I know I am not alone in being captivated by the series, “The Crown.” It follows the British monarchy from the era of Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne, the reign until death of his brother George VI, and the ongoing reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
The royals still enjoy popularity around the world today. Some observers attribute this to a universal desire among we commoners to feel part of a grand historical tradition of drama, wealth, romance and adventure. Others strongly object to the whole idea of royalty, finding such institutionalized elitism politically incorrect in the extreme. Either way, fascination with royalty persists.
As someone who habitually relates everything to Scripture, one thing that catches my interest is the way that kings and queens are treated. There is a protocol for being in the presence of royalty, and sometimes severe consequences for disrespecting the rules. Throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the Davidic dynasty, approaching a king incorrectly could bring a death sentence. We see this in Queen Esther’s fear of approaching even her own husband the king without having been summoned by him. We see scores of characters in the chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah who fall on their faces to give homage to even the most wretched of kings. One of my favorite examples is Abigail, who so impressed David with her approach that he married her (see 1 Samuel 25)!
In his weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill (played stunningly by John Lithgow in “The Crown”) exemplifies this. Though three times her age, with a lifetime of heroic leadership on the world stage behind him, his demeanor becomes imbued with awe and quiet reverence when he enters the drawing room of the queen. He demurely kisses her hand. When departing, he backs out of the room to avoid turning his back to her. These are only a couple of the “rules” for showing respect when near a king or queen.
In a democratic republic, we Americans don’t have this knowledge of protocol embedded in our DNA or collective history. We are above all things egalitarian in our contemporary ethics. This is not a bad thing in itself, but there is a down side. We often have difficulty showing honor where honor is due. In government, in business, and even in the church.
Danny Silk shares the principle that “accurately acknowledging who people are will position us to give them what they deserve and to receive the gift of who they are in our lives.” * This works in our vertical relationship with God and in our horizontal relationships with the family of God.
The Bible and many of our praise and worship songs portray Jesus Christ as our everlasting, majestic King of all kings. In worship, we invite him near, that we might experience his presence among us. And we often do sense his glory in our midst. What a privilege!
I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes here, but—do we act as if we really believe we are in the presence of a king? Do we respect this king as we would respect an earthly king or queen, or even a president or prime minister?
We are on level ground with one another, but He is exalted high above all created beings. And yet the paradox is that He has granted us intimate access to him. He has raised his scepter, so to speak. How then are we to approach him?
Circumspectly, of course, eager to seek his pleasure and not our own. With awe and reverence. I’m not suggesting a return to rigid formalism or religiosity. Jeans and t-shirts are great as long as the hearts of the people wearing them carry a sincere adoration for the King. Spontaneous expressions of praise and worship are wonderful as long as they are directed to the One to whom all honor is due. When he is manifestly present with us, we are truly standing on holy ground. That’s not a time to be rude, sloppy, or insincere in our devotion, but an opportunity to behold the glory of the King.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:16).
*Silk, Danny. Culture of Honor. (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2009), p. 25.