THE ROOTS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Mark 1v1-15: Psalm 105.
Jesus’ ministry begins in Mark’s Gospel with the proclamation of the good news of God;
“The time has come”, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is near.
Repent and believe the good news.”
The burden of Jesus’ preaching was concerning the Kingdom of God. It was central to his teaching.
What is it like? Its like a sower who goes out to sow. Its like a treasure hidden in a field. It is like a mustard seed.
How do you enter this Kingdom? You sell everything and give it to the poor. You become like a little child.
The Jewish nation at the time was waiting for the Messiah. They longed for the Kingdom of God. BUT was it the kind of Kingdom that Jesus spoke about?
The Kingdom of God is not a very common expression within the NT – it is used mainly in the first three Gospels [Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven but essentially the same meaning].
In the OT it is not used at all. Does that mean that Jesus is introducing an entirely new concept? The idea of the Kingdom of God does not begin in the gospels.
It involves the whole notion of the RULE OF GOD over his people. In other words God is King!! A King rules!
God rules! God acts!
The Bible is a book of history. Ancient history at that! Many people today think that it is simply a collection of old stories that are probably myth and which have little or no relevance for us today.
But the Bible is real history, events that took place at specific times and places, but what is more important is that God taught his people about himself and his care for them. The Bible is not simply the haphazard reporting of history but a record of God’s dealings with his people and with the nations in relation to his plans and will.
So we have many instances of God’s people being up against it and in those circumstances God acts. The Bible teaches us about living experiences of a real God who acts and is in all kinds of experiences both past and present. There is thus much to learn from God’s acts in history.
An overview of God’s development of a people for himself:-
Creation flood Babel David/
God doesn’t deal with us in a vacuum. God is a God of history – he always deals with people in concrete situation. The Bible is an account of God’s dealings with people.
God created mankind to worship and glorify him freely. BUT Adam and Eve sinned and that close relationship was broken – since then God has had a plan to re-create a people for himself who would love and glorify him freely.
People were set on a course opposite to the will of God thus he destroyed the world by flood and then confused all the languages at Babel. THEN God choose Abraham – thus began the process of God calling out a people for himself. Abraham become the father of the physical Jewish Race and more importantly the spiritual father of all who by faith believe God.
So what happened 4000 years ago with Abraham still has implications for us today. By faith ALL believers are children of Abraham.
So long before there was the hope of a Messianic kingdom – Christ’s kingdom – there was the kingdom of Israel. The high point of that Kingdom was under David and Solomon but the idea of God ruling over his people was there long before that.
The relationship of God to the kingdom of Israel teaches us much about who God is and his plans for His people and the nations.
THE BIRTH OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL.
It is difficult to know exactly when Israel began life as a nation. It developed during the 430 years in Egypt and then after the Exodus during the 40 years of wanderings in the desert under the leadership of Moses. But all those years she was a nation without a country. In the latter half of 13c BC began her life as a people in the Promised land – Canaan [Later Palestine and Israel]
Nations have always conquered other nations and Israel’s conquest of Canaan is just one of many throughout ancient history BUT they brought with them a faith that was nothing like anything else.
1. Israel believed in one supreme God.
You shall have no other gods beside me [Ex.20]
It was this belief in one Supreme God that set Israel’s faith apart from the nations around them.
They believed in many gods and many idols and if one god was superior to other he or she had a pantheon of lesser gods around him/her.
He stands unique as the creator of the universe and above it. This God of Israel is totally distinct from his creation unlike the gods of the nations which were often personifications of nature.
ILLUST: Asheroth was a Canaanite goddess of fertility, love and war. Her worshipper would perform all manner of ritual [ some very perverse ] in order to manipulate the goddess into giving tangible benefits like good crops etc...
Are there not those today who treat God in the same way. God is there to be used for our own benefit. He must be there to christen our babies, bless our marriages and bury our dead. He must bail us out of sticky situations – He must keep us healthy and our Bank account in the black. If he does not do that then he is a cruel and unloving God. However he must not interfer with our lives. He must be there when we want him but the rest of the time he must take a back seat and only come when we call him.
But this God of Israel was invisible – He is not like the gods of the nations – you could not carry him about in your pocket or put him on a high place.
BUT we don’t have graven images – we are not so primitive! BUT we can be just as guilty of creating a God in our own image.
It is very easy to say “God will be satisfied with my lifestyle. I go to church. I give money every month. I am involved in this or that …” It is all too easy to have built up a set of criteria that we think God will be happy with and that we are comfortable with and we don’t want that to be disturbed.
But If God is King then he must have free reign in my life.
He is not an idol-god who we can cut down to size – he is the sovereign creator who is above and beyond his creation but still in control of his creation.
2. Israel believed in a God of the nations.
The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
Let the earth shake.
Great is the Lord in Zion,
he is exalted over all the nations.
The nations could probably have stomached the fact the Israel believed that God was supreme over Israel BUT not that he was supreme over all the nations. In fact that the gods of the nations were in fact no gods at all – they were nonentities.
