|Photo by scarletgreen 2007|
News of the seating arrangements for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral caused quite an online stir. Some were miffed that US President Biden was seated in the 14th row, far from the royal family, directly behind the current president of Poland, and five rows from the back of Westminster Abbey.
Former President Trump seized on the opportunity to mock President Biden, saying that if he were still president, he would be seated in the front row, for America would still command respect.
But it turns out that the seating plan was not a political statement or a reflection of respect (or lack of it) for various countries and their leaders. It was merely specified by protocol that the royal family had the best seats, followed by monarchs, UK leaders and officials, Commonwealth leaders and officials, and finally, other world leaders and foreign dignitaries. Much ado about nothing!
Jesus warned about taking the best seats (in the highest rooms) when invited to a wedding or other formal function, for we should respect others ahead of ourselves. If we choose the best seats, we may be embarrassed if the host asks us to move to make room for a more honored guest. But if we voluntarily sit in the worse seats, we may be pleasantly surprised if the host invites us to sit closer to his table (Luke 14:7-11).
Jesus also exposed the hypocrisy and self-promotion of the scribes and Pharisees who chose the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, wanting admiration from others without helping or serving them.
Yet anyone in a position of Christian leadership should have a servant’s heart and put the needs of others above their own (Philippians 2:5-9). If we humble ourselves, Christ will lift us up, but if we promote ourselves, Christ will humble us (Matthew 23:1-12). The Virgin Mary sang the Magnificat to praise God, for “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree (Luke 1:52).”
Jesus even went so far as to say that the Pharisees choosing the best seats would receive the greater damnation (Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:46-47). The worst such offense was when Lucifer, the most glorious anointed cherub created by God to lead worship to Him, rebelled because of pride and wanted to exalt himself above God, even to sit in God’s seat, which led to his ultimate downfall and destruction (Ezekiel 28:1-19).
At school lunch, where you sat sometimes spoke volumes about your social standing. The popular girls flocked to the same table, and if anyone outside the clique dared ventured near, she would soon regret it, as she would become the object of their ridicule. The trouble makers also banded together, and if you sat there, you would likely come under scrutiny by teachers and staff – guilty by association.
The book of Psalms begins with advice to avoid such situations, and to be blessed in return:
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
In the theatre, you can sometimes purchase the best seats, with the closest and least obstructed views of the stage, at a higher cost. Often these are available only to patrons of the arts or those in prominent families who have inherited season passes left as a legacy from generation to generation.
But this is ironic, for actors, singers and dancers are trained to aim their performances at the “nosebleed” section in the highest balcony, amplifying their voices, gestures, expressions, and even makeup to be visible and experienced optimally by those at the furthest distance.
Patrons in the box seats may be able to see clear into the wings on the side of the stage furthest from them, which may interfere with the illusion of reality the production is attempting to create, and yet they may miss action near the wings closest to them and see center stage action in profile. The most ostentatious and expensive seats are not always the most ideal, if we truly want to see rather than to be seen.
So what is the best seat? For those who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), the best seat is the one where He has seated us, for being in His perfect will is the best place to be. That way, we need not fear meeting Him at the Judgment Seat for believers (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), where He will judge and reward us, if appropriate, for our actions once we are saved (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Far better to face Him there than at the Great White Throne Judgment, where those who rejected Him will be given punishments appropriate to their misdeeds, and ultimately thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).
Jehovah God spoke to Moses from the mercy seat upon the ark of testimony (Numbers 7:89). Until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, we can rest assured that He is seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 12:36), where He continually intercedes for us! (Romans 8:34)
© 2022 Laurie Collett