One of the things that signalled the death of Queen Elizabeth II was the lowering of the Union Flag at key landmarks. Some people saw the lowering of the flag at Windsor before they heard officially via the BBC.
However, there was one flag that was not lowered, the Royal Ensign. This remained because the flag always flies whenever the monarch is resident and because Charles became king as soon as his mother died, there was never a moment when there wasn’t a monarch ruling from one of the Royal residences. That’s why you had the traditional announcement “The Queen is dead, long live the King.” It’s also a bit of a fly in the ointment for some films (e.g. Jonny English) that have made a big thing of the king’s coronation as the moment that mattered.
Now, I’m not really concerned about your views of earthly monarchies. Some of you will live in countries that have long embraced republicanism and some of you will long for the day when your country does. However, what I want to do is to pick up on a wonderful reminder here of God’s sovereignty. His reign is eternal. There is not a day when his throne is vacant.
There was a beautiful reminder of this at Windsor at the point the Queen died. It had been raining that day, and just as the announcement was made and the flag lowered, the sun came out leading to the beautiful juxtaposition of the flag at half-mast against the backdrop of a rainbow. This reminded many of us of God’s promise to Noah in Genesis 9 that he would be faithful to his covenant and that covenant was sealed with a sign, a rainbow in the sky, God’s flag or banner over his creation.
We need to be reminded of this again this week as once more there are further agitations in the Ukraine conflict. Some of the Russian occupied territories are apparently planning to stage referendums to declare them part of Russia. This will give Putin a pretext to further escalate things, initially through a full mobilisation and call up. Some are concerned that the escalation may include the actual deployment of nuclear weapons. This would not be about launching strategic ballistic missiles against the West. Putin, I’m sure would still prefer not to use nuclear weapons and is likely to scale up with the threat of WMDS I would expect him to gradually scale things up, the use perhaps of Thermobaric bombs, possible chemical weapons and deployment of shorter range, localised tactical nuclear weapons. Even still, the destruction would be horrific and one would wonder why Russia would want to use them on territory she considers her own. However, Putin is hard to second guess.
Still such a further escalation is concerning and for many unnerving. That’s why it is important for us to remember that God is sovereign and our days are in his hands. We can entrust him with the future. This does not mean that we will never have to face the horror of a wider conflict or that nuclear weapons won’t ever be used. It does mean though that Putin’s plans cannot oppose or frustrate God’s. It means that if tyrants appear to be bringing us to the brink of the end then that is only possible because God allows it and if he allows it, then it is for his good purpose. We do not need to fear war and death because we know that on the other side of them at the end is the new creation, is heaven, is eternal life.
It could be in God’s perfect timing that we are moving towards that last day. It is also possible that there are years to come. If the latter then we can be sure that Putin’s proud empire will fall just as all others have. There is only one eternal kingdom, there is only one throne that lasts forever.
So be it, Lord! Your throne shall never,From “The Day thou gavest Lord is ended, John Ellerton
like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
your kingdom stands and grows forever
until there dawns your glorious day.