God. So in 2 Samuel 7:11-16, as David settles into his role as King, the Lord makes this covenant with King David, that someone from his own family tree will build a house for the name of God, and God will establish his kingdom forever. That’s pretty much the best blessing you can get. Not just a son or grandson, but FOREVER. Your legacy will be incredible!
David drops to his knees in humility and says, “who am I Lord, and what is my family that you’ve made this kind of promise to me?” And he worships. He praises God for his greatness, “there’s no one like you, be exalted today even over me and my kingdom. And may it be done as you’ve spoken.”
Has someone ever made a promise to you like that, and then broke it? Maybe it was something simple, like someone you had a meeting with stood you up. Maybe it was a teacher promising your class you could do something fun, and then it never happened. Or a parent saying you could have a pony or a new bike, and then it didn’t happen. Or maybe it wasn’t simple – maybe it was life altering as a marriage covenant was broken.
And when a promise is made, you kind of go through this progression, right? You hear the promise made, and you immediately go into worship. “Oh mom, you’re the best! I’m so excited, I can’t wait!” And you hurry off to look at pictures of ponies or whatever. Or in marriage, you say your vows to each other and the first thing you do is crank up some dancing and some food to celebrate the promises made. But then when it starts to sink in that the pony isn’t going to happen, despair starts to take over and you wonder if even God cares about you.
Psalm 89 is sometimes called the covenant psalm. It recalls the covenant made to David, long after David had died:
A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
1 I will sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever; I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations
with my mouth. 2 For I will declare, “Faithful love is built up forever; you establish your faithfulness in the heavens.” 3 The Lord said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David my servant: 4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations.’ ”
That little word Selah there means rest, or pause. Just sit for a second and soak in the words we just read – don’t rush ahead. I will establish your offspring forever.
Then the author moves, following that progression, into worship –
5 Lord, the heavens praise your wonders — your faithfulness also — in the assembly of the holy ones. 6 For who in the skies can compare with the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord? 7 God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, more awe-inspiring than all who surround him. 8 Lord God of Armies, who is strong like you, Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule the raging sea; when its waves surge, you still them. 10 You crushed Rahab like one who is slain; you scatter your enemies with your powerful arm. 11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours. The world and everything in it — you founded them. 12 North and south — you created them. Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at your name. 13 You have a mighty arm; your hand is powerful; your right hand is lifted high. 14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; faithful love and truth go before you. 15 Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light from your face. 16 They rejoice in your name all day long, and they are exalted by your righteousness. 17 For you are their magnificent strength; by your favor our horn is exalted. 18 Surely our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.
This is the wedding reception happening now; then in 19-26 that Carli read for us this morning, the author goes on to recount again the details of that covenant, once again marking down God’s words that David’s kingdom would go on forever.
Please turn to Matthew chapter 1, the first book, first chapter of the New Testament. In chapter 1, you see a genealogy of Jesus right out of the gate. Maybe you’re often tempted just to skip over this, but it’s there for a reason! So from verses 2-6, you see the generations from Abraham to David. And if you remember our Story of God series, God had promised to Abraham that one of his descendants would bring blessing to Israel and the whole world – then you get to David in verse 6, which is where God made this covenant promise – king on your throne forever.
But you know how most good movies go, right? The characters are introduced, the plot developed, things look like they are cruising right along – and then something happens that rocks the boat. Something happens that makes the hero question his destiny, they start to fall apart, and the whole storyline hangs in the balance.
From 6-11, you can trace the promise of God as you see the generations of kings that followed David, until you read the words in verse 11 – at the time of the exile.
And that’s when the world for the Israelites went dark. The light of the hope of a Messiah from the throne of David to come and redeem them flickered – and seemed to go out. EXILE. God’s patience with Israel’s sin and idolatry and perversion had run out. Prophets and priests that God had sent to warn them were ignored, beaten, and sometimes killed – and God had had enough.
So he prompted the Babylonians to attack, and Jerusalem was captured, the Temple, the home for God that David’s son Solomon built was destroyed. The entire nation was driven away to Babylon for 70 years, away from their homes, away from corporate worship, symbolically away from the presence of God, and worst of all, a pagan king who knew nothing about David was given the throne.
The book of Lamentations captures the agony and sorrow of these years, because not only were they not at home anymore, but the names that come next in Matthew’s genealogy, in 12-16 are not kings. They should have been! They were from David’s family. They were the ones who were heirs to the throne; God’s promise that someone from David’s family would sit on the throne held over their heads. The impossible task of insurrection and takeover assigned to them.
But instead of kings, some are priests. Some are ordinary people. They are gatekeepers. Wall builders. By the time Matthew’s audience is reading this, they could look out the window and see Roman soldiers on the streets, perhaps ripping off the scab and reminding them that God’s promise to David must be void. God failed to be as faithful as Psalm 89 says he will be. It seems the sin of Israel forced God’s hand to abandon his people. They had always looked forward to the Messiah, but now they NEEDED him.
Even back in Psalm 89, the tone has changed.
46 How long, Lord? Will you hide forever? Will your anger keep burning like fire? 49 Lord, where are the former acts of your faithful love that you swore to David in your faithfulness? 50 Remember, Lord, the ridicule against your servants — in my heart I carry abuse from all the peoples —51 how your enemies have ridiculed, Lord, how they have ridiculed every step of your anointed. 52 Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen and amen.
