Archives for posts with tag: authority

servant 7

God is in charge whether we pay attention or not. God is in charge even when we’re not getting our way. God is in charge even when it seems that evil is winning and chaos is taking over.

Over and over in the Bible God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as “my servant”. Nebuchadnezzar was the pagan king of Babylon who enslaved much of the population of Judah and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, including the Temple built by Solomon. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t love God; in fact, he required that the people of Babylon, including the Jewish refugees, worship a statue of him. But God used Nebuchadnezzar to teach his people that only Yahweh was God. God actually called one of his most famous prophets, Daniel, just to speak the word of God to Nebuchadnezzar and the succeeding rulers on the throne of Babylon and later Persia. God used his servant Nebuchadnezzar to teach the people of Judah the consequences of their sin. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know that he was serving God; he didn’t realize that he was part of God’s plan; he didn’t understand that the God of his captives loved him until the end of his life.

When I studied the life and heart of Nebuchadnezzar in the first four chapters of the book of Daniel, I was struck at how much trouble God expended on Nebuchadnezzar’s behalf. God used Nebuchadnezzar as surely as he used Daniel, whether or not Nebuchadnezzar realized it. Even those who don’t honor or even acknowledge God are completely under God’s control. Daniel says, God “changes times and seasons; he sets up and deposes kings.” (Dan 2:21)

I am heartsick at the vitriol on both sides of this political campaign. I am desperately trying not to fear what I seeing happening in our country and pray daily for God’s mercy on us, not His judgment. I see the arrogant raving of all those seeking the office of president and see only rare evidence of a heart that seeks to honor God. I see people who praise themselves and denigrate those who oppose them. They declare that their presidency will save America from all that threatens us. But if I believe that God has all power, I have to acknowledge that He “sets up and deposes” presidents as well…even those who worship themselves, more than they worship God. They serve His purposes as surely as those of us who intentionally try to obey Him.

America will not be saved by any of these candidates. Our problems will not be solved by a new government program or a different leader or higher taxes or more regulation. Most likely, I will again be unable to vote “for” a candidate; I will just vote against the one with whom I disagree most. But God is in control no matter who occupies the Oval Office. November will come and this election will resolve itself. God may use the next four years to teach the people of America the consequences of their sin. He may use them to punish us or to bring us to repentance. God may use the next four years to teach those who take power that they serve Him, not themselves. He may even raise up a Daniel to speak for Him, to soften the heart of the one to whom He will raise up and give power in this country. Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all those in authority over him that he may live a life of godliness and holiness. (I Tim 2:1-2) If the people of American pray for a tender, contrite heart in the leader God gives us, we may become the Daniel God uses in our generation.

Rom 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

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Called to Obey

My three year old son, clad in his dinosaur pajamas, demanded his way. I gave him my best “mother” stare, and repeated, “No.” He turned and pointed back behind down the hall and said, “Then you go to my room!” That was where his time outs frequently occurred, and he responded to my refusal to obey him in the same way I typically responded to his defiance. I felt no compulsion to obey him; he had no authority over me.

Sometimes we obey out of fear, like in Nazi Germany. Sometimes we obey out of respect, like in a courtroom. But sometimes we obey because we completely understand that there are people whose experience and knowledge we need to trust. When we know and respect the people who ask for our obedience, it is easier for us to trust them and comply. When my car or my computer break down, I take them to people I trust to fix them, because I know next to nothing about cars or computers. I do not argue with their suggestions or try to give them “pointers”. I hired them because I trust them and recognize that my knowledge and experience is insufficient.

Obedience has gotten a bad connotation in our society. We like to pretend that we’re in charge of our world, and that we don’t answer to anyone. But the problem is obedience is required when we deal with things beyond our control or outside our experience and knowledge. It would be ludicrous for me to hire someone that I knew was incompetent. It would be just as ludicrous to ignore the counsel of someone I knew that was as expert.

