Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
We receive another elder today from the hand of the Lord, a gift, we acknowledge, for which we may be thankful. Before we proceed with br Schat’s ordination, we listen first to a portion of God’s Word.
Solomon was a man of unsurpassed wisdom. From his place on the international stage, he saw what happened in various countries around him. He learned the lessons his observations taught him, and in turn passed these lessons on to the people of his realm.
What he saw? He’d said earlier in the chapter that being alone was no good, that two were better than one, and having a crowd around you better still (4:7-12). But, Solomon says now, having a crowd supporting you isn’t everything either, for people are so very fickle. Yesterday’s hero is today’s reject….
Consider the youth of humble beginnings. A people has long put up with a ruler who thinks he’s so competent that he doesn’t need advice anymore; he governs as he sees fit without regard to input from the people. To the great relief of the people, the day comes when he passes from the scene. But who shall replace him on the throne? Solomon doesn’t explain how it happens, but in his place comes a youth who’s been well taught in the School of Hard Knocks. His humble beginnings include poverty and even a stint in prison. But this young man, made wise through the trials of real life, ascends the throne in place of the old and foolish king.
What really caught Solomon’s attention is the way the people as a whole responded to the rise of this new king. Vs 15: "I saw all the living who walk under the sun; They were with the second youth who stands in his place." The tired old king no longer had the people’s confidence (despite his experience), but the youth, though green, captured the people’s imagination. They were with the youth, enthusiastic, convinced that through his governing good times would come to the land. After all, this new king was one of them…, understands the people’s needs….
But what happens? Vs 16: "those who come afterward will not rejoice in him." Why not? Somehow this new king, though he has learned so much in the School of Hard Knocks, will not bring about the good times for which the people long, and they will eventually become disillusioned in him; he will go down in history as no better a ruler than the old king before him. And, perhaps, when the young king is old he will in turn be replaced by a street-wise young king who awakens the people’s expectations as he once had…. To be today’s hero and tomorrow’s reject: that, says Solomon, is vanity….
Solomon doesn’t explain in these verses why the young king lost the support of his people. But from the drift of his whole book, congregation, the reason is clear. Persistently in this book Solomon is grappling with the consequences of the fall into sin, grappling with how to restore Paradise. Paradise itself had been bliss, but once Adam and Eve were exiled from Paradise their peace was replaced by struggle, their garden of plenty by a wilderness of thorns, their pleasure in their work by sweat and tears. People expect their rulers and politicians to get rid of the thorns of life, to fix the brokenness. But no ruler can do it, despite all the promises he may make before or after his ascension to the throne. No ruler can restore Paradise because none can address the cause of man’s hunger and misery, which is sin. That is why the enthusiasm present at the ascension of a new ruler is invariably replaced in short order with disillusionment. It happens to all: yesterday’s hero is today’s reject, today’s hero is tomorrow’s reject. We see it in our day too: the population welcomes a change of government, but after a term or two in office boots it out to embrace another promising young leader….
How can one break that pattern? How can today’s hero remain tomorrow’s hero? That is possible, congregation, only if a king be found who can address the cause of our hunger and misery, who can repair the damage we caused by our fall into sin.
And see: the same God whom we offended through the fall into sin has provided such a King! The temple Solomon built in Jerusalem foreshadowed Him, and in the fullness of time He came. Jesus of Nazareth experienced what it was like to ride the crest of human favor, for He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey and the people were jubilant; ‘Hosanna,’ they cried, as they sought to crown Him king (Mk 11:9f). But within a week their jubilant Hosannas were exchanged for the call to "crucify, crucify Him" (Mk 15:14), and they rejoiced over Him no more.
But on the cross, brothers and sisters, the King of the Jews paid for sin and so addressed the cause of our eternal hunger and misery; He atoned for sin and reconciled sinners to God. Therefore God has highly exalted this Jesus, and made Him King of kings, Lord of lords. True, very few people jubilated at Jesus’ ascension to the throne of the world. But the angels did! They understood that He was worthy to open the book of history, and direct the affairs of the world – and would do it for good (cf Rev 5). Ever since His enthronement, our Lord has governed the affairs of this world, and done so in perfect wisdom. He has caused the Word of life to be proclaimed in this world through all the storms of life, and in so doing has given people peace in their hearts, the knowledge of the forgiveness of their sins and reconciliation with the God offended in Paradise.
In His church-gathering and life-restoring work, the Lord uses the governing authorities, and uses also the office-bearers of the church. He requires these governing authorities to take their instructions from Him and then promises to bless. But so many of the world’s governing authorities decline to take instructions from the King of kings and speak as if they can themselves build some sort of utopia for men. But kings and princes over the generations have found out that that does not work. They experience, to their shame, that yesterday’s heroes are today’s rejects. Only through obedience to the King of kings can kings improve the lot of their subjects. And when kings obey, they may well lose the popularity of men, but in due time they shall certainly hear the happy accolade of the King of kings: "well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master" (Mt 25:21). And we know: His praise is important, not that of men.
It is the same with office-bearers. A congregation may elect to an office in the church, and a new office-bearer may enjoy the support of the people. But as long as an office-bearer has his eye on the people and seeks the people’s commendation, he shall learn to his hurt that today’s hero is tomorrow’s reject. An office-bearer must be a servant, a servant of the King of kings, and therefore take instructions only from the Christ – be it that the Christ can give His instructions also through other people. To try to use one’s office to build a Paradise without regards to the Lord’s instructions will invariably result in the words of vs 16: "those who come afterwards will not rejoice in him." But office-bearers who seek to carry out their office in accordance with the revealed will of the King of kings will one day hear from Christ this word: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master." It is the promise of the Lord in 1 Peter 5: "when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" (vs 4).
The King of kings, br Schat, calls you to the office of elder in His church. You can be a blessing only by following the way of the Lord, listening to His Word. Remember it: the praise of people counts for little; encouraging though praise may be for the moment, today’s hero is tomorrow’s reject. Let it be the Lord’s praise you pursue, for it shall be forever.
Equally, congregation, lay not your own wishes on the office-bearers, and certainly do not expect them to establish a utopia in the congregation. Instead, assist the brothers to carry out the instructions of the King of kings, and guide the flock in His way. That is the way to Paradise Restored. Amen.