We have been studying what it means to seek the kingdom as the Bible in Luke 12 explains it. In the face of such an exhortation as “seek the kingdom’’ we need not despair, for we are able to do all such things through Christ Who strengthens us. We may not be proud, however, of our ability. For it is only through another, through God’s Christ, our king, that we can begin to look and continue to look for this heavenly kingdom.
From the perch of Luke 12:35-37, gazing out over the vista of all Scripture, let us look more in detail at this idea of seeking the kingdom. From the start of our study we have wanted to know if we were indeed “ready’’ to seek. By faith in His most sure Word, I believe I am ready. Are you? Consider: (1) The kingdom of heaven (2) The seekers.
The Worth of the Kingdom
There is a king who is set upon His holy hill (Psalm 2:7). He is Jesus. He is king of all kings and the Lord of every lord of the earth. It is only by and at the will of this wise king that other kings and princes and nobles can rule and decree justice (Proverbs 8:15, 16). The king being Christ-The-Anointed- King, the kingdom is also His. For the kingdom we are exhorted to seek in Luke 12 is the kingdom of God. And Jesus Christ, the One sent by God and set by God on His holy hill, is very God Himself. Right from the start then, we know that this kingdom is worth
seeking. As the king is worthy, so is the kingdom worth all of our attention. The Kingdom as the Rule of God
The word “kingdom” can refer to the domain, or territory of a king. The place where Christ the king rules is this: heaven and earth. God’s kingdom is everywhere! Galaxies, stars, moons, trees, frogs, rocks, roses, boys, girls, pastors, teachers, heaven and earth, and even hell itself (for God is there in His wrath) belong to the domain of our God. And that He has such a large kingdom only bespeaks God’s greatness.
But let us not dwell so much on where God dwells or where God’s kingdom is. Rather, let us seekers think for a moment of God’s kingdom as God s rule over everything in that kingdom. After all, this is most important. Someone could be a king and yet have no control over his subjects. But God is king, not to be compared to Queen Elizabeth or President Reagan: God rules and no parliament, no legislature, no voters or dissidents can overrule Him.
What most characterizes, therefore, the domain of a king is that he rules there. We can speak of a kingdom itself then as the rule or government of the king of a particular kingdom. So Scripture’s kingdom is more than just a physical place. In fact the Bible would take our eyes almost away from the fact that God’s kingdom is a place so that we might see, by faith, its spiritual characteristics, its heavenly government. Thus we read that Jesus repeatedly calls His kingdom a heavenly kingdom. He did this much of the time to combat Jewish notions of a political kingdom soon to come in which an earthly lord would rule. “The kingdom cometh without observation’’, “it (the kingdom, MD) is within you”, “thy kingdom come” are all words of our Saviour which would lead us to the Ruler Ruling. This is so that not only devils might be spiritually in subjection to the rule of God, but ourselves as well (ref. Mt. 12:28; Lk. 18:21ff).
God rules the kingdom, everywhere by His law. He has made laws for every creature. Fish must obey the laws of the rivers and lakes and seas. Eaglets were made to fly, but in some mysterious way must learn by watching their parents; and even the flying eagle is subject to the God of the winds. We humans, made of the dust, are subject to laws which God made for human creatures. We cannot fly. We walk, but only on our legs, not on our heads. We think much differently than other animals. This is because we have larger and altogether different brains. But for all our brains, we can never think up a way of eating with our elbows and not with our mouths!
So many laws and rules of the king: laws for individual creatures; laws for institutions like government, church, or home; laws for disciplines like science, art, business; laws for “natural” things from planets to peas to sub-atomic particles. No earthly king, scientist or businessman could have kept it all straight!
Besides all these laws, there is also a law for sinners. This is a law different from all other laws because in no way can we ever begin to keep it. This law is summed up for us in the law of the King Jesus: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mt. 22:37-39)
The law which God wrote. . .for sinners. In fact the king’s law entered that the offence of men might abound! (Rom. 5:20) We are sinners. God has shown us that we are outlaws in His kingdom. We can keep the law of walking upright and not on our heads. But we have broken and do break continually God’s law of love. King Jesus, therefore, must over-rule our sin. He must come, take the sin of the church, and smash it to the ground. He must bear, in His kingly overrule of sin, the punishment of God for it, for us. He, the King, subjected Himself to the pain and darkness of hell. What a king, who would willingly let the enemy swarm in upon Him! What a king, who would seek no escape from His task, but who would trust that God’s eternal counsel was good enough and sure enough to guarantee the victory! What a king! What a kingdom!
