God the Kingdom King
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
1 God is our refuge and strength, / a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, / though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, / though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, / the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; / God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; / he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us; / the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, / how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; / he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; / he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us; / the God of Jacob is our fortress.
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, the ambitious and conniving Richard plots to ascend to the throne by any means. The play depicts his devious rise to power and short reign. In the play’s climactic scene, Richard (now king) goes to battle and is unhorsed causing him to cry out in desperation: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
It’s an ironic line! How his aspirations have changed! How the mighty have fallen! A king bargaining for a common horse! What good is a king without a kingdom? What good is a kingdom without the power to rule it?
Last week we looked at God the king. We studied the character of his kingship. Today we’re going to look at God the king’s kingdom. We’re going to study the character of his kingdom, and we’re going to see that (in sharp contrast to Richard) he will not bargain away his kingdom. Rather, his kingdom reign is all powerful and is relentlessly moving forward into every area of this fallen world!
1. God’s kingdom is here (vv. 1, 7, 11).
- God is our refuge and strength, / a very present help in trouble (v. 1).
- The Lord of hosts is with us; / the God of Jacob is our fortress (v. 7).
- The Lord of hosts is with us; / the God of Jacob is our fortress (v. 11).
In each of these three confessional lines, the psalmist emphasizes God’s presence. The King is not far off but is near and a protector of all his subjects. He is, as Martin Luther explained, “a mighty fortress” a “bulwark never failing.” In other words, his rule (his kingdom) is now present for those who have trusted him. God’s kingdom is here!
If this is the case (you might ask), why do tornados still destroy lives? If this is true, why do bombs still explode in crowded places? Why do bad and terrible things continue to happen if God’s kingdom is present?
These are good questions that must be asked if we are to seriously deal, in any meaningful way, with the idea of God’s reign now. For believers to assert that God is the sovereign king over creation without taking on the question of present evil is for them to do shallow and uncaring theology!
So then, how can we say “God’s kingdom is here” in the face of so many evil events? How can God’s kingdom be here and evil be here?
Part of the way to answer these questions is to better understand how God is populating his kingdom. We must better understand by whom God’s kingdom will (in the end) be populated. We must better comprehend God’s kingdom purposes.
The Apostle Paul gives us the answer in chapter one of his letter to the Colossians. He tells us that God’s kingdom is being populated by God’s peacemaking work in Christ. He explains that God’s kingdom is composed of reconciled sinners through the blood of Christ Jesus. Thus he writes:
God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (vv. 13-14).
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, Jesus has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (vv. 21-22).
God’s kingdom is populated and is being populated by reconciled enemies! No son of Adam (no human being) will enter into God’s kingdom on the merits of his or her own friendship with God! We are all God’s enemies who can only have peace made with us by God through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Indeed God’s kingdom is present! And God could swiftly end every evil action and every fallen event on the face of the earth at any time that he chooses. However, to do so would be to cease his reconciliation work. To do so would be to exclude some of his enemies from being reconciled and entering into his kingdom.
Furthermore, since God is populating his kingdom with reconciled enemies, it makes perfect sense that the continued existence of evil in this life would be one of the means by which he does so. Let me illustrate:
C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”1 Isn’t this true?
In my life, I have never had to discourage my friends (Christian or non-Christian) from making an idol out of some tragic event in life. After 911 for example, I did not need to encourage people to consider ultimate evil or ultimate good. I didn’t need to find some savvy way to strike up a conversation about God. People were either blaming God for doing nothing or turning to God for comfort and hope. I was either doing apologetics or sharing the gospel!
Yet, if such evil were practically absent from our world, if people’s lives were mostly about vacations and weddings and eating and drinking, how interested would they be in God? Where pleasure rules idolatry also rules!
Thus, C. S. Lewis was right—pain is God’s megaphone to rouse us. For this reason, Jesus would warn his disciples and us about the danger of filling our lives up with earthly pleasures:
Truly… only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven…. it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).
