In today's secular culture of instant celebrity and success, the idea of dedicating your life to serve your country seems out of place to many. There are few role models in the public sphere that promote such an ideal. On the other hand, as the United Kingdom stops to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of their monarch, her long years of faithful service to the nation and the Commonwealth stand out as a beacon.
On the occasion of her 21st birthday, Princess Elizabeth, aware of the solemn responsibility that would be hers, made a radio broadcast to the Commonwealth in which she committed her life to the service of her people. Her sense of personal duty and the hope that together we can make the world a better place, are inspiring. Before the nation, she also acknowledged the one from whom her help would come: the King of Kings.
"If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world - than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers. To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, "I serve". Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood. I cannot do quite as they did. But through the inventions of science I can do what was not possible for any of them. I can make my solemn act of dedication with a whole Empire listening. I should like to make that dedication now. It is very simple.
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it."
Princess Elizabeth, 21st April 1947
"I serve", is a noble motto. In the Bible, especially throughout the Hebrew scriptures, we see time and again how the Kings of Israel chose to either serve or abandon the God of Israel and the subsequent consequences of their choices. Nehemiah laments as he prays to God about the leaders of his time - "In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways. (Nehemiah 9:33-35)
The King of Kings, whose Kingdom reigns over all the earth, appoints Kings and Leaders to serve him on the earth that together they can make the world a better, safer, more prosperous place. To say that leading a country in the ways of righteousness is not easy, would be an understatement. The pressures and conflicting influences must be a heavy burden to bear. For Queen Elizabeth II, the promise to serve, has laid a strong foundation for her 60 year reign. But our national and local leaders cannot do it alone and our role is to commit to faithfully pray for them.
"May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him." Pslam 72:11
What a privilege to be a member of God's spiritual commonwealth, knowing that together we really can make a difference - in our own countries and in the wider world. We can take the young Princess Elizabeth's simple dedication and use it to dedicate our lives to the service of the one who is over all kings and queens: the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords:
'I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great 'spiritual' family to which we all belong.'