Tuesday, September 09, 2008

God and Politics


I am very excited by the presidential campaign.  Though conversations can be hot and frustrating at times, I'm not worried about the outcome. Because I know that God works in the affairs of men and God's choice--whether it's "my" man or not--will be the winner. 

Consider Isaiah 45:1-13--and know that Cyrus was a PAGAN king who did not know the Lord. 

1This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one,

whose right hand he will empower.

Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear.

Their fortress gates will be opened,

never to shut again.

2This is what the Lord says:

“I will go before you, Cyrus,

and level the mountains.

I will smash down gates of bronze

and cut through bars of iron.

3And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—

secret riches.

I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,

the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

4“And why have I called you for this work?

Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?

It is for the sake of Jacob my servant,

Israel my chosen one.

5I am the Lord;

there is no other God.

I have equipped you for battle,

though you don’t even know me,

6so all the world from east to west

will know there is no other God.

I am the Lord, and there is no other.

7I create the light and make the darkness.

I send good times and bad times.

I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

8“Open up, O heavens,

and pour out your righteousness.

Let the earth open wide

so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.

I, the Lord, created them.

9“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.

Does a clay pot argue with its maker?

Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,

‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’

Does the pot exclaim,

‘How clumsy can you be?’

10How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,

‘Why was I born?’

or if it said to its mother,

‘Why did you make me this way?’ ”

11This is what the Lord says—

the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:

“Do you question what I do for my children?

Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?

12I am the one who made the earth

and created people to live on it.

With my hands I stretched out the heavens.

All the stars are at my command.

13I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose,

and I will guide his actions.

He will restore my city and free my captive people—

without seeking a reward!

I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

 

Isaiah’s message to Israel must have shocked many people—for the first and only time, a Gentile ruler was proclaimed “anointed” by God.  In fact, Isaiah used the same word we find translated “Messiah.” Just as Saul and David had been anointed at God’s command, so Cyrus, king of Persia, would be divinely “anointed” for a holy task: to restore Israel to the Holy Land. He would free the people from Babylonian captivity (at the appointed time; after the seventy years of captivity) and bring judgment upon unbelievers.

History tells us that Cyrus conquered the mighty Babylonians easily--by an ingenious strategy, a Persian contingent diverted the course of the Euphrates River and entered the city on the dry riverbed. Once inside the city, the Persians opened the gates to the main army from the inside. Thinking their city impregnable, the Babylonians were easily overrun. Seventeen days later, Cyrus entered the city in peace as a victorious conqueror, thus bringing an end to the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[1]

Historians may believe the victory belonged to Cyrus or his engineers; God tells us the victory was his doing. God made it easy and God rewarded Cyrus with treasures. Cyrus did not know the true God, but the Almighty aided him as he conquered Lydia and Babylon. Though Cyrus did not worship God, God called him by name and aided him in his conquests, all for two holy purposes: first, to restore Israel, and second, for God to reveal himself to Cyrus and to the world at large. “I am the Lord; there is no other God.” Both of these purposes were accomplished and fulfilled.

This passage has profound application for today. First, it demonstrates that all world events are in God’s hands. Even leaders who do not know or worship the true God are known to him and used by him for his purposes. God is sovereign over all creation, and just as he used Cyrus to accomplish his divine purpose, he can use an ayatollah, a president, or a common citizen to accomplish his holy purposes today. He can protect Israel, his church, and he can reveal himself to the world whenever he chooses.

Second, this passage demonstrates that everything—the things we consider good and the things we consider “evil” or “disastrous”—also come from the hand of God. Verse seven tells us that he is the one who creates light and darkness; who sends good times and bad. He does all things; nothing escapes his notice or his control. John 1: 3 tells us “God created everything through him [Christ], and nothing was created except through him.” Therefore, even the situations we perceive as “evil” are brought about by God to serve his purposes, though we may not understand the reasons behind them.

This “evil” is not moral evil, but the opposite of peace—what we consider disaster or calamity. God does not and cannot sin, but he uses all world events, good and bad, to work his sovereign will.

