Somewhere out there
Somewhere on planet earth David's throne must exist today. I am one of those who believe it is to be found in the British Isles.
A little more than 3,000 years ago the ancient Israelites, from whom our Christian understanding of kingship is derived, were ruled by the Lord.
". . . You said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us,' when the Lord your God was your king" (1 Samuel 12:12).
When the people rejected the Lord as king, they started the process of placing themselves under human rulers and various forms of government (1 Samuel 8).
Under God as their ruler, obeying God's simple law, the Ten Commandments, the people were free from external enforcement and control.
The character engendered by adherence to fundamental laws was intended to be sufficient to maintain order between people.
"Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul . . ." (Deuteronomy 11:18).
You will be servants
When the people demanded a king to rule over them, however, the Lord spelled out for them how human rulers would behave.
"He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots . . . He will appoint captains . . . will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest . . . make his weapons of war . . . He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers . . . He will take the best of your fields . . . vineyards . . . olive groves . . . He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage . . . your sheep. And you will be his servants" (1 Samuel 8:11-17).
The contrast was not between one type of human ruler and another--as if a king would be in some way worse than any other--but between God, as Ruler, and man.
No matter who our rulers are, whether president, a cabinet of ministers or a king, they tend to exact taxes and manpower to promote their lifestyle and their own projects.
List of instructions
Interestingly, long before the Israelites demanded a king, when Moses was writing the Pentateuch the Lord inspired him to write down instructions governing kings (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
- The king was to be one of the tribe, not a foreigner.
- The king should not raise an army, nor should he join up with other nations' armies.
- He should be monogamous.
- He should not live extravagantly.
- He had to be well versed in Scripture.
The issue of the king not raising an army is interesting. The nation-state normally has an army for self-defense, but, when it is under the control of one man who has supreme power, sooner or later he will use it to commandeer manpower to satisfy his territorial ambitions, or he will even use the army to quell opposition from among his own people.
In England and Scotland historically, kings had men under arms at their own service.
However, in 1689, in the reign of William III, control of the armed forces was placed in the hands of the House of Commons, the lower house of the English Parliament.
What a king is not
Being king is not about being the most handsome man in the land. Witness Saul, whose character eventually became corrupted: ". . . There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel . . ." (1 Samuel 9:2).
God seeks the character of a king, not his appearance: "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature . . . for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
Neither is kingship about being the greatest warrior, the most intelligent, the richest or the most cultured man in the land. The king will have his own personality and individuality, but that is not why he is king.
Nor is kingship about being the most virtuous man in the land. Witness the crimes of David: adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12).
After God's own heart
What made David a man "after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) was that he could acknowledge his sin and repent.
In other words, David was ready to recognize the consequences of his behavior and take responsibility.
The point is that the king is as human as any in the tribe. He exemplifies the ordinary man taking on majesty, even as Christ, the ordinary man, takes on both majesty and God (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12).
Kingship involves the ability to identify with the whole nation and for people of all sorts to identify with the king. The king is head of a body, and all parts must feel they belong to the head. The king embodies the character of the nation, its aspirations and even its strengths and weaknesses.
Gift of the Spirit
The king facilitates ordinary people to be what they were meant to be, not leading them to be what he envisions or what may be convenient for him.
There is a spiritual gift that God rarely gives. By its very nature God can give it to only one or two men or women in a generation. It is the spirit of kingship.
"Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13).
For me, God's spirit of kingship is expressed well in the description of Christ in Isaiah 11:2-3:
"The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears . . ."
When the king prays for his people, God hears. We have a good example of King Solomon praying for his people in 1 Kings 8:59:
"And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require."
Robert Lacey wrote two books about Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family. Majesty was published in 1977 to mark Queen Elizabeth's 25th anniversary on the throne of Great Britain, and Royal was published in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee of 50 years.
Lacey traces the traumas and triumphs of the family through a century and a half from Queen Victoria's time. Well written and easy to read, the two volumes are full of humanity, humor, romance, tragedy and history, a reminder of national and global events that our generation can identify with.
The author's two books record the emergence of the royal family's character from closed, reserved and distant to a family increasingly in touch with the people and involved with them.
In Majesty (pp. 34-35) Lacey writes of George V (who reigned 1910-1936):
"George V was the first British monarch to exemplify the majesty of the ordinary man . . . As the last wisps of actual royal power waft away, twentieth-century monarchy has reverted closer and closer to its origins--a symbolic office more important for its social than for its political or even constitutional function . . . To his peoples he was the model of a national patriarch."
While picturing God's throne room in heaven, Revelation 5:12 tells us: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain . . ."
One aspect of kingship is self-sacrifice. Throughout his lifetime the king is not his own to do what he likes; he belongs to his people.
As head of a body of people, if he does not seek their welfare he may actually destroy himself and them.
The British royal family has a powerful sense of dedication. It usually takes a time of war to bring out in ordinary people the element of self-sacrifice that the monarch and her family exercise continually.
I don't know why God chooses one specific family over others in the tribe, and one member in particular from that family to occupy David's throne and to receive the spirit of kingship.
As a subject of Queen Elizabeth II, I can only present the fact--and be grateful!
We look forward with enthusiasm to the return of Jesus Christ when He will become King of Kings!
Official Chart of Kings and Queens of England:
1837 A.D. (Queen Victoria) to the Present