God save the King! Whenever an English monarch dies, then according to the plan of succession, immediately the shout goes out to the successor, “God save the King!” or in some instances, “God save the Queen.” But what does this phrase mean? In 1745 the phrase was immortalized in what has become the de facto national anthem of the United Kingdom. American school children usually know the tune but sing the words to “My Country Tis of Thee.” “God save the King” has at least four meanings.

First is recognition and exhilaration that the throne is not empty. Recall the historical reference that Isaiah gives in the sixth chapter of the book of Isaiah. “In the year that King Uzziah died.” Uzziah was, like Queen Elizabeth II, a sovereign with a long tenure on the throne. The very faith that prompts the prayer, “God save the King,” is the faith that realizes that though an earthly throne may be empty, the heavenly one is always full; the Lord omnipotent reigns eternally. This faith also recognizes that earthly sovereigns reign at God’s pleasure (Romans 13:2)

Deep commitment to the Lordship of Christ has a profound effect on what you do no matter if you’re seated on an ancient throne or a folding chair.

Rick Durst

Second is remembrance of the Pauline injunction to pray for those that God has placed in leadership (1 Timothy 2:1-4). “God save the King” is a petitionary cry to God to protect and to redeem the sovereign. The wish is for the king to have long life. So in a way, “God save the king,” is both a confession of faith as well as an intercession. When Queen Elizabeth died several weeks ago, my wife and I happened to be in Copenhagen, Denmark, having just arrived there by way of London. When word of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96 after a 70+ year reign, some spontaneous affirmations of Queen Elizabeth were offered but one made me grit my teeth because of the context in which I was traveling. One of the grieving British citizens said that Elisabeth was really the queen of the world. However, in Denmark, Queen Margrethe II has reigned since 1972 and she is much beloved.

The third is reflection. One of the interesting biographical details to emerge in the several weeks of transition towards the internment of the body of Queen Elizabeth was that she had made it a practice not to contradict the rule of the parliamentary government in England. However, when parliament determined in 1986 not to participate in the global boycott of the Apartheid government ruling in South Africa, Queen Elizabeth chose to oppose that decision. She challenged the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the terrible public view that of the 49 nations in the British Commonwealth, only Britain had refused to join the boycott against South Africa. Elizabeth’s opposition to the racial injustice of the Apartheid leadership became known to the black South Africans, particularly one imprisoned on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela, who later would become the first black African president of South Africa. Queen Elizabeth rushed to congratulate him over his presidency and he and Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a unique kind of friendship between sovereigns. Mandela even called her Elizabeth, and she called him Nelson. God saved Queen Elizabeth from being silent about injustice. Another truth to emerge globally was the profound genuine faith of Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth was a believer. Deep commitment to the Lordship of Christ has a profound effect on what you do no matter if you’re seated on an ancient throne or a folding chair.

The fourth is renewal and repentance. I suspect that it was the genuine faith of Queen Elizabeth that called her to take the narrow way to speak for justice over against her parliament. I think Nelson Mandela gladly sang “God save the Queen” for the Queen had lived her faith. God save King Charles III from being silent about injustice. “God save the King” is a 277-year-old commonwealth anthem or hymn. In 1831, perhaps as an assignment in a worship class at seminary, Samuel Francis Smith changed the lyrics of “God save the King” without changing the melody. This inspired student at the Baptist seminary in Andover, Massachusetts, became the composer of America’s first unofficial national anthem, “America, My country ‘tis of thee.” Smith’s lyrics express gratitude and commitment to liberty for the nation. This would be my prayer for King Charles III, God save the King. Save him from corruption. Save him from lostness. Save him from evil counsel. God save the King!

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Christian Faith & Pestilence

Christians have risked their lives in caring for the sick and dying throughout history. Dr. Rodrick Durst cites multiple historical accounts pointing to the sacrificial ethic of the church in times of plagues.

Rodrick K. Durst
Chair, History/Theological Studies | Professor of Historical Theology
Dr. Rodrick Durst has served as Professor of Historical Theology and a variety of administration roles at Gateway Seminary since 1991. His current research includes a study of emerging church movements, ecclesiology for rapid cell and simple church multiplication, new paths for apologetics, single adults in the church, and faith and film.