Israel believed that God was not one God among many nor even that he was supreme among lesser God but that he was the one and only God.
We live in a society that is very tolerant – or at least that is the impression that is given – “Live and let live” is the philosophy of our day. You can believe what you like as long as what you believe doesn’t infer with what I believe. You can be a Christian as long as you don’t make moral judgements. Don’t say materialism is sinful idolatry, Don’t say homosexuality is wrong, not even for Churchmen. Don’t say affairs and pre-marital sex is wrong. But you see God says it is!! AND IF GOD is king then his values are right and those opposed to him are wrong and the only thing to do is to come to him for forgiveness to find that he is
Slow to anger and abounding in love [Ex.34v6]
This is what Israel had learned about their God. Through the years in the deserts and then later when they had entered the Promised Land they found God to be long suffering and compassionate.
3. Israel believed in a God who had chosen her.
Israel did not simply believe that God existed but that this God had chosen them to be his special people.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance [Ps.33v12]
Entrenched within the Jewish mind was the fact that God had chosen them. Their is an unconditional covenant between God and his people – an agreement that cannot be broken because God has sworn by himself to call out from among the nations a people for himself.
God’s kingship is shown in this – that he sovereignly chooses and appoints those who are to be his. Israel often took this for granted and in the end it was their undoing.
The fact that God has chosen us is no reason for complacency.
John writes in his gospel:-
Jesus speaking to his disciples:-
You did not choose me but I chose you
and appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last [Jn.15v16]
Our relationship with God now is upon the same basis as the relationship Israel had with God – grace pure grace- Israel had done nothing to earn God’s favour. The Christian Faith is on the same basis. You can’t read the NT or OT without coming to the conclusion that it is God’s work from beginning to end.
The people of Israel did not always grasp this thinking they could appease God with their sacrifices and offerings but God was not impressed.
Today God is not impressed with of religiosity or good work or social respectability. He wants us to respond to him by faith and then produce fruit that will last.
When God chose Israel, he had a purpose in mind.
I will bless you … and you will be a blessing to the whole world [Gen. 12.]
you are to be a kingdom of priests and a Holy nation [Ex.12]
They belonged exclusively to God and were to witness to the world that they did and that all peoples could also belong to God if they came to him by faith and obeyed his commands. BUT even in the early stages of the life of Israel as a nation they turned away from God, The book of Judges is a catalogue of them turning their backs on God and chasing after other gods. Then God would punish them by using the nations around them and they would repent and God would raise up a deliverer or judges who would lead his people to victory, freedom and back to worshipping him. [E.G. – Deborah, Gideon and Samson] These Judges were in no sense kings. Later that changed with king Saul and king David but still their kingship was limited as we shall see next week.
Sadly we see Israel many times, in the Book of Judges and all through their history, allowing the nations to influence them and lead them astray rather than being a positive witness to their God.
We face the same danger – the influence of society – its standards and morals and goals often become ours and the distinctiveness between Christian and non-Christian is blurred.
The God we worship is over all people even if they don’t acknowledge it now that doesn’t make him any less the King.
ILLUST: There are many in Britain who oppose the monarchy – [anti -royalists] and even more who are simply indifferent to the Queen. But that doesn’t make her any less Queen of England.
Just because people do not acknowledge God as king that does not make him ant less King.
4. Israel believed in a God of Hope.
From the embryonic days of the nation of Israel there had been instilled into them the fact that God would fulfill his promises.
There would be a good land “flowing with milk and honey” They would be a great nation and God would defend them and provide for them that they would live in unimagined peace and plenty.
One day there will come a divinely appointed leader whom all nations will serve.
Gen. 49v10 “The septre will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of nations is his
Num24v17 “I see him, but not now,
I behold him but not near,
A star will come out of Jacob,
a septre will rise out of Israel
These were the promises that Israel clung to. God always had hid people, the faithful, even when the nation turn away from him their was always a remnant who trusted and hoped. They were a people with a destiny. Even later in their history when the nation was destroyed and carried into exile they still had hope because they believed in a God of Hope.
God fulfilled his promises and the Promised one came – The Messiah King came – 2000 years after Abraham a King was born in Bethlehem – Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God and he is in the process of building his kingdom from among all the nations of the world. The final consummation of the Kingdom is yet to be but one day he will return not as a baby in a crib but as the Conquering King to establish his rule and authority.
For us today, no matter what circumstances we are in, we can have this hope – God is King – he is in control and will fulfill all his promises, Sometimes life is very pressured, sometimes painful, sometimes it seems there is no end to the situation you are “Is there any HOPE?” YES!!! God is King. Trust him he is in control and he knows what he is doing.
He is not like and earthly King or Queen who you can never get near to
ILLUST: You can’t walk into the Queen bedroom and have a chat
But you can come to God at any time – He loves you. He is king – he does demand our absolute allegiance and he give a sure hope that he will fulfill all his promises to us. Why be content with the short-lived, unsure things of this life when he has promised us and inheritance in his kingdom forever.