“Thy Kingdom Come” Part I

"Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

"OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN"


CHAPTER 4 – OUTLINE

SUBJECT: Pray This Way – "Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let Your Kingdom come". (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

"To grasp what is meant by the Kingdom of God is to come very close to the heart of the Bible's gospel of salvation." (John Bright)

PROPOSITION:

Before we can appreciate Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God, we must spend considerable time studying the development of the idea in the Old Testament.

I. Misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God'

A. Development of the Messianic Concept

1. Formulation of Messianic Concept

2. Prophetic Development of Messianic Concept (8th century prophets)

3. Exilic Development of Messianic Concept

4. Post-Exilic Development of Messianic Concept

B. Development of Covenant Concept

1. Israel's Election

2. Israel's Covenant Obligation

3. Israel's Abuse of Covenant

4. Israel's Rejection by God

CONCLUSION:

Herein lies the misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God' – identifying the coming Messiah as a great son of David, and assuming that the Kingdom of Israel is the Kingdom of God. It was with these two false conceptions that Jesus had to deal in His teachings regarding the Kingdom of God.

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CHAPTER 4 – OUTLINE

SUBJECT: Pray This Way – "Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let Your Kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

Says Barclay: "The phrase 'Thy Kingdom of God' is characteristic of the whole New Testament. There is no phrase which is used oftener in prayer and in preaching and in Christian literature. It is, therefore, of primary importance that we should be clear as to what it means." (Barclay's Matthew; v. 1; p. 210)

Mark's Gospel begins with the significant words: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying: 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.'" (1: 14-15) Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God and spoke of it as being of paramount importance. And yet Jesus merely assumed that all who heard the phrase would understand it, as indeed the Jews did. However, to modern man, the phrase has little meaning.

The importance of understanding this phrase cannot be emphasized enough. Indeed, as John Bright has pointed out, "To grasp what is meant by the Kingdom of God is to come very close to the heart of the Bible's gospel of salvation." (The Kingdom of God; p.7)

One cannot appreciate the phrase – The Kingdom of God – as it is used in the New Testament without some understanding of the Old Testament history behind this concept. In fact, it is this concept – The Kingdom of God – which gives an overall unity to the Bible. It is this concept, with all of its development that ties the Old and the New Testaments together.

PROPOSITION:

In this message we will seek to trace the development of the concept through the Old Testament, and show how the idea of the 'Kingdom of God' was misinterpreted. Before we can appreciate Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of God, we must spend considerable time studying the development of the idea in the Old Testament. To appreciate its proper interpretation, we must first seek how it was improperly interpreted in the Old Testament.

I. Misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God'

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To understand how the idea of the 'Kingdom of God' was often misinterpreted in the Old Testament times, we must trace the development of the Messianic concept, and we must also note the development of the Covenant concept.

A. Development of the Messianic Concept

1. Formulation of Messianic Concept.

The formulation of the Messianic concept was wrought about through the wistful longings of the Israelite people during the dark days of their nation's decline. Israel wistfulling longed for a king who would reign like King David. David was Israel's greatest king and it was David who reigned during the Golden Age of Israel's history. David was idolized as the ideal king who gave Israel military, political, material, and spiritual success. Ever after David, the people of Israel looked back upon his age as the ideal age and upon David as the ideal King.

R.V.G. Tasker well summarizes the early beginnings of the Messianic idea. "At first after the establishment of the monarchy, because Utopia is usually fashioned after the form of government familiar to the dreamer, it was thought that the Kingdom when it came would be inaugurated by an ideal king born of the lineage of King David, who would be the visible representative on earth of God Himself, God's anointed one, or 'Christ,' who would always seek to do God's will, ruling in no self-seeking spirit, but solely for God's glory. So the coming of the Kingdom is usually associated in the days before the exile with the coming of a Messiah, a son of David, a Christ." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels; p. 63)

2. Prophetic Development of Messianic Concept (8th century prophets)

At the time that the great 8th century B.C. prophets (Amos, Micah, and Isaiah) spoke, Israel had descended to a level of complacency and indulgence. Society was sick with many diseases – social injustice, personal indulgence, religious corruption, political violence. Religious ceremony was a substitute for sound, ethical practice. There was a naive confidence that God was for Israel and therefore there was no reason to be alarmed.

It was the prophetic duty to shake the people out of their complacency and to warn them of God's justice and judgment. A few heeded; most didn't. It was the prophets' thankless job to tell Israel that God's judgment would be severe on the unrepentant nation, and that Israel's enemies would be God's instruments for that punishment! God's

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purpose would not be frustrated however, for there would always be a purified remnant through which God would work out His purposes.

