The Kingdom of God

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What did you think about Ananias yesterday when he questioned whether the Lord really wanted him to go pray for Saul/Paul? Was he right to be hesitant? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. What you might want to take into consideration is the reaction of the church in Jerusalem when Paul returned there from Damascus. Here’s what we’re told in Acts 9:26. When Paul came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Two things I hear in that statement: 1) Paul really was a fearsome opponent of the early Church, you didn’t want to mess with him or have him mess with you; and 2) while the disciples believe theoretically in the power of the gospel, they had some ways to go in reckoning accurately the gospel’s power to save and transform. 

That reminds me of the vision of the statue with the golden head and feet of clay of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is the only one who can tell the king of what the dream consisted and what the dream meant. Anyone can provide an interpretation if you tell them the dream. But to have to tell of what the dream consisted before interpreting it, well, that’s another story. God was good to Daniel and told him accurately on both counts. 

Here’s Daniel’s description of the statue about which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed: The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and it arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. [Dan. 2:32-33] From Daniel’s interpretation we know the statue represents the world-dominating kingdoms from Babylon down to the Romans. King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream included another element. . . . a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them . . . the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. [Dan. 2:34-35] 

What is this stone? Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know and so do we! Here’s the answer:  In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. [Dan. 2:44] The kingdom represented by the stone cut without hands is, of course, the kingdom of God. It is the kingdom of those regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those folk (which includes you and me, I trust!) are made new, are transformed, by the sovereign work of God. 

The persecutor Saul who became the Apostle Paul is exemplary of the work of that uncut stone. We still marvel at what it (meaning the gospel of Jesus Christ) can effect in someone’s life. Ananias had some hesitancy about it, and the church in Jerusalem likewise. What God had done in Paul’s life, though, continued to increase. Just like the stone in the dream. The same is true in our lives. The work that God is doing in us is continuing to grow. It should dominate and direct our lives. That’s what it means to call Jesus “Lord,” after all. 

What’s true for us as individuals is also true for nations. Western civilization used to be called Christendom. Nations have risen and fallen within it, great deviations from faith happened, but the progress of the gospel continued. Now the gospel is growing most rapidly outside of Western civilization. In our land we have protests and mayhem, as well as legislative and judicial actions, expressly designed to shut down and remove expressions of biblical Christianity. They may succeed here, I don’t know, but we know they will not stop or unduly hinder the growth of the stone cut without hands. 

There’s a passage in the Bible we need to hear. It’s Micah 7:7-8. Micah lives in a time of cultural decline as godlessness abounds. Here’s what he says: But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.  Isn’t that great! That’s the indomitable spirit of the people of God. He, the Lord God Almighty, will triumph over all. He is God, after all. Like the head of gold and legs of bronze of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, our nation may fall, but the kingdom of God will continue to increase until it fills the entire earth. The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is such that persecutors like Saul can be transformed into St. Paul, the Apostle! No gulf is too deep, no breach is too wide. And so, we press on. Sometimes we’re hesitant like Ananias, sometimes we’re afraid like the disciples, but the Lord Jesus makes sure we get back on the right and good path. He is our Shepherd. We are His sheep. Hallelujah! No one can take us out of His hand.

Today is my last day as Pastor of Leidy’s Church. Tomorrow my retirement begins. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. But it does mean the end of these devotional thoughts. Thank you for allowing me to come into your homes and your lives this way. Who knows, if you write imploring letters to the leadership of Leidy’s Church, perhaps they’ll commission me to start up again in September! Regardless, may what was true for the church in Judea and Galilee and Samaria be true for each of us as well, may we go on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, continuing to increase. [Acts 9:31]

Let’s pray: O Lord God, we continue to give You honor and glory and praise. You keep us in life and in death. You guard and guide our ways all our days. Thank You for Your word. May it dwell richly within us; may we delight in it. We pray that Your kingdom will come, and Your will will be done, here on earth even as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.