In the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah the prophet saw the Lord, high and lifted up. There had been no king like Uzziah since the golden age of Solomon 300 years before. He had reigned for 52 years—the vast majority of the people didn’t remember any other king. It was a time of flux and uncertainty for the nation. But in his vision Isaiah’s eyes were lifted away from the world and its problems to the heavenly throne room. He was reassured that the reign of the King of kings had not weakened for a single moment.
As we in the UK (and many others around the world) reflect on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II after 70 years on the throne, we give thanks for God’s good gift to our nation of such an able and faithful Queen, but most of all we want to lift our eyes to the throne room of the universe and set our eyes on things above—to see the Lord Jesus Christ, high and lifted up.
Queen Elizabeth II was an excellent queen in every way, by any standard. It’s right to mourn her passing. But we should remember Psalm 146.3: Do not put your trust in princes – no matter how able those princes may be. Prime Minister Liz Truss described Her late Majesty as ‘the rock on which modern Britain was built. That may be sentimental exaggeration, but the only one who can bear the weight of being the Rock of even just one human being, let alone an entire nation, is the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s right and fitting to honour the late Queen – but how much more should we give honour and glory to the King of kings who reigns forever! If we admire Queen Elizabeth II – and we should– how much more should we adore Jesus Christ.
Devotion to Duty
If there is one word that has been used of Queen Elizabeth more than any other, it’s the word ‘duty’. ‘Duty first’ was her watchword. She took the sacred vows made at her coronation immensely seriously. In a world where vows have come to mean little or nothing, Queen Elizabeth has set an outstanding example of oath-keeping. In a world of narcissism and self-love, the late Queen’s determination to put others before herself is truly remarkable. For seventy years she laboured tirelessly to fulfil all her many and varied responsibilities. I suspect we would all enjoy being king or queen for a few days, until we realised just how much work was involved.
If we admire Queen Elizabeth for her devotion to duty and service – and we should – how much more should we adore King Jesus for his! For he made sacred vows as well. He entered into a solemn, eternal covenant with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father asked him to leave the glory of heaven and become a man, to be born in a low condition and live a life of humble service; to take the form of a servant and live a life of perfect obedience to the Law of God in the place of sinners who can’t obey it for themselves; to be tempted in every way in our place; to be slandered and hated; to be constantly scrutinized by his enemies; to suffer exhaustion, thirst, hunger and destitution. And then to become obedient to the death of the cross – more, to bear the sins of his people in his own body and endure the unabated wrath of God as if he had committed them.
All of this the Father asked of the Son. And the Son vowed that he would do it all. He came into the world and kept his vows. He dedicated himself to a life of service of others. He did his duty – a duty infinitely more demanding than anything any mere human monarch could ever render. Mk 10.45: Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as ransom for many.
This ought to foster deep love and gratitude in us, spurring us on to serve God and others as he served us.
Wisdom in Governing
Much has been made of the vast store of wisdom, knowledge and experience that Queen Elizabeth possessed, and the great loss that will be. Liz Truss said that even in their brief meeting when she was invited to take the position of Prime Minister, the Queen had shared something of her deep experience of government. Former Prime Minister Theresa May said of her regular meetings with the Queen that they were ‘not meetings with a high and mighty monarch, but a conversation with a woman of experience and knowledge and immense wisdom’. The Queen was a highly intelligent woman with an enquiring mind and a keen interest in politics. She had a first-hand understanding of the leaders and history, not just of the UK but of the world. She was a shrewd judge of character and the national mood. So often she knew just the right thing to say and how to say it. She wielded immense influence and used it wisely.
If admire Queen Elizabeth II for her wisdom – and we should – how much more should we adore King Jesus for his! King Solomon was the wisest man ever to live – he was uniquely gifted with unprecedented wisdom and insight to rule and govern. But what did Jesus say, referring to himself? ‘One greater than Solomon is here!’ He is the only wise God (Rom 16.27). Who could say anything like that about any mere human being? No matter how wise or discerning they might be, the King of kings is in a league of his own!