Can we see now a little bit more how it is not so much a “place” for which we seek as we seek the kingdom? Rather, God would have us seek to find our special place at the foot of the cross. God has revealed to us that there is a refuge for out-laws only in Jesus. By faith we begin to submit to His law of love. There by His cross we see salvation wrought for us by the king 2000 years ago. There also in our future eternity in heaven we see the Lamb slain. For there in that timeless and very “unearthly” place is the heavenly kingdom in which there is no temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22).
This then is how we as redeemed sinners must see God s kingdom: it is God’s righteous rule effected in perfect love and justice on the cross of Calvary. By the gift of the Spirit and by faith, this rule has mastery over us. And in all of this rule the king is glorified.
A Bible commentator, Alexander Maclaren, has aptly painted the scene of Luke 12:35-37:
It is midnight, a great house is without its master, the lord of the palace is absent, but expected back, the servants are busy in preparation, each man with his robe tucked about his middle, in order that it may not interfere with his work, his lamp in his hand that he may see to go about his business and his eye ever turned to the entrance to catch the first sign of the coming of his master. Is that like your Christian life? (Vol. LX; pp 358, 359 of his Expositions of Scripture)
The Holy Spirit in Luke here has described for us seekers of God’s kingdom. In the Bible there are many descriptions of people who seek the kingdom. Seekers of God, for example, are called meek, those who mourn, who are persecuted, who fear God, who are full of joy and the Holy Spirit. The emphasis here in Luke, however, is that what characterizes seekers is that they do watch and wait for that king and kingdom to come. This is very important for us to remember, especially for those of us without gray hair. For we young people would often just as soon run after God than wait for Him, trying really to “beat Him” to His own purpose and end. We in our youthful zeal would think we were doing God service when in fact we trip over our own works and forget about God’s grace which alone saves us. On the other hand, sometimes the waiting for this great kingdom to come can seem so long (just like we might complain that the minister’s prayers or sermons or family devotions are so long!) that it seems pointless. The temptation to be lazy or bored with watching and waiting for a spiritual king can be very, very real. We might just as soon watch the ball game. We might just as soon wait very prettily in our new dresses to catch the eye of anyone and everyone.
But true seekers of the kingdom, young or old, do wait for their Lord. They do this, as Maclaren describes and as Luke says, by girding their loins and burning their lights.
The loins are not spare ribs. They are simply the middle part of the human body, say, the part from the thighs to the stomach. To gird them about was, for those of Jesus’ day and culture, to hitch up the long and flowing robes which people then wore around a belt or around the robe itself. A master, for example, might tell his servant to gird up his loins in order to carry that jar of water or send this message swiftly to his brother. By the words, “girding the loins”, the servant would know exactly what his master was saying: “This job must be done quickly and efficiently, so make sure you are not tripping over your garments on the way.” There are some interesting examples in Scripture of people girding up their loins.
Girding the loins meant for Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, making haste to lay Elisha’s staff upon the face of the dead son of the Shunamite woman. In this he must not be side-tracked, but he
must go about quickly the business of the prophet of God (II Kings 4). Jeremiah the prophet was one commanded by God to gird up his loins and to arise and speak unto apostate Judah (Jer. 1). At first Jeremiah would say that it was impossible for him to go for he was only a child (learn from this, young people!). But by faith and girding the loins, Jeremiah could speak the Word of God. Another example of one who so girded his loins in preparation for a task is the example of Jesus. He girded His loins about with a towel after the supper of the passover with His disciples. He did this in order to wipe with this towel His disciples’ feet after he had washed them.
These examples of persons in the Bible girding up the loins have spiritual significance for us seekers. We do not have long flowing robes that get in our way. But we do have long flowing sins: we often put on such wild imaginations and lies that would trip us up and divert us in our pursuit of God’s kingdom. The spiritual admonition for us as God’s servants always is: gird up the loins of your minds (I Peter 1:13), and, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth’’ (Ephesians 6:14). We cannot be as men who wait for their Lord if we cannot and do not stand.
Letting our loins be girded spiritually and by faith in the God of the Bible we will surely be waiting on the Word and letting our lights burn. Light is the revelation of the glory of God. This glory shines. It shines and burns away the darkness of a world that hates God. God’s glory, THE LIGHT, Jesus Christ, shines in the face of unbelief so that it cowers, like Old Testament Israel, before it (CF. Exodus 34:29-35). God’s glory shines so that all can see —it cannot be hid.
By faith, the gift of God, we do burn this light. Each of us does burn this light. We do this by setting our hearts on the kingdom. This act of faith ignites us to let our parents, our brothers and sisters and church members and classmates and the whole world know that we are Christians! We say: “Come see this kingdom we have found! We have set our hearts there, and our treasure is there. Our loins are girded, we have detached ourselves from all empty pleasures and faithless passions. We concentrate instead on our meat and drink: the Words of the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” Day by day reading and prayerful meditation upon the Bible; intent concentration in church and in school; building friendships which are true friendships in the Lord; applying, by faith, all that we read and hear and see of the kingdom . . .to our lives —these are the most important activities of our lives. Does your faith glow? If so, then you are telling yourself, the world, and God, that He is the Father and the power of all lights. If so, then you are truly burning your light. Then also you are truly waiting on God.
In all of this girding of our loins and letting of our lights burn we are said to be (verse 36) “like men that wait for their lord.” Just remember this, if anything, about waiting: included in the Scriptural idea of waiting for is the idea of waiting on. We wait for (or cannot wait for) trains, busses, dinner, vacation. We wait on the Lord. And this implies that He is already king, already come, ruling in our lives. Thus His coming and our waiting is not just in the future.
We wait on the Lord. This means that we attend God’s law and so serve God—now. You have seen waiters at restaurants, have you not? They wait for the time w/hen you are ready to order. So we wait for God to complete His purpose in time and to take us home. But good restaurant waiters wait on their guests constantly from the beginning to the end of their meal: filling glasses, taking orders, asking how is the meal. So we who wait on God do not wait until we make confession of faith publicly in church before we start acting like Christians in private and before all to see. We do not wait until we feel good or until we are “zapped” into spiritual fervor in order to start searching the Scriptures daily. If we wait only for God we will never act upon faith. And if we never act upon faith, then it must be true that we never had faith. For faith gives waiters “to open unto” the Lord, to yield unto His commandment, immediately both now and when He shall come again. We wait on the Lord —now. For in so doing we become like Him Who sought and waited on us.
Are you and I seekers? are we waiters, servants of the Lord? If we are, and I believe we are, then it is not because we have taken piano lessons or because we can build a building or sing a solo. Nor is it because we get better grades in school than someone else. Nor are we waiters/servants/seekers of God because we are more pious than people who go to churches other than Protestant Reformed. No. We are waiters, servants and seekers because Jesus the King waited on, served and sought us first. Jesus, the Son of God, waited on us, taking upon Himself the form of a servant. And we see in the picture of our passage that seekers’ reward shall be that the Lord Himself shall “gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (v. 37).
Jesus is king. As Maclaren puts it: in heaven He is girded with a towel of Sovereignty. But His is no longer a ministry of washing, for he (us) that is once washed by the Holy Spirit is washed every whit. Rather the Lamb- King in eternity doth serve the feast of salvation to the saints, “filling up every soul with love and with Himself.” Dear reader, this is the great mystery of the kingdom: in God’s kingdom as subjects of His LOVE, we are blessed forever by the king Who shall serve!
Remember: there is a kingdom of this world which opens wide its gates to us. There is no law, no rule in this kingdom —it is “to each his own” there. It is the lawlessness of basketball game after football game after party after rock beats after fashion after heroes after wealth and nest eggs and after delight only in things physical. Indeed, it is a kingdom with certain riches: laughter, rhythm, popularity, physical comfort, feelings of carefreeness and feelings of oneness with those who joy in seeking the same thing (s).
But I heard a seeker of God just the other day. He was at the lecture on “The Rapture” given in September by Rev. Van Overloop. Out of the blue he says: “You know I’d much rather be here than at a basketball game.” We had just heard of the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As He ascended so we shall see Him descend, with glory and with power and great brightness to destroy all that is Anti-Christ (II Thessalonians 2:8). And when the KING comes then will the seekers know so well His rule in their hearts that they will be totally enraptured by it.
Let us anticipate this coming of the king. Let us pray to God constantly and in every prayer we make: Thy kingdom come”. And let us act brilliantly, by faith preparing ourselves and setting ourselves apart for the wedding of the church and her husband which wedding will take place in the halls of the great eternal king’s palace. We are “the called” according to God’s purpose?” May we be so ruled not by praise of classmates, parents or preacher and not by our desires for meat and drink. For our joy must be, if God has so worked in us, to marvel at. and to spend as wise stewards, the riches of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).