The son of King Jeroboam had fallen deathly ill. His father was understandably worried, concerned to know whether his child would live or die. He knew just where to go for a trustworthy answer. Yet he also knew that he could not go himself.
He came up with a devious plan: he would send his wife in his place. He would send her in secret, he would send her in disguise. And she, in the guise of a disinterested commoner, would ask the prophet on her husband’s behalf. So, taking the gift of a peasant rather than the gift of a king, and wearing the clothes of a laborer rather than the clothes of a queen, she set out on her journey.
She eventually arrived at Shiloh, at the home of the prophet Ahijah. Yet she quickly learned that this prophet was not fooled by her disguise, for God had told him that she would arrive. And God had also told him what message he must deliver. “I am charged with unbearable news for you,” he said—the unbearable news that Jeroboam’s line would come to a tragic end and that, of all his household, this child alone would receive a proper, dignified burial. “When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.”
There is much we ought to learn from this tragic story. But today my heart is drawn to one simple lesson: There are times when royalty passes before us and we do not see it. There are times when we are in the presence of kings and queens, of princes and princesses, and we do not identify it. We do not acknowledge it.
Jeroboam’s wife passed through the land and no one knew or even suspected that she was anyone other than a commoner. Yet she was as much a queen walking to Shiloh with dust on her feet as she was sitting in the palace with diamonds around her neck. Her simple clothes and humble demeanor may have masked the reality, but they did not negate it.
A few weeks ago, I stood in the humblest of villages in the distant reaches of rural Cambodia. This is a village that has not yet been reached by electricity or running water. Yet it has been reached by the gospel and all but a scant remainder of its people have believed and become royalty—sons and daughters of the King. They wear the disguise of farmers who tend to rubber plantations and cashew groves. But even though their homes are tiny and unadorned, and even though they wear no crowns and own no robes, they are most truly princes and princesses who simply await their full inheritance.
A week later, I found myself in Fiji, making friends with men who have traveled from across the great expanses of the Pacific to be trained as pastors. Some have come from locations so remote that until they arrived at the seminary they had never even seen a car. They are humble men who have little and who may never own so much of what you and I are certain we could never live without. They pass their days in the guise of students who attend a seminary few have heard of so they can become pastors in places few will ever visit. No one greets them with honor and no one bows in their presence. Yet they, too, are royalty, made by God, known by God, loved by God, adopted by God.
And so, it strikes me that as you worship this Sunday, as you gather with your church, you should keep in mind the reality that you are surrounded by royalty. Maybe you will begin the service with a song like:
O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
Give praise to your King! And perhaps as you do so, look around, look beyond the disguises—the suits and ties or the jeans and t-shirts—to see God’s family before him, God’s family joined together in worship, God’s sons and daughters rejoicing together in the Father who has made them his own, the Father who is worthy of their most heartfelt praise.