We don’t put our trust in princes’ wisdom, but we do trust Christ’s! He always knows what is best and the best way to bring about what is best. The King who rules and directs the universe is infinitely wise. He has ordained all that happens from eternity. He possesses all knowledge – he doesn’t depend on daily briefings in royal boxes. Knows all that happens in his kingdom. He has ordained all that happens to you – and whatever your King ordains is right and good and best for you, no matter how it may seem.
Constancy in Service
So many have commented on the stability Queen Elizabeth brought to our nation. No doubt that is inevitable when a sovereign rules for 70 years! The very longevity of the reign gives a sense of permanence and stability – Queen Elizabeth is the only monarch most of us remember. We have always sung ‘God Save the Queen’ – her image has always been the one we’ve seen on coins and stamps.
But it's more than mere longevity in Queen Elizabeth’s case – it’s her constancy. Her deep dedication and calming influence has had a stabilizing effect on the nation. She has been a reassuring presence as head of state.
Although she has adapted to the changing world around her in many ways, in all ways that were most important the Queen remained constant: in her values, morals, loyalty and dignity.
If we admire Queen Elizabeth’s constancy – and we should – how much more should we adore King Jesus for his constancy and the stability he provides to the universe! Queen Elizabeth II may have been the our longest reigning earthly monarch, but the King of kings is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. If a thousand years are like a watch in the night to the Lord, seventy years are but a blink of an eye! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He alone is the Rock on which lives and nations are to be built – the one great unchanging and unchangeable reality. In him we live and move and have our being. Why are we not to put our trust in princes? Because they are mortal men who cannot save: even the longest reigning of them dies. But the King of the ages is immortal. He will never be forced to abandon his people by death or abdicate because of weakness. He will reign forever and ever.
We needn’t be apprehensive here in the UK about the succession, for there has been no transfer of the kingship of the universe!
Condescension in Grace
The kings and emperors of the ancient world used to work hard to emphasize the distance between themselves and their subjects. They were aloof, far removed from the ordinary world of the people they ruled. Queen Elizabeth was not like that. She loved to be among people – at garden parties, greeting crowds in street or speaking with people on visits. She wasn’t a commoner, but she graciously came down to common people.
The word condescension usually has negative associations – someone putting on airs, pretending to be greater than they actually are. But if you’re a king or a queen, you really are higher and greater than others! You are coming down to the level of others! Queen Elizabeth did this, graciously and humbly.
If we admire Queen Elizabeth for her condescension – and we should – how much more should we adore the condescension of King Jesus! Queen Elizabeth’s closeness to people was limited. She couldn’t be really close. She did what she could, but she wasn’t able to stop for long conversations or exchange phone numbers with the people she met! But how different it is with King Jesus! He is truly close to his people. He left heaven and came down, literally, to seek us out and save us! He knows us and loves us individually and personally. He is with us constantly! I am with you all the days, even to the end of the age. (Mt 28.20). His infinite majesty and dignity is no barrier to friendship! The vast number of his subjects is no obstacle! Not only is he with us – he is in us and we are in him! If you are a Christian you are closer to the King of kings than any other human being! The intimate relationship of marriage was designed by God to be a picture of the love and presence of Jesus Christ with his people!
The King of kings is with you and in you, to give comfort and strength and direction whenever you need it. You don’t have to go to London or Jerusalem or the top of a high mountain to meet with him and talk to him and hear him speak to you. You don’t have to queue up and wait in line in the hope of a quick hello and a handshake. You have access into his presence at any time and can pouryou’re your heart and he will hear and answer you!
We give thanks for our late Queen and the gracious blessing from God her seven decades on the throne have been. But how much more do we rejoice in and worship and serve our living, immortal King, the Lord Jesus Christ – King of kings and Lord of lords.