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The Kingdom of God

Jim Thompson - 2/4/2024


Politics and religion can both feel extra fragile because both are making claims on who has the right to rule the world. Both are saying, “Here’s who is in charge,” or “Who should be in charge,” or “Here’s how it should be done.” Sports and entertainment don’t make those claims. Art and finance don’t do that. Hobbies and education don’t try to rule the world. But that is the claim of politics and religion. And as followers of Jesus, we have a couple of deep convictions about these things: First, God alone has the right to rule the world. He’s the only true Sovereign, Creator, and Redeemer of humanity. He alone – and no temporal nation or ruler – sits on the throne of history and of eternity. And secondly, in a mysterious way, in Jesus, God has entered our world of broken politics and broken religion to show us what his loving rule is really like. In fact, Jesus talked about this all the time. He called it the “Kingdom of Heaven” or “the Kingdom of God.” It shows us what God is really like, what his reign is really like, and what his people should be like. And in the Old Testament, before Jesus, we have a shadow of these things – especially as David is anointed as king. Thus, we should ask, What is the kingdom of God, and how does it work?

1. The kingdom of God is comprised of and advanced by the people of God.

We can see this throughout 2 Samuel 5:1-10. “All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron” (5:1), and “he reigned over all of Israel and Judah” (5:5). And this is not about Western ideas like democracy or consensus. This is about unity, purpose, and intimacy. Israel says to David, “Behold, We are your bone and flesh” (5:1). This is an echo of what Adam says to Eve in Genesis 2. This is about intimacy as God’s people, bound together as we are bound to him. This is why David is portrayed as a kind of suitable Husband for Israel, reflecting the Divine Husbandry of Yahweh himself. This is a simple observation, but it has glorious implications. It means that you’re never really and truly alone. It means isolation and abandonment aren’t your inheritance. In God’s economy, you will always have his people. If you belong to his covenant family, no matter where you go in the world or how you feel, his people will be there. And beyond this, you will always have a purpose – to enjoy and extend his kingdom. And that purpose won’t change with your job, your financial situation, or your season of life. And it will always be sensed side-by-side with his people.

2. The kingdom of God is built on and sustained by the promises of God.

God’s kingdom always includes people, but it isn’t built on the foundation of human willpower or ingenuity. It is founded on God’s covenant promises and faithfulness. When David was privately anointed as the future king, it was a promise that he would be publicly anointed as king one day – which is exactly what is happening in 2 Samuel 5. And the word “anointed” in Hebrew is where we get the word “Messiah.” And in a couple of chapters, Yahweh promises David that from his line will come one who will reign forever, an Anointed King whose reign will know no end. And the point is—David’s life can’t be defined apart from the promises of God. David would have no understanding of who he was or what he should be doing if it wasn’t for God’s promises. He would be lost and aimless without God’s promissory word to him (even in gaining the Jebusite stronghold in 5:6-10). We’re the exact same. 

And here’s how the promises of the kingdom intersect our lives: So much of the stress and frustration in life is often due to our wrong assumptions of what God has actually promised us. Scripture never says emotional pain won’t weigh you down. It never says you won’t have health problems. It never says you’ll always get the job or the house or the girl. It never says you’ll never have family fights. It never says you’ll always dodge financial crisis. It never says you won’t have questions and doubts. He never promised any of these things. But… Better than all these things, he promises his love. He promises forgiveness. He promises eternal life in the here and now for those who belong to him by trusting Jesus. He promises that you’ll be a part of his people, his family. He promises that he will teach you as you depend on him. He promises a peace that passes understanding. He promises that he will never leave you or forsake you. This is the rock-solid, immovable foundation of the kingdom of God – that God is good to his word. David believed it. David experienced it. We’re called to trust it. And he will always fulfill it. The kingdoms of this world sometimes might promise and deliver on a few tangibles here and there. But most of the time they are telling us what we want to hear, and they don’t get around to doing everything they say. Not so with God. As Dale Davis says, “His promises may be old or opposed, but they are never false.” And this means he is more trustworthy than the sum of all your pains, doubts, and questions. And that is precisely how his kingdom works.

3. The kingdom of God offers assurance and hope because of the presence of God.

This is actually one of the most specific and repeated promises of God through the biblical story: “I will not leave you or forsake you.” And this truth of God’s nearness gives us confidence now and for the future. As the narrator says in 5:10, “And David became greater and greater for Yahweh the God of hosts was with him.” And this summary statement reminds us that all of the good that was happening at the time under David’s leadership, it wasn’t innately because of David; it was because of God. And as we read the Psalms and read further in David’s story, we will see that David loved and cherished the idea of God’s presence with him. And as followers of Jesus, we should do the same. This is how God’s kingdom comes and his will is done on earth as it is in heaven, through his presence in our lives.

4. The kingdom of God has as its source, centrality, and goal the glory of King Jesus.

Jesus said all of Scripture is about him (Matthew 5:17-20, John 5:39-40, Luke 24:25-49). Our passage is about a royal groom wed to his collective bride, God’s anointed one. It’s about how God’s anointed one is supposed to shepherd, care for, and lead God’s people. And that he was 30 years old when he was crowned king to do so. And he did all he did for the covenant, for the people of God because of the promises of God and with the presence of God. It’s ultimately about Jesus and his kingdom.

And Jesus’ kingdom is the full substance of which David’s reign was a shadow. And Jesus brings an upside-down kingdom where we get life through his death, and we get blessed because he took the curse of our sin. Where the poor in spirit get the kingdom, not the rich in pockets. Where eternal life has come backward into the broken present. Where weakness is strength. This is the kingdom of God that has come to us in Jesus the Christ. He is Emmanuel, God with us. And this is why the entire New Testament calls Jesus “the son of David,” because Jesus is climatically what God’s reign looks like and how it works. It’s his kingdom. It’s for his glory. He is kingdom-come in a person. “His is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.