Archive for February 24th, 2009
Thy kingdom come Matthew 6:10
Come - We know that God’s Kingdom is not a physical place. The Greek word basileia is about reign and rule, not palaces and courtyards. God’s Kingdom is revealed wherever His servants and citizens live according to His government. But what does it mean to pray, “Your Kingdom come?” Hasn’t it already arrived when we observe Torah or act in accordance with His character? Why pray for it to show up later?
The verb here is eltheto. It is an imperative (a command) in the aorist tense (that means it is a fait accompli, something that happened once for all time in the past). Now, this is quite unusual. When we pray these words, we don’t think of commanding something that has already occurred. We think we are asking (not telling) for God to complete His plans in the future. This isn’t the only odd thing about this phrase, as we will see.
While the idea of a coming Kingdom is quite common in the New Testament, it is almost entirely absent in the Old Testament. There is no corresponding phrase “thy kingdom come” anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. And while the idea of the Kingdom (basileia) is found throughout the New Testament, the “coming” of the Kingdom is found only here, in this model prayer. And the “coming of the Kingdom” isn’t found anywhere at all outside the three synoptic gospels. This should tell us that Jesus is saying something very unusual. His instruction about prayer incorporates a concept that is unique to Him. What can He mean?
First, we notice that the biblical idea of “days” is not like our Greek idea. Days in the Bible do not come in regular sequence. We think in terms of a constant repetition of the pattern of days, but the Bible treats days as “events,” not unnoticed succession. In the Bible, days are the interruption of God’s kairos (pregnant moments) into our chronos (regular sequence). So, the day of the Lord is not a scheduled time on the calendar. Neither are the times when God acts in history. And His return will be just as unscheduled as any other divine appointment. God doesn’t seem to work according to clock time (chronos). That means when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are not asking for God to arrive on a particular day of the week. Instead, we are recognizing that God’s kingdom is the interruptive force in creation. He breaks into our lives. God brings into being His Kingdom in ways that we can neither schedule nor control.
In this sense, God’s time is not from eternity to eternity. It is from age to age. That is to say, it is from one event of God’s breaking into the world to the next event of God’s interruption. Lohmeyer says, “the predominant idea everywhere is not that of an empty, merely fleeting, time, but of an experienced time, or, more exactly, a historically filled time which is in fact expressed in the ‘coming’.” This is what the rabbis call renewal. In other words, Jesus is telling us that one of the opening thoughts of prayer is the conscious awareness of God filling our time with His arrival. It is the experience of His breaking into our routine and discovering renewal. We find that the Kingdom has already arrived when we turn our thoughts to the God who is already at work among us. In other words, even though we were not aware of God’s Kingdom, it was already here. It was simply hidden in our preoccupation with time marching on. We didn’t see Him because we were blind to His interruptions. Now, all that must change.
Why is this phrase a command and not a wish? Because it is about asking God to reveal to us what is already here. “Let it be revealed in its arrival.” Open our eyes, Father, so that we might see that You are coming in every pregnant moment. Establish for us a permanent awareness of Your handiwork and presence. Let us be interrupted!
Your Kingdom come.
Topical Index: Kingdom, eletheo, basileia, kairos, chronos, time, age, Matthew 6:10