The author of Psalm 89 is questioning the promise – Lord, isn’t your word any good? What ever happened to your promises to David?
River city, Can you identify with that? Maybe it was the election, or something with school, or a relationship. Maybe it was parenting – Lord how long will we have to deal with this? Or in your marriage – Lord how long until we get on the same page? Or in your job – Lord how long must I put up with this stress, or this boss, or this coworker, or this salary? When will you come through?
And if that’s you, then you know the feeling Israel experienced as they saw the genealogy of David turn from kings to ordinary people, and God’s promise of a hopeful, life-giving future seeming to blow away in the wind. And maybe you questioned God just like the psalmist did, "Has God been faithful to his covenant? Does the throne of David endure forever?"
And then one afternoon, an angel appeared to a young virgin girl named Mary and gave the answer in Luke 1:31–33:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.
That’s like walking outside and seeing a pony tied up in the front yard! It took a long time, but it’s here!
So in the Israelites mind, this Jesus is the King they were waiting for! He’s from David’s line, and God is giving him the throne! Jesus is the anointed one, the servant of God, from the family tree of David, God’s chosen one who would fight the giant of Rome and would come away victorious! All we have to do is wait for him to grow up, put together an effective insurrection, take over the throne, and the promise is back on!
I imagine that, like the wall-builders and gate-keepers who were in line to be king, Jesus was pressured daily to start putting together the insurrection. So, when do we start building your army? I know some guys who are pretty strong, and are pretty good fighters. So we’re going to have to figure out how to overpower the Romans and get you on the throne…
But you know how most good movies go, right? The characters are introduced, the plot developed, things look like they are cruising right along – and then something happens that rocks the boat. Something happens to the hero and the whole storyline hangs in the balance.
And at 33 years old, this Jesus – the Messiah they had waited for, hoped for, prayed for – was arrested, tried, and brutally executed like a criminal, all in about 12 hours time. Luke wrote in his gospel that Israel once again went dark, this time literally, as the sun stopped shining in the middle of the day. Once again, their hopes of having their own government, their own king, their own land came crashing to the ground. Some gave up hope. They went back to who they were before Jesus called them. He wasn’t the Messiah they had hoped for.
I’m going to admit – I’m nervous for you. Hopeful, but nervous. I’m hearing so many people say they can’t wait for 2020 to be over, to get out of this year that’s been so miserable and get into 2021. I’m afraid that many of us are expecting New Years Eve to be some magical celebration, and when we wake up on January 1, there will never be another shutdown, never be another mask required, the virus will disappear, and we’ll all live happily ever after. And while that would be amazing, that’s probably not how it’s going to go. No matter how powerful the stuff you’re drinking on New Years Eve, we’re still going to get sick. We will still lose loved ones. We’ll still have our hearts broken. No matter who ends up President, things are going to be messy. Our jobs aren’t secure; our money isn’t secure; our economy isn’t secure; our marriages won’t miraculously improve.
River City, I beg you to not put your hope in the wrong Messiah, because when your hero turns out to be a false Savior, your world will go dark. There is only one Savior who can actually save. There is only one Savior who can give life; and his name is Jesus.
How do we know? Because on Sunday morning after his death, the women who had followed Jesus went to the tomb and found it empty. God had raised this king from the dead! King David – still dead. Solomon, Asa, all the others: still dead – but not this King. This king was raised to life again, returned to his throne, and given the name that is above all names. And when you have a King who doesn’t stay dead, he’s going to be on that throne forever – and God’s promise to David was and still is on! Fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus!
The resurrection means EVERYTHING.
Here’s why: No matter what struggle you’re facing today. No matter what hardship you might face tomorrow, when you feel like God has moved – you’re right. But the resurrection proves he hasn’t moved away from you; he’s moved TO you! The resurrection proves there is a much stronger opposing force than Rome, or ISIS, or China, or whatever – and this King Jesus conquered the greatest enemy of sin and separation from God.
There will always be times where we call out “how long, Lord!?” But his answer is always, “Trust me.” There will always be times we say, “Why is this happening, Lord?” But his answer is always, “Trust me.”
Even in exile, God had not forgotten Israel, and even in a difficult marriage or in rough parenting, or whatever season you’re going through – he has not forgotten you. This season of Advent reminds us no matter what silence or darkness we seem to be facing in our day, God’s promise still stands; Jesus is still on his throne, and he’s not going anywhere… until he gets the green light from the Father. And like he always does, the next time Jesus moves, he’s not moving away from us; he’s moving toward us as a warrior King! He’s coming for his church; for his bride who is being prepared for him as we speak. He’s coming for those who by faith have called out to him for salvation; He’s coming for those who will willingly drop their own wonderful plan for their lives and trust him. He’s coming for those who have found in him a living hope that a virus can never take away, that a government can never take away, that concentration camps can never take away: The Salvation of our Souls.
So when you are tempted to look at the world and think it’s falling apart or if you look at your own life and are tempted to despair; if you are in Christ, God’s promise to you is as good as His promise to David, and his promise to his own Son Jesus, that his kingdom will never end.