We may willingly give obedience to those we respect, especially when we need their help. When what I believe about God allows me to follow him and know him and eventually love him, what happens when he asks something of me that I do not want to do? Does what I believe and know about God when I need his help match my response when he asks me for something that is hard or painful? If he takes too long to answer my prayer or gives me an answer I don’t like, does that give me permission to ignore his answer? Can I obey him when it’s easy and disobey when it’s not? Will I rely on what I believe and know, or will I pretend that I’m in charge?

God is God, and I am not. The longer I follow God, the more I know about God, the more I will understand that he has all authority and power. I have disobeyed him and suffered the consequences of my ill informed, immature choices. God doesn’t require our obedience so he can be in charge; he requires our obedience because his way is perfect and his laws are for our good. (Psalm 63) He loves us enough to pay attention to us and require us to do what is in our best interest. Our obedience doesn’t make him anymore powerful than he already is, but our obedience will allow us to be so much more than we can make of ourselves.

Obedience is not optional. Disobedience results in punishment and loss of blessing. Adam and Eve were banished from Eden; Lot’s wife turned to salt; Saul lost his kingdom; the rich man in Jesus’ parable went to hell; we are no different. We will obey, or we will suffer the consequences of disobedience. May our belief lead us to follow the one who has all authority, and may we follow him in obedience, trusting that what he asks of us will be for our ultimate good.

Americans don’t want to call him a “king”, but we seek the comfort of having someone else stand between us and our enemies.  Those enemies might be in terrorist cells around the world or those with different political ideologies.  We want someone to make us feel good about ourselves and make us feel better about our future. We want someone to step in and do the hard things for us.  We want our leaders to fix all the problems in our society with no discernible cost to us.  We want to trust them to know the secret information and make the hard choices and make everything better so that we can go merrily along with our lives and please ourselves.  We want our president, our congress, and our leaders on every level to do what they have proved over and over they cannot do.

I’m old enough to see that every election is based on candidates making promises that they cannot keep, some that they have no intention of keeping.  I’m fascinated by people who choose their candidate because he makes a promise they like….and have no real concept of how he will accomplish that promise.  Too many people trust a party to make to tell them the truth, but the party (and the media) is really far more interested in advancing their own agenda than they are in the truth.  There will be people who enter the voting booth next week armed only with very limited information provided by biased sources.  Most of the people I’ve talked to have become lazy and allowed someone else to tell them what they want to hear about the candidates, and have made no effort to seek the truth themselves.  I have discovered that one candidate in Virginia is running way behind in the polls based on his opponent’s ad that completely misrepresents him.   And the voters will trust those who oppose him for the truth about him.  Election campaigns have become far more about opposition than support.  I can barely remember the days when I voted for a candidate, rather than against a candidate.

The problem is that kings are only men, and men who have great power are much more prone to use it for their own benefit than for the benefit of those under their authority. Lord Acton wrote a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 and penned the famous quote and insightful analysis of history: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The holy God is not corruptible because his power is not derived from the people he rules, and he is not subject to evil or weakness. He does not need his people’s obedience or money to make himself more than he is. He rules his people for their benefit, not for his own. 

Twice in the book of Judges we see the phrase “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did  as he saw fit.”  (17:6 and 21:25)  By I Samuel 8:7 they had rejected God’s authority over them and wanted a leader like their pagan neighbors had.  They gave authority to a man, and were eventually enslaved to their enemies.

When we trust men to do what only God can do, we are going to end up enslaved to people who seek their own good, not ours.  When we think we are so smart that we reject right and wrong for what is easy and convenient.  When we do what we think is right in our own eyes, when we are more interested in beating the opponent than in doing what God’s law commands, then we will end up somewhere we never intended to go, becoming something far less than we’d hoped.  Our country has trusted our government to “fix” poverty, crime, education, national security, and a whole host of other things that have just gotten worse in the last 50 years.  Perhaps we need to give the authority back to God, and elect men who will serve him, not themselves.