Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pretenders to the throne of the King of Kings

book coverI am getting my pop history fix at the moment from Tom Holland's Persian Fire: The First World Empire, Battle for the West. It's a very interesting, easy to read, window into another world which also has some overlap with the bible. I was particularly struck by this passage last night:

For, earth-shaking though Darius' usurpation had proved to be, it had never been his intention to turn the whole world upside-down [...] A pharaoh still reigned in Egypt; a king of Babylon in Mesopotamia; a self-proclaimed heir of the house of Astyages in Media. Darius was all these things [he had conquered all the above], and more. 'King of Kings': such was the title he most gloried in, less because he viewed foreign kingdoms as his fiefdoms - although he did - but rather because it gratified him to pose as the quintessence of royalty. All the monarchies there had ever been were to be regarded as enshrined within his person. He was the Great King. (pp. 56-57)

Elsewhere D R Brooker is concerned that 'Wright says that at its heart, the gospel is a political message. Not that it has political implications, but that Jesus Himself brought a political message.' I too think Wright overplays the political aspects of the NT, but he is right to notice that when Jesus is proclaimed Lord by the Christians in the first century, that is a challenge to the political powers of the day. You only need read Daniel to see that the same was the case in the OT. When God declared himself 'King of Kings' the implication (often made explicit) was/is that Darius and his ilk, were making claims that they could not back up. They were arrogant, foolishly trusting in their own strength rather than recognising that all they had was given to them by God.

However we must not accept the division between public and private truth given to us by our culture, and assume that this political dimension of the Gospel makes it unrelated to us. God's identity does not have either a political impact or a personal application, it has both. We so often are as arrogant as Darius in our own spheres of influence, trusting in our savings, health, or whatever to enable us to do what we want. Reading Dallas Willard at the moment, he makes the point that we all have our own little kingdoms, but it is best that we enter the kingdom of God and acknowledge that God is the 'King of Kings'. That way is the way of both truth and happiness.


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