Sunday, August 2, 2020

Lead On, O King Eternal!

Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:10 NKJV). We are impressed by glory. Pomp and ceremony move us, whether it be the ostentatious display reserved for a visit from royalty, or the precision and solemnity that pervades the changing of the guard. In the few remaining monarchies of Europe, all the ceremony remains, but beneath the glimmering surface there is little real power. Kings and queens sit imperiously upon gilded thrones, but they issue no commands, they garner no fearful obeisance.

The psalmist has a different monarch in view. The King of glory is no mere figurehead, He is the LORD of hosts. Who or what are the LORD’s hosts? Sometimes they are the armies on the battlefield. Faithful David taunted the blaspheming Goliath: ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ (1 Samuel 17:45). Angelic hosts also make up the Lord’s armies. The inspired psalmist enjoins: ‘Praise the LORD, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will’ (Psalm 103:21). These in turn are associated with the stellar hosts, the army of stars that fight for Him. The hosts of heavenly beings and bodies are associated in Psalm 148:2–3: ‘Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him, all His heavenly hosts. Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all you shining stars.’ ” (Tabletalk, Feb.90, p. 33) Ultimately, “LORD of hosts” communicates God’s sovereign rule over all the universe. Our King rules in absolute power.

The prophet Elijah experienced both cultural war and the sovereignty of God. The battlefield was Mt. Carmel, the enemy the prophets of Baal. Elijah summoned all Israel to witness this contest in which the 450 prophets of Baal implored their god to send down fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice they offered, “Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. Throughout the morning they danced around the altar They had constructed. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said,’ Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened’ ” (1 Kings 18:7).

Baal did not answer by fire.

Elijah stacked the deck against himself by drenching his sacrifice in water. Three times he ordered the audience to pour large jars of water over the sacrifice and the wood that would burn it. Finally, he drew his weapon to end the war. “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed:’ O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (1 Kings 18:36–38).

To recall this victory, and through it to be reminded that our God reigns, must be a source of peace as we deal with our wounds earned in this cultural war. In addition, we learn of our most potent and appropriate weapon in this war: prayer. Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians (which we studied last week) with a more detailed dissertation on how we can be equipped for battle. He exhorts us, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (Ephesians 6:13a). We are to be equipped with truth, with righteousness and readiness, with faith, salvation, and the Word of God. All of these things we seek to build up through our ministry. We seek to equip believers for battle, to encourage them to equip others for the great and terrible war we confront daily.

Paul, however, brings this list of battle gear around once more to the heart of the matter, prayer. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearfully make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:18–19).

In the coming week, as you engage in this war, I pray that you would speak God’s truth fearlessly. Pray in the knowledge that our Lord is King, the King of glory, and the LORD of hosts.