Overruled: part 1

(NOTE: The following is a 3-part blog for this Resurrection weekend. This is a transcript of my Easter message at Deeper Life Fellowship a few years ago, and it also appears as a chapter in the book, “The New Normal.” Just as Jesus’ first two days in the tomb were not the end, please be diligent to read all three parts of this blog over this next three days. You’ll like the way it ends.)

What does it mean that God’s Kingdom rules over all? In order to explore this concept further, we will look at two verses from Psalms, then we’ll think about the big story of God’s rule and reign. Here are the Scriptures from Psalms:

Psalm 103:19:
“The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.”

Psalm 9:4
“For You have upheld my just cause;
You are seated on Your throne as a righteous judge.”

Even before the Earth was created, God ruled over all. He ruled over the universe, both material and spiritual, visible and invisible. His throne had been established in heaven, and he reigned in love and in joy over all the heavenly realm.

Then God, in an overflow of his loving reign, created the earth and all that is in it. He created mankind, a being that could enjoy Him as much as He enjoys being Him, but He would not force this race of beings to love Him, because love must be given, it cannot be programmed or demanded. So He gave man a will with which to choose, so that when he chose to love God, it would satisfy the longing of both their hearts.

God, in His loving rule, put these first people in a garden where all of their needs would be met, and where He would walk with them in the cool of the day, talking with them, revealing himself, sharing life together. Then He did something that could only come from a King who loves- he gave them dominion. He gave them the authority to rule the earth on his behalf, to govern it as an outpost of His heavenly kingdom, to re-present on earth what life with God is like, what life is like in heaven.

So man ruled the earth. He gave names to God’s creation, and he governed as a reflection of Him in whose very image he had been created.

Until, one day, when into this perfect order, disorder slithered in. Satan, whose own attempt to overthrow the throne of heaven had failed miserably, had found that God’s throne had been established too firmly to derail his rule in heaven. But maybe, just maybe, these pitiful little creatures that He loved so much, maybe they could be recruited, or at least used as pawns to disrupt and destroy the rule of God on this colony of heaven, this stage called Earth. And so he dangled the fruit of anarchy, the deceptive promise of self-rule in front of these lesser versions of God Himself, and they took the fruit, and consumed it. And rebellion seeped into their very being, deep into their fiber, so deep that all those who came after them would be infected by it. But along with this imprisoning freedom, came guilt, shame, and remorse, things they were never intended by God to feel. Then came the missing. They began to miss God, and He missed them, but their rebellion had created a great rift between them. A gaping hole was felt in the depth of their souls, because when you abuse and reject the greatest love in the universe, you feel the greatest hurt in the universe.

And now God, binding Himself to live by His own Kingdom laws, having given man stewardship, or management of the earth, did not take that management back. When he gave it to man, he gave man the right to give it away. God never gave away ownership of the earth, but he watched the right to govern it slip away, given by man’s sin to whomever they obeyed. And satan, for the first time, earned the title “god of this world.” And his plan to undermine the throne of God from a distance was set in motion.

The Bible tells us that when satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and offered to give them over if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus did not argue with satan about his ability to give kingdoms. Satan, because of man’s failure to govern the earth with the mind of God, had seized his moment and illegally picked up the authority that Adam had laid down through sin. Never one to recognize boundaries, satan had acted as usurper once again. Because the earth and everything in it had been born from a spiritual world, because the spiritual realm came first, rulership of earth must emanate from a spiritual base, and now that rulership had changed hands. No longer would the world and its systems be a colony of Heaven. Now it would become an outpost of hell.

How can it be, then, that the Psalmist can say with such confidence that “the Lord has established His throne in heaven, and that He rules over all?”  In order to find the answer, we look at Job chapter one, where we get a glimpse of the courts of heaven. On a day, the Bible says, that the angels came to present themselves before God, satan came with them. In that scene, we see how he conducts himself before God, and we see him in the role that John would later hear proclaimed in heaven itself, “the accuser of the brothers.”  So, in the heavenly court, where God sits as the one righteous judge, there is one who comes before him, “day and night,” as John tell us, to accuse the people whom God loves so much.

Surely he came to court the day he received the deed to this world and its systems. He would have strutted, with all the pride that condemned him, to the very throne of God, and, seeing the infinite, boundless love with which God still reached out to Adam, said, “Objection! This experiment of yours has failed! Those insignificant, worthless lumps of flesh and bone have betrayed you.  They have ignored your command, they have scoffed at your love, and have chosen themselves over you. They have decided that they want to know what you know, to be like you, to ascend to the throne of the Most High! When I did that you cast me out of heaven. Now, I demand that they be cast out of the heaven you have made for them. In the matter of man’s right to rule the earth, I object!”

And the Father, with His heart weighed down with grief, willingly bound by His own laws, said, “Objection sustained.”

And so God, to keep man from eating from the Tree of Life and living forever in his fallen state, “drove the man out,” the Bible tells us, “placing on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Yet God continued to reach out to his beloved creation, loving them, wanting to forgive them. And when Satan saw that God still loved man, he marched into the court of God, and cried out, louder than before, “Objection! You know the law! Anyone who rebels against you must be punished! Sin is, as we all know, the highest crime against the highest holiness, and it is punishable by the highest penalty. When I rebelled, you took away everything I held dear, and now I demand justice in the heavens. You must take away what he holds most dear; life! And since you have given them blood to make them live, I demand blood for their crime. If you are really holy, if you are really just, then I object! Blood must be shed!”

And the Father held his breath… then, slowly, he nodded. “Objection… sustained,” he said.

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