Right at the centre-point of the Bible – at probably one of the greatest moments in the storyline of God’s salvation story – Jesus Christ walks onto the pages of history and begins his public ministry. At that moment 2000 years of promises began to be fulfilled. It was a hugely significant moment. And according to Mark’s gospel, Jesus marks them with these words: “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.”
That seems to us like a strange way of putting it. If we were Jesus we might have said “The time has come. I’m going to save people.” Or “The time has come. I’m going to bring forgiveness.” Or “The time has come. I’m giving my life as a ransom.” But we so rarely think – or talk – in terms of the kingdom, that it feels like a strange place to start.
Maybe it’s because we’re individualistic, and we think of ourselves as private individuals… or it’s because we live in a liberal democracy where we feel that we run things collectively… or maybe it’s because of Prince Charles and the idea of a constitutional monarchy. Whatever, we fail to long for a kingdom where people are united together in their allegiance to a righteous and powerful king.
I think it’s fair to say, though, that nothing of real significance happens in the New Testament that hasn’t in some way been talked about in the Old Testament. That’s why we’re spending the next few weeks looking at perhaps the best example of a kingdom working well – the kingdom under Solomon in 1 Kings 1-11. Solomon is the sort of king promised to Abraham way back in Genesis 17:6 (“kings will come from you”), and the sort of king promised to David in 2 Samuel 7 (“he will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom”). He seems to provide the wise kind of kingship that we could trust in, and the sort of kingdom we could belong to.
It turns out, though, that Solomon wasn’t that king, and his kingdom couldn’t last. After he’s been introduced in chapters 1-2, asked for wisdom in chapters 3-4, built the temple in chapters 5-8, and been praised by the Queen of Sheba in chapters 9-10, he falls spectacularly in chapter 11. After talking so much about wisdom, he becomes the hypocrite king – he wrote the book of Proverbs, but couldn’t do what it said.
All of which leaves us asking, when will God’s real kingdom come – the one that will grow and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:44)? When will the time come when the kingdom comes near under God’s perfectly wise king (Mark 1:15)? And when will the time come when the kingdom is complete (Rev 11:15)?
In short, it leaves us praying “Your kingdom come.”