The LORD is King! Let the earth rejoice!

Psalm 97:1a (NRSV)

 

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1773. By Pompeo Batoni, Public Domain.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1773. By Pompeo Batoni. Public Domain.

Carol worked for me as a part-time temporary employee. I had just taken on the role of President of the company and I didn’t know her very well. I decided to invite her into my office on the spur of the moment. As she came in, I noticed she was visibly agitated. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Am I in trouble?” she said shaking. I tried to reassure her, “No, I just wanted to see how you are doing.” She relaxed a bit, although I got the distinct impression she wasn’t convinced.

I learned something important that day about the power of the office of leadership. Some of us get enamored with that kind of power. Others aren’t fully conscious of it and are even dismissive of the effect their positions have on those they lead. I think I was one of the latter, although my encounter with Carol helped me become a bit more self-aware.

Perhaps Carol had a bad experience with those who held power in her life. Maybe it was an abusive father or a brutal former boss. Or, perhaps, she felt insecure in her role and was sure she had done something wrong. Whatever the cause, it made Carol dread coming to see me.

The Christian narrative reminds us that God is the ultimate authority in the universe. As the first half of today’s text declares, “The Lord is King!” But what kind of power figure is this God? Is he truly good? If this God made the visible universe, there’s little reason to doubt his power. But, given the chaos and evil that we see around us in the world, why should we believe that this God is good? And, even if God is good, there’s plenty of reason to be anxious about the mess we’ve made when we are asked to give an account of our lives before God. Why shouldn’t we all feel like Carol when we get summoned into the Office of the Maker of the Universe?

Our anxiety and fear are tragic but understandable. Adam’s response – I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid (Genesis 3:10 NRSV) – is indicative of the human response to the presence of God after the Fall. The One who should bring joy and delight by his very presence instead evokes fear and dread.

So, while the first half of today’s text is expected, the second half is surprising: Let the earth rejoice! But why? The Psalmist reminds us, even as he looks forward in history, of the day when God will fulfill his promise as the Maker of the Universe to make all things right. Justice will be done even as love triumphs. That alone is cause for the earth to rejoice. But, even more, we ourselves will be fully restored. The distortion of our being, as well as of our actions, will be undone. We will once more be able to fully rejoice at as well as in his presence.

The Psalmist had no idea of how God would accomplish this remarkable restoration of humanity and the creation itself. As those who celebrate Jesus’ coming this Christmas season, the picture is a bit clearer, even though we ourselves still wait for the final consummation. As the lyrics of the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem reminds us, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

The astonishing end to the Christian story is that God will ultimately transform our dread into delight. And, that will be one of the greatest gifts of all.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

How does the prospect of being summoned into God’s presence make you feel? What makes you anxious and afraid? What gives you hope and joy?

What kind of emotional response does your leadership evoke in those you lead? Why do you think that is? What aspects are positive? What aspects are negative?

PRAYER:

Lord Jesus Christ, we are grateful that you are Lord of all things. We are grateful that you are in the process of restoring all things to the way you intended them to be, including human beings.

We confess that we have gone our own way. To our sorrow, we have discovered the bitter consequence of our disobedience. We have become distorted to the core of our being, including in our affections for you.

Thank you for the great promise of and hope for full restoration. We are grateful for the work of the Spirit in our lives in turning our dread of you into delight.

Come Lord Jesus and complete the work you began in us.

We ask in your name, Amen.

 

Image Credit: By Pompeo Batoni[1], Public Domain, Link

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryPeople Fall into Sin in Work (Genesis 3:1-24)
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