Fuller

The Endless Kingdom

December 9, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 1:30-33 (NRSV)

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Focus

When we feel sorrow over the brokenness of our world, including persistent injustice, senseless violence, and ominous diseases, we find ourselves in an Advent mode, yearning for God’s future, for an endless time of righteousness, justice, and peace. That time will come. In the meanwhile, we wait with hope. That’s what Advent is all about.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we watched as the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, telling her that the Lord was with her. Mary received this news with uncertainty, wondering what it meant. The angel went on to explain that Mary had found favor with God (Luke 1:30). She would soon become pregnant and give birth to a son whom she would name Jesus. The angel continued, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (1:31-33).

The angel’s proclamation is filled with the words and images of Old Testament prophecy. In 2 Samuel 7, for example, the Lord, speaking through the prophet Nathan, told King David that he would raise up one of his offspring “and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. . .” (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16). In Isaiah 9, the Lord offered this vision of the future, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). These prophecies sound a lot like Gabriel’s message to Mary, don’t you think?

So much could be said about these prophecies and how they were fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. In today’s devotion, however, I want to focus on one particular theme: the endlessness of the kingdom. Through Samuel, God promised David that his kingdom “shall be made sure forever.” Through Isaiah, God spoke of “endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.” The Davidic king will rule “with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.” In the same vein, the angel told Mary that Jesus “will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).

Many Jews in Mary’s world believed that the endless kingdom would be, quite literally, the kingdom of Israel. Once God expelled the Romans from the land, the Jewish kingdom would be established and this earthly nation would last forever. Some Jews, however, saw in the prophecies of an endless kingdom something more, something even greater. They envisioned the whole world flourishing under God’s kingly rule. Isaiah had seen a future in which “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). The time would come when the Lord would redeem his people. He would show his strength “before the eyes of all the nations.” In that day, “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10). The prophet Daniel saw in a vision a human being (the Aramaic reads literally, “son of man”) to whom “was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

Whether they envisioned the future kingdom in nationalistic terms or as something covering the whole earth, Jews in the time of Mary longed for the coming of the kingdom. They yearned for a kingdom that would not be overthrown or pass away. They wanted something that would last forever.

We who believe that Jesus was the Messiah have inherited this longing, in a way. We are eager to see God’s kingdom established, with God’s salvation, justice, and righteousness filling the earth. But, with our full and busy lives, it’s easy to forget the future for which we are hoping. We tend to focus exclusively on the present. This is one reason why we need Advent. Advent is a season to reorient our longings and point them to God’s future. Advent stirs within us a passion for the vision of Jesus in the book of Revelation, where he is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). In words that inspired Händel’s Messiah, Revelation reveals that “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Notice, it’s not just the kingdom of Israel that lasts forever. It’s the “kingdom of this world,” the whole world under the rule of King Jesus.

When we feel sorrow over the brokenness of our world, including persistent injustice, senseless violence, and ominous diseases, we find ourselves in an Advent mode, yearning for God’s future, for an endless time of righteousness, justice, and peace. That time will come. In the meanwhile, we wait with hope. That’s what Advent is all about.

Reflect

When you envision God’s kingdom, what do you see?

What things in this world make you yearn for the coming of God’s kingdom, with its righteousness, justice, and peace?

What parts of your own life are in need of God’s grace, healing, and royal authority?

Act

Set aside several minutes for quiet reflection. Think about your hopes, from relatively small ones to giant ones. Offer these hopes to God in prayer.

Pray

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne. Amen.

The second verse of “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley. From the 18th century, now in the public domain.

P.S. from Mark

If you’re like me, even now you’re trying to figure out what you’ll get your family and friends for Christmas. I have a suggestion for you. As you know, my De Pree Center colleague Michaela O’Donnell has recently published a wonderful new book, Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World. You’ll remember Michaela from the moving set of devotions she wrote in November, based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. I found many things helpful in Michaela’s book, like her ingenious way of talking about calling. Make Work Matter is relevant to all ages, even to third third folk like me. But this book would be especially beneficial to people in vocational transition. I’m thinking in particular of people aged 18 to 35. So, if you’re trying to find the perfect Christmas present for someone in this age bracket, I highly recommend Make Work Matter. You can find out more and order it here.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Peace and Prosperity (Isaiah 9ff.)


Subscribe to Life for Leaders

Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Tags

AdventLuke

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.