This is what I call a “chewy” verse of Scripture ~ meaty, tasty, strong, and full of good things for us, the readers who sojourn with the Lord, or even those who are considering the sojourn. This is the kind of verse that draws me to it with its heart-stirring significance and yet also makes me think it needs “proper” treatment by solid Biblical scholars! I am not a Biblical scholar. We have some marvelous writers on our staff and in our blog who are, and I so enjoy their insights and knowledge! Yet one of the beauties of God’s Word is that it is for all of us ~ for Biblical scholars who joyfully and diligently mine the deep riches of Scripture, and it is also for us who partake of its nourishment on the “surface” levels. Even on the surface levels of this grand verse, there is feast aplenty!
This is a day and age and season and time for strengthening words for us from the Word of God! If we have not yet been touched by trouble close at hand, surely we all have been touched by the magnitude of trouble that seems to be manifesting everywhere. Terrible natural disasters in nearly all corners of our country and so many parts of the world. Wars, and all the horrific outflow of violence and tragic disruption of life that go with war. Financial issues here and looming around the world; political uncertainties in this election year here in the U.S., disease and health issues … the list can go on and on as we all well know. We need something that cannot be shaken, something that is sure ~ which is a word, a concept, that’s becoming rarely heard and rarely known or experienced in this era. “A kingdom that cannot be shaken” certainly sounds good right now!
This is a verse for right now. The frequent tendency is to think of the kingdom “we are receiving” as being that which is coming at the end of the age, the new heaven and the new earth. Yet, in truth, “we are receiving” the kingdom of God each day, each moment, through the strong promises of the Word of God and the sure, faithful, and steady work of the Holy Spirit in each of us. Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21) Despite all that is shaky in all that we view around us, we have Truth in and from and through the Lord God Almighty, the very Creator of all that is! “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) That is surety, but the Word does not stop there.
This is a bit stunning, where the Word goes next in this verse ~ “let us be thankful”. Thankful? Not my first reaction when the trouble and disasters ever~present leap up before my eyes and press in on my awareness. Yet because our God has given us His Holy Spirit ever~present within us, through Him and in Him it is possible to be thankful in the midst of what looms around us. In Him and through Him “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” so we are in a sure place; by the strength of the Holy Spirit at work within us, we can be thankful for that surety and the oasis of peace that comes with this truth.
This is amazing, too ~ what comes next in the powerful, mini-banquet set out for us in this verse ~ “and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”. To open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to be thankful ~ to receive that which He does in us and for us and through us ~ is worshiping the Lord our God acceptably and with reverence and awe! Thankfulness amid the troubles of these times is not typically something we can do of ourselves from our own strength; we need the Holy Spirit’s help, and yet when we surrender to Him and allow Him to bring us to thankfulness or thankfulness to us, it is considered worship by the Lord our God for Him. That is abounding grace!
This is the biggest “hook”, the thing that catches my attention, in this verse ~ “for our God is a consuming fire.” This “hooks” me because when reading this I first think in terms of my sin and my selfishness and my lack of love for the Lord, the lack of making Him first in my life, and all the other abundant material in me which is so fit for rightly being burned up by the consuming fire which is our God. Quite frankly, when the Lord brought this verse to my attention and set the title for it, that is the direction I expected this visit with the Word to take. Yet in the process of writing this article, the Lord has also shown me that He is a consuming fire for the worry and fear that can come in the face of the troubles and great trials of these days. In some cases, according to His plan and will, He is a consuming fire of the troubles themselves. I am not saying this verse doesn’t apply to what first comes to my mind, and perhaps yours, too; I am suggesting the verse also goes to this kind of consuming on the part of the Lord our God, as a part of the “kingdom that cannot be shaken” which we are receiving. For our God is a consuming fire consuming our fears and worries, so we can rest in the surety of His kingdom.
“But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who long for Your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” Psalm 70:4
All Scripture (Bible verses) are from the NIV (New International Version)