Because the period of the eighth century (B.C.) prophets was a period of national decline accompanied with the decay of the monarchy (which up to this time had been the source of inspiration for the Messianic concept), "It was very natural that, when these prophets painted their word- pictures of the Kingdom of God, less emphasis should be given by them to the king of the house of David who should inaugurate it, and that the description of that blessed Messianic age should be given in more general terms." (Ibid; p. 66)

The description of the Messianic Age was given in more general terms mainly because there was a lack of confidence in the possibility of a human agent having the ability to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. In this uncertain time, when the foundation of the monarchy was quaking and cracking, there was the feeling that no son of David could establish the Kingdom of God, but that only God Himself could bring salvation and deliverance. During this eighth century the 'Kingdom of God' became less and less associated with the monarchy and with a human agent, and was described more and more in general terms with God Himself as the agent for its establishment. As Tasker says, "The idea of a king, the son of the house of David, falls more and more into the background." (Ibid; p. 66)

3. Exilic Development of Messianic Concept.

During the period of the exile the idea of a coming Kingdom underwent the most profound changes. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the exile of the majority population, and the resultant consequence of no longer being able to worship according to the old ways, all were happenings which caused a radical re-thinking of Messianic idea. As Tasker says, "It was obvious that the old narrow Messianic hopes of an earthly king reigning at Jerusalem had to be modified under the momentous changes, which had taken place in the national life … But with the exile in Babylon, not only did the cultus of the Temple services cease, thereby opening the way for the emphasis laid by Jeremiah and Ezekiel upon personal religion, but the monarchy ceased as well … The more such prophets stressed their teaching of the new covenant, in which God dealt immediately and directly with each individual soul without any mediator, the more clear it became that the Kingdom of God could not be inaugurated by any being who in the least resembled an earthly king, even the great King David; but that it would only come by the direct intervention of God." (Ibid; pgs. 66, 67, 68)

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4. Post-Exilic Development of Messianic Concept.

In the early post-exilic period, the Jews realized that the Kingdom of God could not be inaugurated or established by a human being, but that God Himself or some mysterious divine being appointed by God could only establish the Kingdom of God. In the book of Daniel, the description of a son of man is given. This mysterious son of man is given. This one is described as coming on the clouds of heaven to receive the kingdom: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14) It was this title – Son of Man – which Jesus preferred more than any other Messianic title. It was the term used to designate the Divine being who would inaugurate God's Kingdom.

In later post-exilic times – the period just before Christ came to earth – laws were codified (arranged in systematic collections) and religion became more legal, formal, and rigid than ever before. "The old idea of the Messiah as an earthly king who would slay his enemies, not only lingered, but became again the most popular one … No longer were the prophets but the scribes of the Pharisees the religious teachers of the multitude; and they were laying upon men's shoulders burdens too great to be borne." (Ibid; p. 71)

We have endeavored thus far to gain a better appreciation of the Messianic concept as it developed throughout the Old Testament history of the Israelite people. One is justified in carefully tracing that development when one realizes that much of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom was built off of Old Testament concepts. To understand what the Jews believed about the Messiah and about the Kingdom of God, is to better appreciate Jesus' teachings regarding the Kingdom, for Jesus was a Jew and He spoke in Jewish categories, assuming that His Jewish hearers had an understanding of popular Jewish concepts. What has been said, is for the purpose of supplying basic and popular Old Testament concepts which will aid us in developing a proper understanding of the New Testament idea of 'The Kingdom of God'.

Before we can discuss the New Testament idea of 'The Kingdom of God', we must further lay the foundation. To better prepare us for a study of the New Testament phrase 'Thy Kingdom Come', we will look at one other Old Testament concept – The Covenant.

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B. Development of Covenant Concept

1. Israel's Election.

At the very heart of Jewish faith was the belief that Israel was God's chosen people. "The Bible story traces this history of election back to Abraham, but it was in the Exodus events that Israel saw her real beginnings as a people. The memory of the Exodus towered over the national consciousness for all time to come." (The Kingdom of God; p. 27) God elected Israel as His special people through whom He sought to accomplish His purposes in history. "And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." (Exodus 6:7) The writer of Deuteronomy says to Israel: "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)

2. Israel's Covenant Obligation.

God made a covenant with Israel. Israel was chosen by God from all the nations of the earth as God's special instrument through which He would work out His purposes. However, it is important to note that Israel was not chosen on the basis of her own merit or on the basis of any inherent worth that she possessed. God's covenant relationship with God was an act of God's grace and love and was not made with Israel because she was any better than any other nation.

Israel's Exodus from Egypt was the outstanding event of God's grace and favor by which Israel became solidified as God's chosen people. It was this great historical act of mercy which was meant to constantly remind Israel of God's loving kindness.

God's covenant with Israel was a bilateral contract – not between equals – but nevertheless a contract involving mutual obligations. God promised to deliver Israel from her enemies and to preserve her as His special instrument, if Israel would simply pledge loyalty and show gratitude to its God.

