Wineskins Archive

December 5, 2013

God’s Choice (Isn’t) Always Our Choice (Oct 2012)

Filed under: — @ 4:06 am and

By Roger Stewart

Faith in the revealed word tells us that Paul was writing exactly what God told him to write, when he wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”</i> (Romans 13:1). There is nothing to suggest this was a new principle, or referred to any specific government or time in history.

Because the emperor at the time of Paul’s letter was Nero, the Christians of the day may well have had a hard time understanding exactly what Paul meant.

While Nero was popular in some smaller segments of the population, generally speaking, history does not speak kindly of this Roman emperor. Instead he is revealed to be a madman, tyrant, and a persecutor of Christians. Nero is said to have had Christians impaled and burned as torches in his garden during parties. Consequently, Nero would not have been the Christian’s choice for emperor – but he was apparently God’s choice if this passage in Romans is correct. He had authority because God gave it to him — even though he ruled his kingdom with violence, terror and murder.

When the Roman brethren read this, they may have questioned Paul’s reason and sanity. “How could a loving God who gave us Jesus, also give us Nero?” they may have asked. Nero came to power after his mother Agrippina poisoned Claudius his predecessor, according to the historians Tacitus, Suetonius et al. It would be easy to imagine conversation in the Church at Rome along these lines: How can we say that God gave him power when it was clearly stolen for him by his mother? How could God be involved in the reign of a man who then kills his own mother and attempts to murder his brother? If God supports the reign of a man who is so intent on murdering us Christians, how can we say our God is a loving God?

Even today we often hear people questioning God’s involvement in the affairs of our nation – particularly in presidential politics – using exactly the same logic.

God’s message for us through the pen of Paul is that he places in power every governing authority under the sun, often for purposes known only to him. The rule applies to today as much as it did in Paul’s time. Under a democratic form of government, the people elect these officials. A Christian nation will elect Christian leaders; a reprobate nation will elect reprobates. That is a significant truth. Could it be that God would allow a godless nation to elect a leader who would eventually bring about its own destruction? We must remember that it was a willful, forgetful people that chose Saul to be king over them instead of God through the work of Samuel the prophet/judge. God allowed their decision and chose a king for them that met their physical requirements – handsome, tall and powerful.

There are at least two primary reasons God might place an individual at the head of a government. There are likely many more, but we will focus on these two for the purposes of this article:

Any given leader may be brought to office to preserve a nation.

Through the exercise of their skills, knowledge and care over the people, a leader – by the implementation of just and fair policies – may make a nation stronger. Such a leader may be brought to power for just that purpose: to preserve his (or her) nation. Consider our founding fathers in the Continental Congress. Perhaps they were where they were at that time in history to “form the more perfect union…” for God’s own purpose. Kings like Josiah, Hezekiah, and David – along with judges such as Deborah, Gideon and others – were raised up for the preservation of God’s people throughout history.

God has put men in power in more recent times in exactly the same way and for very similar reasons. Abraham Lincoln was president because God wanted him to be. Why? Perhaps God did make him president in order to put an end to slavery. Perhaps. Or it is also possible that God made him president – amidst the tragedy of the Civil War – to save us from the much more devastating disease of a divided nation. I am convinced that God put Franklin Roosevelt in office, because he was the one man who could lead us through the horrors of a world war.

Any given leader may be put in office for a nation’s destruction.

But we must ask about men like Nebuchadnezzar. We must be careful in the assumptions we draw, because it is also in Romans (chapter 11) that Paul reminds us that no one can know the mind of God. It is only through the eyes of history and his revealed word that we can gain any perspective on the ways of God.

So what about Nebuchadnezzar? History tells us that God raised-up Nebuchadnezzar and his conquering hoards for a specific reason—to be the instrument of his wrath and judgment against Judah.

In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servants the prophets. <b>Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon.</b> Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? ~ 2 Kings 24:1-5 (Emphasis added)

In every toolbox there are many kinds of tools – each with its own specific purpose. Some are used to paint, shine, stain and beautify. Others are made for cutting, shaping, molding, and tightening and loosening bolts. Some tools such as welding equipment, glues and fasteners, are designed to repair and construct. Still others are design to have a violent impact – hammers, cutting torches, and saws. So is it with governing authority. Some governing authorities are in place to build, strengthen and preserve a nation. Others may be in place to discipline or even bring about the destruction of the nation they have been empowered to govern.

Is it possible that God allowed Usama Bin Laden to become a powerful leader in order to warn our country about turning away from God? Is it possible that God sent us a wakeup call in the form of planes flying into buildings under Bin Laden’s authority? Is it possible that we pushed the snooze button, turned over and went back to sleep?

Certainly, for a time after those attacks, our nation was on its knees. For a time we were once again a praying nation, prostrate before the Creator. For a time God was on our lips and in our thoughts. We didn’t hesitate to acknowledge the source of those blessings. Never before has my generation seen such universal devotion to God. For a brief time we seemed as a nation, to be turning back to God for hope, protection and guidance.

But the revival was short-lived. As a nation, we have returned to our old ways. If God permitted those attacks to serve as a warning to us, and we have ignored them as it seems our nation has, will there be another warning? Or will there be another Nebuchadnezzar who will rise up against us? Or, perhaps, from within us?

I believe this November we will be making a choice about whom we want to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. I pray that our choice will be God’s choice and that such choice will be for our preservation of our nation and not for our destruction.

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