It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that our national leaders are increasingly becoming out of touch and in many cases at odds with the principles on which our country was founded. The “Judeo-Christian values” which seemed to be the core of much of our government’s policy for years, are being traded for humanism, Marxism, socialism, and government sanctioned and promoted immorality.
Some work hard to sweep against this tide through elections, but their hopes are often crushed by election defeats. Then, some candidates who promise certain things in campaigns turn out to be no better and sometimes worse that their predecessors when in office.
Yet, Paul said “there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained by God” (Rom. 13:1). Some ask the question forming the title for our article and see a “disconnect.” It could be reworded this way: “How could so many of the anti-God, anti-Christian, immoral politicians we have in Congress who seem bent on belittling Scriptural values be what Scripture calls ‘God’s minister’”?
For a proper perspective, our present age is not the first to struggle with this question. Every generation since the first century has faced this including the first Christians who lived under the political thumb of one of the more immoral and oppressive governments toward disciples ever, the Roman Empire. However, it was to saints living in the very capital of that ancient society that Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are ordained by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil…For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom. 13:1-4). Obviously, the above words constitute God’s design for civil government. “The fact that governments sometimes turn out bad, and do unjust things, does not prove Paul’s statement to be untrue. The devil sometimes controls the actions of governments, but that does not prove that all governments belong to the devil” (R. L. Whiteside, A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter To The Saints At Rome, p. 258). Whenever government demanded then that Christians do anything contrary to God’s will, Christians were taught, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The same is true now.
How then could evil regimes, cruel dictators, or even our present administration be “ordained by God”?
The answer is not that these people are seeking to serve God and do His revealed will necessarily, any more than Assyria sought to serve God when they took Israel captive (Is. 10:5-10). Rather, they are serving God’s overall or bigger purposes, His overall providential will as He rules in the affairs of men.
For example, during the days leading to the destruction of Samaria and captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel (723 B.C.), there were some good people in Israel. However, as a larger unit or nation overall, they rebelled against Jehovah (Is. 1:2-17). God used the character, circumstances, and power of Assyria to chastise Israel as a nation by taking them captive. Good and righteous people in Israel were not held responsible for the sins of their brethren, yet they suffered the consequences of captivity. Those good people must have wondered, “How could these anti-Jehovah, anti-Law, immoral, idolatrous Assyrians be ‘servants of God’”? The answer – God said, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is my indignation. I will send him (Assyria) against an ungodly nation (Israel), and against the people of my wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, nor does his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off not a few nations” (Is. 10:5-7).
Assyria did not desire to do God’s will and be the “rod of” His anger. Their desire was to stroke their egos and satisfy their desire for uninterrupted conquest of surrounding nations.
However, God used such to accomplish His overall will in chastising Israel.
How though was Israel’s captivity a part of God’s overall providential will? During the days of Moses God warned, “But if thy heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess” (Deut. 30:15-17). Therefore, while God desired their faithfulness, He promised their expulsion from the land if they were unfaithful. How did He do that? The Assyrians answered His call! They fulfilled a promise made over seven hundred years previous to the fact. God did the same to the southern kingdom of Judah using the Babylonians (see Habakkuk 1:5-11).
Isaiah predicted that a man would arise by the name of Cyrus. The Lord called this Persian king His “anointed” who would carry out His will, allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem following their seventy years in captivity (Isaiah 44:26-45:5). Yet, Cyrus did not know Jehovah (Is. 45:4-5). This Old Testament teaching indicates that God is in control and can use the character of people, whether good or bad, circumstances, nations, and events to bring about His overall will. This non-miraculous power of God bringing together what seems coincidental, is called “providence.”
What are lessons for us?
First, the principles involved in how God works among nations have not ceased. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 14:34) is just as true now as it was during the days of Solomon. Righteous dealings among citizens within a society or nation based on God’s truth help to promote trust and confidence among individuals, that each will do what he promises. Such provides the foundations of economic growth and stability. When a totalitarian or socialistic regime interferes to the degree that citizens cannot trust their government or each other to do what is right, economically or otherwise, that society is destined to fall eventually. History shows this to be true. What is to stop it now? There are large and bad consequences to a nation given overall to unrighteous behavior. God’s spiritual laws often work hand in hand with His natural laws to bring about His desired results. Is not a present lack of respect for these Divine laws and principles the root of our economic woes, both on Wall Street and Main Street?
Second, we do not have prophets who tell us that specific sins committed in our country will result in specific punishments brought about by specific leaders and specific nations as prophets did for Israel. Nevertheless, the same principles of unrighteousness that caused Israel and Judah to fall continue to cause other nations to fall. How might God chastise the United States? I don’t know specifically because God doesn’t tell us specifically. However, from the Scripture we learn that unrighteous behavior was punished and we see how it was punished. Today, we may not know exactly how a nation might be punished (what leader, nation, religion, or group could inflict chastisement on the United States economically or otherwise), but we know that unrighteous behavior in our country will be punished eventually.
Third, while there are many good and righteous people in the United States who will not share in the guilt of the unrighteous, we may well share in the consequences of their unrighteous behavior. When a large number of people in a great country such as the United States turns their backs on God, He can use people, circumstances, and other nations to chastise this country. God stated this principle to Nebuchadnezzar when He told him that the things that were about to happen were “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he will, and sets up over it the lowest of men” (Dan. 4:17).
Who knows but that God is using matters covered by the news every day to chastise this country? What are those things? Matters such as injustices (bailing out some corporations but not others), abortion on demand and even its discussion in our presently debated “universal health coverage” bill, ungodly people in high places who do not care for His word (“the lowest of men”), a growing hostile religion (Islam) and the weakness of political correctness that protects it, a war overseas, skepticism in a tottering economy, and a growing number of people leaning toward dependency on big government for their every need, rather than taking personal responsibility as the Scripture teaches (I Tim. 5:8; II Thess. 3:10) would be a good start! These are only a few national issues that directly counter righteous behavior described in the gospel.
What can we do?
First, trust in God and not our country. Our reliance must be in Him always, not the military or stock market. They can fail but He won’t. For everyone, this short life will end and we will stand before God in judgment (Heb. 9:27). Regardless of what happened to us physically or our country, in the last day the most important thing salvaged (saved) will be our souls (Matt. 16:26). Trust in and obedience to God are most important! Trust in allied countries and their own strength rather than God brought both Israel and Judah to their knees as nations and will for any country today.
Second, pray that more people in our country will obey the gospel. This is our greatest need. Never underestimate what God can and will do in answer to prayers of the righteous (James 5:16-18).
Third, teach people the gospel so they can believe and obey it. When people enthrone Jesus Christ as King in their hearts, many of our social problems are eradicated. Righteousness and goodness preserve a society. Sodom would have remained had there been found only ten righteous souls (Gen. 18:32). However, while this is true, it is only a by-product of the most important result of gospel obedience – the salvation of one’s soul. Being right with God now and living in heaven with God eternally should be the chief concerns of our very existence (Eccl. 12:13-14).
Does God use governments of men today to accomplish His rule in their affairs? Yes, indeed, even by the use of evil men and their administrations. How? We are not told specifically. We are shown how it occurred in Israel’s history and why; we are assured it continues now.
Rather than becoming despondent, depressed, and downcast about what goes on in Washington that eventually will affect us physically and economically, rejoice over the opportunity and promise of being saved eternally with God in heaven, and share that same optimism of the gospel with those around us. It is for their good and ours here and most especially in the hereafter. – Phillip Owens