King of the Mountain
Who may ascend onto the mountain of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to what is false, Nor has sworn [oaths] deceitfully.
In the business world, many people get to the top by climbing over others on the way. They want to be “king of the hill,” and nothing or nobody is going to stop them. But in the spiritual world, the goal isn’t to stand in power on front of shareholders, it’s to stand in humility and inner strength before the Lord.
In the awkward time between his anointing and his coronation as king, David had many opportunities to ta take shortcuts and compromise his integrity. Saul chased David and his men through deserts and towns, and on several occasions, David could have killed Saul and taken the throne immediately. His most trusted and loyal followers urged him to do just that. But each time David refused to rush to success. He trusted God to accomplish His purpose in His timing. Through times of being misunderstood, attacked, and betrayed, Davis had “clean hands and a pure heart”. He trusted God even in the darkest days, and he kept telling the truth.
One of the most significant features of David’s life was the loyalty of his men. In him they saw a man they could trust, a man who spoke the unvarnished truth and followed God with his whole heart. Even before David became king of Israel, his character won the hearts of his men.
The greatest use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
The scene in the room at what we call the Last Supper was just that, a play to be the “king of the hill.” One would think that after being with Jesus for three odd years that the disciples would have begun to imitate Him. Instead, we find them still operating in the same manner as the world around them. They wanted positions of power. Somehow they thought that’s what Jesus wanted. They thought the He had been setting the stage for taking up the mantle of the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of Israel. They wrongfully assumed that as His closest followers, they would also be given positions of power. Peter, on one occasion, even asked what they would receive since they had lift home, family, and careers to follow Christ. They had observed how the world around them including the religious community operated and thought the kingdom of God operated the same way. They weren’t prepared to accept that Christ had not come to be King but to become a sacrifice. I can only imagine the tension in the room among the disciples. I’ve been in enough church business meetings to feel something of that tension. The atmosphere when Christians are seeking to be “the king of the hill” is pretty tense. We only read of Salome’s request that James and John be given seats on the right and left hand of Christ. The other thing we read is that the other disciples were resentful and angry.
“Then [Salome] the mother of Zebedee’s children [James and John] came up to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down [in respect], asked a favor of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit [in positions of honor and authority] one on Your right and one on Your left.” And when the [other] ten heard this, they were resentful and angry with the two brothers.”
Unfortunately nothing has changed. We still want to pattern after the world style of seeking position.
So Jesus, the only great One in the room, gets up from supper, goes over and picks up the towel and the basin. I wonder what thoughts were going through the disciples minds at this time. I somehow think that shame and embarrassment was their close companion. Can you imagine seeing the One whom you know is the most powerful and important person in the room putting on the servants towel and kneeling before them and beginning to wash their feet? No wonder Peter wanted to reject the Lord washing his feet. We would too. So for us today, is foot-washing just a ritual we practice twice a year or is it an attitude that molds our conduct and directs our attitudes?
In our world of self-centered and selfish ambitions, in our struggle to be somebody or to gain some position or power, wouldn’t it be refreshing to become someone who actually practiced what Jesus taught about serving?Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if the motive, especially in the church was to find a position and place from which to serve rather than a place of power or influence that elevates us to some status? I wonder what would take place if Christians were to renounce the practices of the corporate world and instead see every position in the church not as an opportunity to lead or influence or rule but as an opportunity to serve, to place the welfare of others before their own personal wants.
That’s the whole point of the Last Supper. We find that David exhibited the same traits. Though he had only labored as a servant of Saul, and although he had been anointed as the next king, even when Saul was trying to kill him, he never tried to elevate himself. The Bible says that after Saul died, David didn’t rush to seize the throne. He waited for God to open the way and for the people to ask him to be their king. And as king, when he discovered that one of Saul’s grandchildren was alive, he did the unheard of thing, he invited him into the palace, seated him at his table for the rest of his life. Most newly appointed kings would have eradicated the former kings family, but not David for David knew he only occupied the throne by God’s grace and that his role was to only carry out the plans that God had for His people. Because of a servant’s heart, God established the throne of David forever. Because of a self-seeking heart, the throne of Saul didn’t even pass to the next generation. Because of a servant’s heart, Christ has been given a throne forever.
We can continue to pursue power, prestige and importance and we will always fail. What will be more sad is that we will have few if any loyal followers for they have seen how we gained power and they will work to unseat us so that they too might become the “king of the hill.” And so contention and strife will dog the footsteps of power seekers. But peace and authority and accomplishment will follow those who give themselves in service of others. Those kind of people will attract loyal followers who will trust them and their leadership.
Dr. John Thompson