I grew up on stories about King Arthur. Great stories. Every time you turn the page Arthur and his knights are feasting, celebrating, jousting, slaying monsters, and just having an all-around good time. It sounds like a great place to be, with peace, justice, and plenty for everyone (except the monsters, of course). And, at the center of it all, the king—leading, ruling, judging, and partying. It all works because the king is there ruling over his kingdom, making sure that everything is as it should be, striking out at anything that threatens the peace.
But, what’s a kingdom without a king? The depressing part about the Arthur stories is that you know it won’t last. By the end of the story, Arthur will be dead and his kingdom will lie in ruins. (If you didn’t know how the story ended, I’m terribly sorry for giving it away. And, by the way, the Titanic sinks.) Without Arthur, everything falls apart.
It’s quite a simple principle really: no king, no kingdom. Until he comes back, nothing is going to be the way that it should be.
The same idea shapes the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. From one perspective, this is a story about a bunch of men who spend all their time camping, drinking, wrestling, singing, and annoying rich people. To me, it always sounded like Peter Pan for adults.
At the heart of the Robin Hood story, however, rests something much more significant. The kingdom is broken. Richard the Lionhearted, England’s king, has been gone for many years. In his absence, Prince John, the king’s brother, and all of John’s cronies have taken over the kingdom, oppressing the people and pillaging the land. The land is now ruled by greed, power, violence, and hatred.
Robin Hood and his merry men have a very different vision of how things should be. They see a kingdom ruled by grace and peace, a kingdom where the rich help the poor, the strong serve the weak, and everything is as it should be. They see a kingdom where the king rules again.
In many ways, these are stories about faith and hope. Despite all of the problems the kingdom faces, all the enemies they encounter, and all the evil they see, Robin Hood and his men press on toward their vision of the kingdom. The king has been gone for so long, many begin to wonder if he will ever return. But, Robin Hood’s men continue to long for what could be, what should be.
However, it all rests on the coming of the king. Robin Hood and his men can trick Prince John day long, and it won’t change anything. They can steal from the rich, give to the poor, and have all the forest parties their hearts desire. But, without the king, the kingdom will still be broken, evil powers will still control the way things go, people will still be oppressed, the vision will remain unrealized.
When the king comes, however, it will all be different. That’s the hope at the center of the story. That’s what makes Robin and his men work so hard toward this future vision. That’s what makes them “merry”. In the face of all the injustice and oppression, they have their vision of the kingdom and they live out that vision to the best of their ability in the forest – their little outpost of how things should be. And they have hope.
When he comes, it will all be better. When he comes, the kingdom will be restored and things will be as they should be.
When he comes….
[This is the second part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the first part here.]