I won’t further belabor this point. Nonetheless, in the end, we find that God’s present kingdom (his present reign) is very real even despite the presence of evil in this world. But even though we find that it’s already here, we simultaneously find that it is not yet here fully!
2. God’s kingdom is coming (vv. 2-6).
Look at these verses with me. The psalmist writes:
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, / though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, / though its waters roar and foam, / though the mountains tremble at its swelling. / There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, / the holy habitation of the Most High. / God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; / God will help her when morning dawns. / The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; / he utters his voice, the earth melts (vv. 2-6).
These verses proclaim the power of God demonstrated in the protection he (and he only) can provide! However, these verses also highlight that there are things happening that will not happen in God’s final kingdom reign. So we find:
- Natural disasters: the earth gives way…the mountains move into the sea…the waters roar and foam…the mountains tremble and swell
- Rebellious people: the nations rage…the kingdoms totter
Yet, despite these remnants of rebellion, God’s kingdom is present and is moving forward. There is progress with his kingdom; there is progress in his redemptive plan. God’s kingdom is coming and has come! Thus, there’s a paradox here—a paradox between God’s kingdom come and his kingdom coming.
This is mysterious to us, but nonetheless it is taught in the Bible. Consider these words of Jesus.
- Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God is present: Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).
Or similarly from the opposite direction:
- Jesus teaches that the kingdom of God is coming: While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return…” (Luke 19:11-12).
So Jesus teaches (in the first passage) that the kingdom is in the Pharisees’ midst, but nonetheless the Pharisees still plot and conspire against Jesus. Rome still reigns through terror and force. The kingdom is here but is not yet fully here!
Jesus teaches (in the second passage) that the kingdom is coming. It may even be a long way off. We know now that it was at least 2000 years or more off! Yet, its presence has come on earth already in the person and work of Christ Jesus.
God’s kingdom is already; God’s kingdom is not yet!
3. God’s kingdom has triumphed and will triumph (vv. 8-10).
Look again at the text of Psalm 46 with me. The psalmist writes:
Come, behold the works of the Lord, / how he has brought desolations on the earth. / He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; / he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; / he burns the chariots with fire. / “Be still, and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth” (vv. 8-10)!
Let’s bring this all together! God has triumphed here and will triumph here!
- God has triumphed: Thus, we can behold his works…how he has brought desolation to evil…how he currently makes wars cease all over the earth…how he breaks and burns the weapons of war!
Let me illustrate. When a cease fire between the Mara Salvatrucha gang and the 18th Street gang was recently orchestrated from a prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (the world’s deadliest city), we should praise God that his kingdom has triumphed in the darkest of places! For how else would gang leaders claim they want “forgiveness from society and…from God for all the problems that they have caused…. And [that] they want to start building a better future for the country and for their children…”?2
- God will triumph: So, in the future, God assures us that he will be exalted and praised among the nations and all over the earth!
This final triumph will take place only when the last rebel has turned. God’s kingdom will finally triumph (will fully arrive) once the good news has been proclaimed to the ends of the earth! This is the picture we get in Revelation 21 and 22—the picture of God’s inaugurated kingdom triumph!
So we see (in Psalm 46) that God’s kingdom has come and triumphed and yet is still coming—once and for all—in final victory. God’s kingdom has conquered and yet there is still conquering to do! Victory is present yet ongoing!
Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian listening today, you would do well to recognize that the “already-not-yet” of God’s kingdom involves you. If you are a believer then recognize that God’s kingdom has come for you and is still moving forward in your life. He will not stop until he drives out every last rebellious impulse in you! For “there is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine, This belongs to me!’”3
If you’re not a follower of Jesus then recognize that God’s kingdom is coming. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess when it finally comes upon the earth. God invites you now to enter into his already kingdom so that on the last day you can celebrate with him in the inauguration of his forever kingdom!