The Kingdom Through the People

Here’s a great kick-off to my series about the life Jesus lived….

My husband, David Seeber, is doing a series of Bible Studies on the book of Mark, including the life of Peter, and the Christ as seen through Peter’s eyes. So, in connection with 1 Peter 1, he had our Bible Study group research First Testament (aka Old Testament) arrows pointing to the coming Christ. I happen to be reading through Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, which is the perfect book for that exact research, so I read the chapter called, “Jesus’ Mission Statement.” It took me through some First Testament texts, and demonstrated what it means for us today, using Second Testament (aka the New Testament) texts.

Here’s what I found (briefly, because these guys wrote a whole book on the subject, and I’m just skimming the surface):

Jesus sat down with the people of God and read Isaiah 61 to them, saying

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to
the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
Luke 4:18-19 (MSG)

Jesus said all the time that he was what the entire story of God had been pointing to all along. First Testament texts (many of the ones I found were in Isaiah, but some were also in Ezekiel, Malachi, Daniel and more; I’ll post them at the bottom in case anyone’s interested in reading them) point to the coming savior as one who would comfort, heal, save, protect, redeem, justify, reconstruct, deliver, dwell with and bless those who would choose to embrace and walk with him. He would care for the poor, free the oppressed and otherwise chained, bring sight to the blind, and be our shepherd.

Through him would come righteousness and justice as well as mercy and compassion. Also, the forgiveness of the wrongs we commit, as he leads us gently to see the error of our ways and turn from them (aka repent).

He would usher in a new kingdom, a lasting one, in the line of the faithful King David of old. It’s this kingdom, as it embraces all I’ve just written above, that is my focus, and was the focus of Christ on earth, as it is the focus of the Holy Spirit, and was the original design of the Father, who will see it to completion at the renewal of all things.

But in the meantime….

God, the ruler and creator of the world and all that’s in it and outside of it, chooses to rule through his people. John writes,

Then you made them a Kingdom,
Priests for our God,
Priest-kings to rule over the earth.
Revelation 5:10 (MSG)

This is confirmed by Peter who writes,

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you–from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)

The fullness of the First Testament becomes even fuller in our choosing to let God first reign in us, then reign through us as we allow him to lead. What he does through us as he leads is displayed in all that’s written above–it’s to live much like the life Jesus led. It’s not to dominate, rule over, criticize, ostracize, or elevate ourselves over anyone else. Jesus was and is a servant-king. Our model for living in this kingdom is a compassionate and humble one, who releases people from pain and shame, rather than pushing them into it.

This tension between a kingdom that is, through his people, and the kingdom that will fully be, remains in place until the restoration of all things; the completion of the unions of heaven and earth, and of Jesus and his bride (and that’s us!).

(Here are the passages I read and wrote down for my Bible Study research, for anyone who wants to look into them. I used the MSG and the NIV.)
Isaiah 61
Luke 4:18-19
Isaiah 40, 52-56, 59:20
Ezekiel 34:22-24
Malachi 3:1-5, 17-18
Daniel 7:13-14, 26-27
Zechariah 9
Revelation 5:10
1 Peter 2:9-10
Genesis 1:26-28

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Eyes Of Hope

The name Eyes of Hope is a funny thing in my life.

My husband David and I chose the name several years ago, when we were taking steps toward pastoring a church together. He told me he remembered Brent Rue giving a sermon about living life with eyes of hope, and that he still felt inspired by the message to that day.

But I could never understand why hope was so important. What was the big deal? How could seeing life through a lens of hope make anything better? Didn’t hope deferred make the heart sick anyway? So why set myself up for that? It simply eluded my grasp, and frankly I didn’t spend much time trying to understand it. David had been inspired and I loved that, so we made it our own.

We haven’t started a church, and aren’t completely sure what God is doing with all that we did in that direction, but since choosing that name for ourselves He has certainly done an awful lot to show me why living with hope is important.

So, I find myself thinking about hope this week, in response to a question posed by Mark Thomas during Bible Study. He was teaching from the book of Habakkuk, and asked us if we thought the state of the world was getting better or worse. Most of the room agreed everything is getting worse. I didn’t. I said I felt some things are actually getting better. That didn’t go over very well with some, and with the sudden presence of strong emotion in the group I didn’t take the time to explain myself.

But there are so many things in this world that are getting better.

Although it is not on a global scale, my marriage is getting better – it took a true miracle to heal and repair this home, and it’s better than it ever was, and better than I had ever hoped it would be. God has not ceased his involvement in our personal lives, and He continues to work good things out for people every day. Making us better. Growing us, when we are willing, into better people with better lives than we would have without Him. I look around and see so much brokenness, so much pain. But I thank God it isn’t all I see.

On a larger scale, I have been thinking this week of the ways disabled people in my nation are treated better than they were before, and the benefit of an education upon the next generation, and how very far we have come in the treatment of people who are different from us in race, color or creed.

I have been thinking of people who are calling the Church to wake up from a sort of academic slumber and reclaim the rich cultural and historic, knowledge-filled heritage that our faith was built on. And the ministries of groups like Compassion International and Bread and Water for Africa who make living conditions in impoverished nations better for the people who live there.

I have also been thinking about the advances in the medical field that are, overall, getting better with time. Not only do we have a wider range than ever of pharmaceutical and natural options for the things that ail us, but we are far more educated about the human body than ever before. Things that would have killed us in times past are mere stumbling blocks to those of us with access to these improvements.

The world is getting better in so many ways. If we lose hope for this, what are we left with? When I lived without an understanding of hope, and when I lost it for my marriage, it became much easier to just let it go. But I was a fool, and I’m thankful God worked in us both to save what He has given us. Because it’s getting better, so much better.

In the beginning, God made this world and made our ancestors in it … and called it good. He put it in our care. It takes effort, and it takes conviction, understanding, compassion and even hope, but we can care for His beloved creation. We can and must see through eyes of hope in order to continue bettering this world and all that is in it, following God in His own redemptive, restorative, loving way, for as long as He chooses to have us here.