Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2nd June 1953 and in that ceremony the Bible was presented to her with these words:
Our Gracious Queen: To keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.
Here is Wisdom, this is the royal Law, these are the lively Oracles of God.
What is true for princes is as true for everyone. This is the rule for the best life, the life we were made to have. Now we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of her Christian reign it is to the Bible we go to understand something of what that life looks like and the meaning of Jubilee.
If we were to trace our history of correct government we would go right back to the beginning, to Genesis, where God made man and placed them in a garden to work it and take care of it (Gen.2:15) We read there that, “God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number, till the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every living creature that moves on the ground'” (Gen.1:28)
Those words “subdue” and “rule” have carried for some the meaning to exploit, as though it is all there for our benefit. Such a man-centred view of creation can't be found in the Bible. The opening chapters speak of heaven and earth, sun, moon and stars, birds and beasts and God is concerned for them all. If we understand him as the God only of mankind he is no longer the God of the Bible.
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” (Gen.1:27)
Man is described as being made in God's image, in other words he is to reflect God's character. Subdue and rule, then, mean to act for the welfare of creation, its a kind of stewardship. This is sometimes called the Creation Mandate. This God of all creation is king and man is his regent; God's world governed in God's way by God's steward – mankind. This is important when we look at Jubilee.
Have it Your Own Way
Have you ever wondered what human society would be like if our first parents had not rebelled, if they had followed this pattern? Well, they did rebel, man decided that he wanted to be king of his own destiny, make his own decisions, rule his own way. CS Lewis said there are two kinds of people, those who say to God “Your will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Okay, have it your own way.”
But having it your own way has consequences and we see the consequence of that rebellion in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain, from jealousy, murdered his brother Abel and when God, the king, called him to account, “Where is your brother Abel?” he replied, “Am I my brother's keeper?
The LORD said, ''What have you done? Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.” Personal sin, born of jealousy and selfish pride infests the family.
The story of the flood begins with the account of mankind, increasing in number, going their own way, colluding together in sin, “Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is corrupt.” Shared sin now shows itself as mankind lived as they pleased.
Finally, we read, “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time.” Sin finally shows its true nature, reach and influence. It is naturalised entering the very nature of men and women.
God set about putting things right by calling out of fallen humanity a people for himself and said to them:
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:4-6) A kingdom once more established where God would be king and a nation that would do things God's way.
Next: Jubilee – God as King
Coming up: Jubilee – The Year of the Lord’s Favour