Third, this passage illustrates the human tendency to argue about God’s sovereign design. Realizing that some of the Jewish people might have wondered why God didn’t raise up a Jewish warrior or king to lead them from captivity, God rhetorically asks, “Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop you are doing it wrong!’”

We clay pots are still prone to argue with our creator. When disaster strikes, we want to blame it on Satan, or global warming, or the opposite political party. We imagine that God must have been sleeping when the disaster occurred. We are happy to allow God to love, but we find it hard to surrender our right to self-governance to the point where we can admit that we are but clay pots in our creator’s hands. We are so intent upon seeing God as loving and life-preserving that we tend to forget that judgment and justice as also his to wield. We forget that his ways are high above our ways.

We can see evidence of this in our lives—we worry about world affairs, when this passage, among other Scriptures, clearly indicates that God is firmly and irrevocably in control. We argue with God and create theodicies where he is equal to evil, helpless to overcome it, or bound by self-limitation to tolerate it for a time. Yet God clearly states that he will do what he pleases, when he pleases, to accomplish his purposes.

Finally, in this passage we find hope for the future. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them” (vs. 8). In verse 17, he continues: “[I] will save the people of Israel with eternal salvation. They will never again be humiliated and disgraced throughout everlasting ages. For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos.”

One day, in the new heaven and the new earth, the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by the children of Israel and by Gentiles. Salvation and righteousness will grow together, and we will live under the Lord’s eternal messiah, the anointed king Jesus Christ. As Isaiah prophesied, the world will be filled and lived in, without chaos. And we will know that the Lord has done it.

 ~~Angie 


[1]KJV Bible Commentary, 1374 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994).

10 comments:

Cindy Swanson said...

Excellent words, Angela! My sister and I were saying much the same thing in a conversation yesterday. I'll be praying, but whatever the outcome, God is in control.

Mocha with Linda said...

YES!!! Thank you for sharing this, Angie. Studying Daniel and Isaiah completely changed my life and made me much more relaxed about world events.

Christians can get so panicky if the "right" person isn't elected, when sometimes the "wrong" person is the "right" one to fulfill God's purposes. The worst-case scenario in our eyes may be the very one to bring about His return!

Kay Day said...

Amen! Preach it sister!
God also delivered the king of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzer in Daniel, and "raised up" the Babylonians in Habakkuk.
And Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel says that it is God who kills. People really don't want to believe that.
I personally feel so much less anxiety knowing that all things are in His control. Knowing that even the death of a loved one is by His hand. That gives it purpose in my mind. He does everything for a good reason. Better than thinking someone just died because the devil wanted them to, or because of global warming -- that seems empty and pointless.

May God bless you and keep you. You are dismissed. :)

Anonymous said...

Angie, That was a very good post. I wish everyone could read it. Thanks.

sheriboeyink said...

Amen is right!

God's plan, God's timing...we just need faith.

Kerry Krycho said...

Angie, this is so right on the money! I am actually leading our corporate prayer time tomorrow and this is the very topic the Lord showed me as we pray for our nation. Thanks for thinking deeply and listening well.

Blessings!

Lisa said...

Well said, Angie! Thanks for this post. It was very encouraging to me today. I was just arguing with my Creator today (mentally at least) over how He made me, and what right do I have. None. You were totally on point today!

Dad said...

Good thoughts, Angela. Isn't it interesting that God is able to hold predestination and choice in his mind at the same time. That is the difference between finite and infinite. We just can't do that. In fact, when we try to hold either point strongly, we make a mess of things. Predestination: why try? Free choice: anything I say and want. Hmmm.....

Gary Gilmore said...

Oops! Dad in the former comment is Gary Gilmore. Most often, my comments are to my children's blogs, consequently, "Dad."

Jackie Colburn said...

Hey Angie--so right on! This applies day to day, minute to minute. Well thought passages such as this one enable Christians to be effective in the secular workplace and allow the light to shine. We can more easily release circumstances since we know who controls the outcome.
Blessings!