Everything I ever needed to know about the Kingdom of God, I learned from flannelgraph.
God’s promises to Noah and Abraham demonstrated that, in spite of man’s tendency to use violence and war to force his will on other men, God would establish a different kind-of kingdom: one that would bless all people. The story that follows these events in scripture is largely about how, in spite of their great power, Pharoahs and Kings cannot stop God’s intended purposes for the world, accomplished through his people.
I’m not sure that I ever saw it depicted in flannelgraph, but boy did I see a lot of diagrams and pictures of Solomon’s temple in my youth! It represented a remarkable period in the history of the people of God.
The early chapters if 1 Kings tell a story about how Israel, once a small, nomadic band of Egyptial slaves, sets down its roots in this world of warring Kings. A strong line of Israel’s own Kings seems now to be well-established. Two unimaginably ornate buildings are constructed – a temple and a palace. And on the throne of Israel is an individual widely regarded as the wisest man in the ancient world.
It was a golden age. It was Camalott in the city of David. It was a time that Israel would always remember. (Even Jesus knew the power of this story, because he incorporated it into one of his most well-known teachings.)
I have to be honest with you here. If I were going to guess what would happen next in the story, I would guess that somehow God would use the political, economic, and military influence of this state to establish his reign. The Kingdom of David would become the Kingdom of God. It would be a theocratic empire ruled by God with his steward/kings sitting on the Davidic throne in these ornate buildings in Jerusalem.
Just one catch: it wasn’t to be.
It seems to happen every time you think you’ve found Camalott. Things fall apart.
Israel was to soon begin chasing after other gods, complacent and forgetful of what God had done for them and who they were supposed to be. They would be taken into captivity, conquered, and repeatedly beaten down to within an inch of their collective lives.
Even though, in this small place in history, God made it unmistakably clear that this nation was comprised of his people, their role was never to be conquerors. Instead, for the next few centuries, they were to suffer, cry out and live out the lives of the humbled.
…and it was out of that place: a place of submission, suffering, and anguished cries – rather than the richness and security of Solomon’s temple – that the True King would ultimately arrive. Born in the most unlikely place, to the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely way, he will change the course of history with the most unexpected of ideas.
His message, spoken during a foreign occupation of the same land where Solomon’s temple once stood in all of its splendor, was simple, if not easy to understand: The Kingdom of God is here.
(Next up – Jesus’ Teachings: “The Kingdom of God is, like…”)