“Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates.”
— Proverbs 31:31 (CSB – Read the chapter)
The world saw the end of an entire era of human history yesterday. Leaders come and go like the changing of the seasons. We change Presidents the way most people change vehicles—every four to eight years. CEOs of major corporations rarely last longer than a decade or so. The average pastor tenure is only a few years. But for most of the people alive on the planet today, the only Queen of England they have ever known until yesterday was Elizabeth II of the House of Windsor. Let’s pause for just a moment this morning and marvel at a great woman.
In the coming days, Queen Elizabeth will rightly be the recipient of many, many tributes from people ranging from those who knew her personally to those who only studied her from afar. The entire nation of England will be in mourning for weeks. Her forthcoming memorial service will likely be a veritable Who’s Who of the world’s most powerful leaders. All of the attention and adulation will be well deserved. Elizabeth was an institution unto herself.
Her reign began after the death of her father, King George VI, when he was still only a young man and as the world was still putting itself back together again in the wild days after the end of World War II. She was 27. Most 27-year-olds today are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. She had already been married six years and was suddenly one of the most powerful rulers in the world with a realm then encompassing then 31 separate member states as well as the United Kingdom.
I will save the much more detailed reflections for those who knew a great deal more about her than I do, but I would like to stop and note a couple of things. First, her reign began long enough ago that when we study the history of the 20th century today, she knew personally almost all of the major figures. Her reign lasted 70 years, and her life 96. She saw more changes in her lifetime than most of us could even imagine. And throughout all of it she was faithful to her calling and purpose, never wavering even once from the path to which she had been called to walk.
In a world that was rocked by one major change after another, she was a rock herself that held steady no matter how big was the storm surrounding her. This faithfulness extended to many other areas of her life. She was married to one man, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, for nearly 75 years. She was the official head of the Church of England. As such, one of her official titles was The Defender of the Faith. This was no garden variety faith either, but the Christian faith. She may not have been an Evangelical, but she took her faith seriously throughout her life.
As Queen, she understood the weight of the duty she had on her shoulders. She was not only willing, but able to make big and hard decisions. At the same time, she regularly modeled the humble, gracious, and considerate servant leadership of Jesus. To my knowledge, she never leveraged her position for her own benefit, but constantly sought to use what power she had to elevate the situations of those around her.
Elizabeth left a mark on human history that has been larger and more consequential than just about anyone else save Jesus Himself. The world will long remember her with the utmost of fondness and deservedly so. It will likely be a very long time indeed before we see another like her. May leaders the world over look to follow the example she has set. May each of us do likewise. She will be missed. May her rest in Christ be sweet as she waits for the reunion of the saints on the day of His return.