A Royal History

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

November 22, 2020
Christ the King Sunday
Scripture readings – 2nd Chronicles chapters 22-36
and Matthew 25: 31-46

When my younger sister, Lucy, was a little kid, one of the toughest things she had to deal with was all the people who tried to tell her what to do.  Lucy had my parents, my grandparents, various aunts and uncles, teachers, and especially my other sister and me.  That was a lot of bosses in her life.  She seemed to especially get mad when my other sister and I tried to boss her around or tell her what to do.  When those times occurred, her response was to yell, “You aren’t the boss of me!” at the top of her lungs.

In a way, Lucy was right…we were NOT the boss of her.  But she still had a lot of bosses to answer to, whether she liked it or not.  Also, she had to answer to them – even if they were not good bosses all the time.

It’s a good thing my youngest sister didn’t live in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah.  She wouldn’t have been able to keep her mouth shut, but in those days – her kind of behavior could get you executed quickly, harshly, and painfully.

Throughout any royal history, the list of good and bad rulers is a mixed bag at best.  Billions of people throughout history had little or no say at all over who would rule them.  Rulers, emperors, or kings directly ruled their subjects by force, will, warfare, conquest, coercion, or by threats of destruction.  Notice I didn’t say that these kings ever asked the people if it was okay with them.  In fact, in the ancient lands of the Old and New Testament, kings seemed to end up on various thrones, followed by their sons and grandsons – and this royal history almost seemed to be ordained and allowed by God.  

Often, kings cited the power they held to be God-given and therefore God-blessed.  To go against a king’s will was to go against the very will of God.  That usually made the people keep quiet or learn to grumble quietly and accept their lot in life.

Today I read just a small sample from the royal history of the kings of Judah.  After King David’s son, Solomon, died, the nation of Israel split into two pieces: the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  I didn’t even mention the almost completely rotten list of kings who ruled Israel.  So it’s easy to understand why they were wiped out first.

The Southern Kingdom of Judah was more of a mixed bag.  Here is the pattern: each time the king either led or allowed worship of other gods in Judah, God’s wrath turned against the kingdom.  Then an old king would die and his son would rise up and sometimes do the right things.  

Part of the problem was the leadership – father to son in an unbroken line of royal history covering more than 500 years – and part of the problem was the willingness of the people, and even the priests, to participate in what the Old Testament called “detestable practices.”  These practices involved sacrificing children, offering sacrifices to other gods, and something called the “poles and the high places.”  Whatever they were, the kings were ultimately responsible for what occurred in their kingdoms.  Just listen to a little more detail on the list of kings I read earlier:

  • Ahaziah followed the same evil ways as the Kingdom of the North, in other words Israel.
  • Joash was a good king but once the high priest died, he turned to the evil stuff.  Joash was only seven years old when he became king, so he needed guidance…but only got it for part of his reign.
  • Amaziah was the same as his father, Joash.  Like father, like son…but that won’t be the only example of this saying.
  • Uzziah was a good king who got rid of all idol worship and formed an alliance with the Northern Kingdom.  Small wonder he ruled a prosperous, peaceful nation of Judah.
  • Then we get another mixed bag – Jotham.  He was the first king since Abijah – Solomon’s grandson – to receive a completely positive report in the book of Chronicles.  However, he was seen as a weak king because that stubborn idol worship came sneaking back into Judah.
  • And what happened when idol worship is tolerated?  The pattern continued with another wicked king – Ahaz, who brought back everything that had been run out by two previous kings.  All that good work wasted…

And so far…have you heard a single mention of what the people thought or if the people wanted the king run out, or if the people loved or hated the king?  Nothing…only royal history reports about the king and what he did or didn’t do:

  • Hezekiah was a good king who restored all the good practices.
  • Manneseh ruled 55 years, longer than another king of Judah.  Yet he was seen as the worst of all kings!
  • Amon was just like his “dear old dad.”
  • Josiah was the last good king of Judah – and he was also the last independent king of Judah.
  • The rest of the royal history of Judah contained kings who were all wicked, weak, or both.  They allowed idol worship to flourish and for the worship of the Lord God to almost fade away.  They also aligned themselves with other countries in a vain effort to prevent military conquest.  I guess in all the idol worship they were doing, they forgot the lessons of their righteous ancestors – namely listen to God’s prophets and inquire of God what they should be doing.  Instead, stubborn stiff-necked human pride became the rule of thumb, and the people suffered for it. 

My poor younger sister would have been so loudly frustrated because none of those lousy kings would have deserved to be “the boss of her” – or anyone else either.

No matter the title of any ruler in any country in any time period in history, his or her most sacred duty is to care for the people.  In America, that is the first duty of our president, no matter who that president is.  Any president may vow to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” – but no president will last very long without caring for the people.  And we get the chance to have a direct voice in who rules us every four years for our country, for our state, and for our city.  That gives us power, and we don’t give it up easily.

Yet we all know that our rulers make mistakes.  Sometimes the wicked seem to win, and the good seem to lose.  Often, the rich and powerful get their way, and the poor get to live in pain and despair and loss.  The sense of “it’s just not fair” is something that just about all of the world’s people personally understand.

Which makes the scene in Matthew’s Gospel account for today so amazing.  Not only will there be no rich prospering/poor suffering, no hidden state secrets, no show trials for the newspapers to cover, in the end everyone will witness the righteous judgment of all nations – men and women of every country and every time.  We will bear witness to the division of the saved and the damned.  

But the Lord cautions us not to be surprised by what is decided.  The criteria will be clear; it is not so much who worshiped this Heavenly King but rather HOW that Heavenly King was worshipped.  Jesus himself tells us:

“…for I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

I was naked and you gave me clothing,

I was sick and you took care of me,

I was in prison and you visited me.”

When Jesus identifies the righteous as those who did these things for the King himself, they didn’t understand at first!  Then the King reveals exactly why he is the Heavenly King and worthy to judge everyone; he says, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me.” 

This King truly loves and cares about his people; he rewards those who care for his people, and he condemns those who ignored or mistreated his people.

That is a great and mighty and righteous King indeed!

Which is what makes this day – Christ the King Sunday – so very special.  On this day, we remember, acknowledge, and worship the one who is king of us all.  We are satisfied when we imagine that judgment of all humankind by this Heavenly King:  

  • He will make no mistakes.  
  • He will not let anyone slip past unintentionally.  
  • He will not reward the wicked or punish those who have hung in there and followed the righteous practices.  

He will get it right and all of us will rejoice with him forever.

All hail Christ the King forever!