Israel enjoyed an unprecedented privilege – the honor of being God's chosen people and of enjoying God's protection and defense. However, Israel's covenant with God assumed a major obligation – Obedience and Gratitude.

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3. Israel's Abuse of Covenant.

What was the main failure of Israel? Israel failed because of her preoccupation with her special election combined with an accompanying disregard for her covenant obligations. "In short, the whole notion of covenant and election had been made a mechanical thing, the deeply moral note inherent in it blurred and obscured. It had been forgotten that the covenant was a bilateral obligation, requiring of its people the worship of Yahweh alone and the strictest obedience to his righteous law in all human relationships. Or if the obligation was remembered at all, it was imagined that lavish sacrifice and loyal support of the shrines discharged it … And religion was accorded an altogether pagan function: to coerce the favor of God by the sedulous manipulation of the ritual so that protection and material benefit might be secured for individual and nation." (Kingdom of God; p. 64)

Israel was substituting lavish sacrifices for moral rectitude and justice. No amount of religious ceremony can take the place of justice and righteousness.

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; 
I cannot stand your assemblies. 
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, 
I will not accept them. 
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [a] 
I will have no regard for them. 
23 A way with the noise of your songs! 
I will not listen to the music of your harps. 
24 But let justice roll on like a river, 
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24)

Israel failed because she failed to be guided by her covenant obligations – brotherly love, mercy, justice, humility, and gratitude. No amount of religious ceremony could substitute for these qualities.

6 With what shall I come before the LORD 
and bow down before the exalted God? 
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, 
with calves a year old? 
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, 
with ten thousand rivers of oil? 
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, 
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

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8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Not even the prophetic challenge could crack Israel's naive and false confidence in her special election. Israel failed to realize that her covenant relationship was not automatic and mechanical but that it was bilateral and moral. Israel failed to realize that her special election involved moral imperatives. Israel's election was for responsibility. Therefore, to flaunt these responsibilities brings special judgment. Said God to Israel: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2)

4. Israel's Rejection by God.

The exile proved to Israel that her covenant with God had moral stipulations and requirements, which, if flaunted or disregarded brought their judgment and punishment. God's rejection of the Israelite state taught the Jews that the Kingdom of Israel was not identical with the Kingdom of God. How shocking was God's prediction of Israel's destruction: "Behold the eyes of Lord Yahweh are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth." (Amos 9:8 a; Bright)

God's rejection of Israel by God is not final or complete, for God will always have a purged remnant through which He will accomplish His purposes. As the pages of Old Testament history pass over into New Testament reality, we learn that the Church of Christ – the New Israel – becomes that cleansed remnant through which God works His redemptive purposes.

CONCLUSION:

We have traced the Messianic concept through the main periods of Old Testament history. The Messianic concept took on various forms with the ebb and flow of historical events. We briefly summarize those various forms: (a) After the formation of the monarchy and the ascendency of David to the throne of Israel, Israel's glory declined and her territory became the battleground for sectional strife. During these days of darkness and decline, Israel's hope of a Messiah was described in terms of a great son of David. (b) Because the monarchies was cracking at its very foundation, and because Israel's kings were corrupt, the coming Kingdom was described in more general terms with less emphasis upon the coming Messiah as a great son of David. (c)

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During the exile, the monarchy was destroyed and confidence in a human agent as the establisher of the Kingdom was shattered. If the Kingdom of God was to ever be fully realized, God Himself would have to be the Agent and Inaugurator. (d) In the early post-exilic period it was thought that God would appoint some mysterious being – the son of man as Daniel called him – who would establish the kingdom. (e) During the time just before Christ came on the scene of history, the Messianic concept had relapsed into the old idea of the Messiah as an earthly king who would slay his enemies. It was this concept of the Messiah that was popular when Jesus came forth into Galilee preaching about the Kingdom.

We have also traced the development of the covenant concept. (a) The Jews believed that they were the chosen people of God. They were elected by God. (b) Israel's covenant with God involved obligations as well as privileges. (c) Israel's failure was her naive preoccupation with election at the expense of forgetting her covenant obligations. (d) God's rejection of Israel proved to Israel that she was not the true Kingdom of God.

Herein lies the misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God' – identifying the coming Messiah as a great son of David, and assuming that the Kingdom of Israel is the Kingdom of God. The former mistake was corrected at times during Israel's history but was continuing to persist as the New Testament narrative was begun. The latter mistake was corrected by the exile but the rudiments of this false conception were still existent in the New Testament. It was with these two false conceptions that Jesus had to deal in His teachings regarding the' Kingdom of God. With the background of this message, let us not attempt to understand the true meaning of the Kingdom of God, as Jesus taught it. To this subject we move in the next message. (Thy Kingdom Come – Part II)

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