The coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on 6th May was a magnificent event. It involved pageantry and ceremony, and many of the rituals date back hundreds of years. The King was presented with various items as symbols of his kingship: a pair of spurs, a sword, bracelets, a robe, the golden orb, a ring, a sceptre and rod, and finally the crown.
Before all these, he was presented with a Bible, with the words:
Sir: to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.
It’s true that in the UK as elsewhere the Bible is not held in as high regard these days as it used to be. To many, these were just ceremonial words. To others, this was the most significant part of the whole service.
The ceremony of giving a Bible to the British monarch dates back 300 years, but it actually follows a much older practice. God Himself gave instructions to Israel about the conduct of their kings:
When he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and it’s all about the Word of God (that is, the Bible itself) – its value, its beauty and the need for it to be at the centre of a person’s life.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (verse 97).
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (verse 105).
As the King was presented with his Bible it was described as the ‘royal Law’. That’s what it is. But it’s not just for royalty, it’s freely available to everyone. If you can’t get hold of a paper copy, you can read it online. Why not start now!
Photo credit: Katie Chan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons