Kingdom Visionaries (6)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6.33
Jacob had prophesied of his son, Judah, that God would establish a Kingdom under his oversight that would include Israel and all nations (Gen. 49.8-11). From the beginning of creation, as we have seen, God was preparing that Kingdom for the day when “Shiloh” would come, when the Kingdom prepared for Him would belong to Him from that time forever.
“Shiloh” is an interesting word. In the Hebrew it appears to be a contraction of three words – “who”, “to”, and “him.” I think an accurate way of translating Shiloh would be something like, “Him Whose it is.” Jacob saw One coming for Whom the Kingdom from God was being prepared, with Whose arrival the Judaic dynasty would cease (“until Shiloh comes”) but the Kingdom would continue.
David also foresaw this day, when God, through the prophet Nathan, promised him that He would establish on David’s throne a Son Who would reign forever. David subsequently came to see this King seated at the right hand of the Father and ruling from heaven over all the earth (2 Sam. 7.13; Ps. 110).
We have seen that the prophets also foresaw this coming One. They understood, if only incompletely, that the Kingdom of God would be given to One like the Son of Man, Who, in turn, would give that Kingdom to the saints of the Most High God, who would possess it forever (cf. Dan. 7.18-25).
Into that rich background of Kingdom anticipation, Jesus came, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, asserting Himself to be the Son of David and King of Israel, and calling His people to renew their vision of the Kingdom and to devote themselves to pursuing it.
During the days of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, the Kingdom of God was His highest priority. He intended that it should be ours as well.
We can see the primacy of the Kingdom in our Lord Jesus Christ in three ways.
Proclaimed and taught
The first words of Jesus’ ministry announced that the long-awaited Kingdom of God had come near to men (Matt. 4.17). It had come near to them in the Person of the One Who embodied it and would formally receive it when at last His work was done, and Who had come to bestow that Kingdom on His followers through His life, death, and resurrection.
The vast majority of Jesus’ teaching revolved around some aspect of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount introduced this teaching, the parables “colorized” it and made it vivid, and His forty days of teaching after the resurrection provided a Kingdom exclamation point to the end of all His earthly instruction.
Nothing occupied the teaching of Jesus as much as the Kingdom of God. Men were to understand that the promised Kingdom had come near; it was “at hand” and even “within” or “among” them. They must see the Kingdom as more valuable than pearls or treasures, more enduring than the world, and more certain than any political regime with which they might be familiar. With the coming of Jesus history had taken a new turn. God’s eternal covenant purposes were now beginning to unfold in dramatic and powerful new ways, which the coming of the Holy Spirit would confirm and vivify.
If the first rule of buying real estate is “location, location, location,” the first rule of following Jesus Christ is “Kingdom, Kingdom, Kingdom.” There is not an aspect of the instructional curriculum of our Lord that was not devoted to describing, promising, and commanding the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the focal point and foundation of all the teaching and preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for the Kingdom
Jesus commanded His disciples to pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6.9, 10). We may note three specifics about this particular command.
First, Jesus taught us to pray that the Kingdom would come on earth in the same way that it exists in heaven. In heaven the Kingdom of God is a spiritual realm that reflects the righteousness and peace and joy in God’s Spirit that all creatures enjoy within the throne room of Christ and God. We are to believe that Jesus intends His Kingdom to come among us in a similar fashion. Indeed, Paul teaches that we can do no better than to allow the character of the Kingdom to determine the course of all our daily lives and activities (Rom. 14.17-19).
Second, Jesus made praying for the Kingdom the highest priority in our prayers after praising and honoring God. The Kingdom is more important than our daily needs. The Kingdom is more to be desired than that our sins should be forgiven or that we should be rescued through temptation. The Kingdom, moreover, provides the incentive for our prayers and the hope of their being heard and realized: “For thine is the Kingdom…” God has the power and the authority to grant our prayers, and He rules in righteousness, peace, and joy to do so.
Third, we are to pray for the Kingdom “whenever” we pray. Prayer for God’s Kingdom to come among us is to be part of all our prayers to God. “When you pray, pray this way…Your Kingdom come…” Thus Jesus not only commanded us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, but to make that coming central to and of the highest import – next to praising the Lord – in all our prayers. Prayers that fail to seek the Kingdom, therefore, would seem to miss the point of the privilege of prayer.
Seek the Kingdom
Finally, Jesus asserted the primacy of the Kingdom of God by commanding His followers to “seek” the Kingdom, together with the righteousness of God, as their highest priority in all things. The sense of this is that Kingdom-seeking must be not merely the first in the order of our daily activities, but the defining motif of all we think, say, and do.
This is just another way of saying that everything about us must be devoted to God as an avenue by which His rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit may flow from the courts of heaven to the chaos and uncertainty of everyday life, reconciling all things back to God, making all things new, and calling all men to repent and believe the Good News.
Jesus is the greatest Kingdom visionary, for He came from where that Kingdom perfectly obtained, embodied its power and potential, and knew what He must do, having received the Kingdom, to further its advance on earth. All our understanding and seeking of the Kingdom of God flows from Jesus, through Him, and unto Him once again.
In our next installment we will see how Jesus intends to cause His Kingdom to make progress on earth as it is in heaven.
- Jesus proclaimed the “Good News of the Kingdom” during the course of His earthly ministry. Why is the coming of the Kingdom of God “Good News”? Is this the Gospel that is preached in your church?
- Read the Kingdom parables of Matthew 13. Make a list of all the properties and characteristics of the Kingdom that you see there. In what ways do you see evidence of these within your own community of Christian friends?
- Is Kingdom-seeking the commanding motif of your life? Your prayers? Your relationships, roles, and responsibilities? How can it be more so?
T. M. Moore