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29 December 2020

To Whomever He Pleases

"Let the name of God be blessed from age to age, in that wisdom and might belong to him; HE changes times and seasons, HE removes kings, and HE sets up kings" - Daniel 2:20-23

Tower of Babel, by Lucas van Valckenborch, 1594, Louvre Museum
In the year 2020, many “leaders” of the church exhorted Christians to invest their time and resources into electing politicians of whom they approved, warning of the dire consequences that would befall them if they failed to do so - Churches shuttered, “religious liberties” lost, political tyranny imposed - How could the Church preach the gospel in a land without freedom of speech or where Christians might suffer persecution? Therefore, believers must fight tooth-and-nail for their chosen candidates! - (Photo - 
Tower of Babel, by Lucas van Valckenborch, 1594, Louvre Museum, Paris).

But chosen by whom? The book of Daniel opens by declaring that Yahweh GAVE the king of Judah, Jerusalem, and the “vessels of the house of God” into the “hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.” This very same ruler transported the “vessels” from the Temple and placed them in the “treasure-house of his gods” in the “land of Shinar,” the very place where the “Tower of Babel” was built, and humanity made its first attempt to build a world empire.

Later, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the kingdom of Judah, the city of Jerusalem, the Temple, and exiled the cream of Judean society to Mesopotamia. How could the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob survive without an independent nation in the Promised Land? Certainly, many prophets had warned Israel that judgment would fall if it failed to repent and return to the pure worship of Yahweh.

Nevertheless, despite its many egregious sins, no devout Israelite period could have imagined the horrific fate that the kingdom was to receive at the hands of a pagan empire. If given the opportunity, what patriotic citizen in his or her right mind would have elected that idol-worshipping despot? But Daniel pronounced that it was Yahweh, and Him alone, who “removes kings and sets up kings.” The prophet stated this with reference to Nebuchadnezzar, to whom also he declared:
  • You are the king of kings, for the God of Heavens has GIVEN YOU the kingship, the might, the power, and the dignity; and wherever the sons of men dwell, the wild beasts of the field and the birds of the air has HE GIVEN into your hand and made you ruler over them all.”
Later, the king learned this very lesson. One evening, he engaged in a bit of harmless boasting - “Is not this Babylon the great, which I myself have built by the might of my power, and for the dignity of my majesty?” A moment later, an angelic being announced an imminent punishment on the prideful ruler, a judicial sentence that would last until he learned:
  • The Most-High has dominion over the kingdom of men, and to whomever he pleases, he gives it and sets up over it even the basest of men.”
Nebuchadnezzar was removed from the throne for “seven seasons” until God, in His great mercy, restored him to office. Subsequently, the mightiest king on the earth declared:
  • I rendered praise and honor to the God of Heaven, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation, before whom and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and according to his own pleasure he deals with the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth, and none there is who can smite upon his hand, or say to him - What have you done?
The Chaldean emperor discovered that Yahweh alone “has dominion over the kingdom of men, and to whomsoever he pleases, he gives it.”

Many centuries later, writing to Christians residing in the center of the empire, Paul, a genuine apostle, exhorted the churches to respect governors, magistrates, and the king:
  • For there is no authority except by God, and they that are in existence have been arranged by Him, so that, he who ranges himself against the authority, against the arrangement of God opposes himself, and they who oppose shall receive a sentence of judgment unto themselves...Render unto all their dues; to whom tribute, tribute; to whom tax, tax; to whom fear, fear; to whom honor, honor” - (Romans 13:1-7).
Paul was writing to Christians who had few, if any, civil “rights.” They most certainly could not elect their rulers, or otherwise, influence governmental policies. For that matter, in the empire, Christianity was an “illegal” religion. Caesar was no champion of democracy or liberty - He was an absolute ruler whose word was law. Yet Paul warned Christians NOT to oppose his government and officials.

At the time, the empire was ruled by Nero, one of the most despotic emperors in Roman history, a man so depraved that he had his own mother murdered, kicked his pregnant wife to death, then became the first emperor to persecute the Church. Ironically, the Apostle Paul himself was probably executed as a result of the Neronian Persecution.

God's hand is not limited - He can save by many or few. He uses evil, good, or just plain incompetent politicians to achieve His will on the earth, all without missing a beat. Neither the form of government nor any nefarious plan by world rulers is an impediment to His purpose. Regardless of its economic or military might, whenever He may so choose, He can dropkick even the mightiest empire on the planet onto the Ash Heap of History.

When Satan offered Jesus all the political powers of this age, he refused them; instead, submitting to an unjust death at the hands of the Empire. He taught his disciples to walk the same path – To deny themselves, to take up the cross each and every day, and to become a servant of all.

After his resurrection, he commanded them to proclaim HIS gospel to all the nations, while there is still time, NOT to fix, reform, restore, preserve, or purify society and culture, or to seize political power with which to impose his kingdom on them. In the end, only one power will be left standing - The kingdom of God. In the interim, why work for the "meat that perishes"?
This is not passivity or a call to disengage from the world, but instead, a summons to engage it using the biblical means – Gospel proclamation, faithful witness, prayer, enduring unjust suffering, and when necessary, martyrdom.
God alone sees the end from the beginning; only He knows what is in the heart of every man and woman. According to His word, He alone determines who rules over the kingdoms of this age - It is HIS PREROGATIVE and HIS ALONE.

Having arrogated to themselves the right to decide who should govern, according to their own preferences and limited insight, many "leaders" in the church have presumed upon the prerogative of God.


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