This morning something was wrong. My dog Millie knew it even before I did. As my eyes first came into focus, there she was staring at me with a sad appeal in her eyes. When I headed to the bathroom she was attached to my heels. “Good grief.” When I made my way to my truck, she was still clinging to me. She was NOT going to let me leave without her. “OKAY, WHATEVER! Get in the truck. Lay down, and shush!” At times this animal has seemed on the verge of speech. The UPS and Fed-X drivers are on a first name basis with her. Even when they aren’t delivering something to our house (which is rare) they pull into our driveway just to converse with her and give her treats. She knows how to work a yard.
As we were pulling out of our driveway, I got it. I knew what was bothering her. It was still dark outside at 7:00 A.M. and it was supposed to be light. Moreover, the sky flashed and boomed with great explosions. Her little dog heart knew intuitively that things were amiss. “Okay, Millie, I guess it’s you and me today girl.”
Recently I’ve been retreating to an upstairs loft I have in downtown Enid where I indulge, at least for a while, in the exquisite quiet if affords. There was a passage of Scripture I was considering this morning; it contained this verse:
The reproach of exile is a burden on them. (Zephaniah 3:18)
Apparently, today my teacher is a Golden Doodle. It dawned on me that it is dark out there in our culture as well and it is supposed to be light because its Creator, its ultimate Ruler is The Father of Lights.
As cozy as my gig is here in this bastion of conservative America, my little human heart (the one created in God’s image) tells me that in a very true sense, we humans as a whole remain in exile. We are not home yet. The Kingdom has not fully arrived. Our deepest and most immediate problem is that this is not a burden to us on most days. Our affluence is sufficient to insulate us from the more grievous expressions of our captivity. Really, is capitalistic-derived comfort the ultimate byproduct of God’s will accomplished on earth as it is in heaven?
Our American commitment to the pursuit of freedom and personal happiness seems to blind us to what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. Somehow, as children of light, our vision must come into focus, seeing the roots of unrighteousness for what they are, acknowledging the profound degree to which humanity is enslaved, and then most importantly, entreating God to liberate all of creation into his Life.
What does it mean to seek first the Kingdom of God? What does it really mean to spend all that one has and purchase that field which conceals the priceless treasure? Is this our story? To begin with, I believe this kind of seeking is going to require, at the very least, an honest appraisal of how dark our society really is. I believe on that day, when the children of light comes to terms with the earth’s vacuum of light, the tides of the battle will shift. I believe this world’s rulers and principalities’ days will be numbered when the Body of Christ collectively says, “The reproach of our exile is a burden upon us.” Then, armed with a new kind of motivation, a different kind of praying will emerge, praying that has the character and the intentions of God at its core.
In The Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd Douglas, the story of the importunate widow is highlighted. Recall she is the one who relentlessly pursues a verdict in her favor from an utterly uncaring and unjust judge. The author hits upon the notion that to receive the desired outcome (in our case—The Kingdom of God) one must have bloody fists, resulting from relentless knocking at all times, never losing heart (Luke 18).
We receive the encouragement to do this from verses 7 and 8:
Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. (Luke 18:7-8)
Paul tells as much, too:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
As illogical as it may seem (God being sovereign as He is), asking and seeking are integral to the expansion of God’s kingdom. As inconvenient as it may be, our petitions are essential to the ongoing removal of our reproach. Until every tongue confesses and every knee bows, reproach remains; God is not finished setting captives free. May He grant us what we need to live and to pray as citizens of His Kingdom, indignant until his will on earth finds its fullest as-in-heaven expression.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?
The God who created the universe and breathed us into existence does not need our prayers, as if these prayers are somehow what have been missing all along. Not at all. God invites us to participate in the Kingdom because it is a family business. He wants his heirs to take ownership and participate for the sake of their own joy. It is in this co laboring we come to know Him…and this is eternal life.
Father, as we pull out of the driveway, when we lay our heads down on our pillows, may we all get it. May we be bothered that darkness remains and that there is unwarranted reproach upon your name. Strengthen us to persevere as those who will seek your Kingdom, knowing the ambition originated with you and can only be sustained by you. May our hearts persevere until every tongue confesses that you are their Lord and willingly bows before you. Amen.