CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

God, Nations and Individuals

Sep 9, 2013

With another election concluded in Australia, it is worth reflecting some more on how our Christian faith relates to such things as politics, elections, leaders, and the nations. While zillions of man hours were spent by many on this election, above it all was a greater power.

Given that my daily reading now has me in the book of Daniel, it is fitting to draw upon this book as we reflect not just on the Coalition win in Australia, but God’s way with the nations in general. It is not just mere mortals who are the movers and shakers in the political sphere.

God too is deeply involved. Indeed, a major theme of the book of Daniel is God’s sovereignty over history, over nations, and over rulers. While men may scheme, plot, connive, and promote their various schemes, God is still active and involved, even if we are unaware of this.

As Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others” (Dan. 2:20-21). Or as we find in 4:17: “Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”

And in 4:34-35 we find Nebuchadnezzar saying this:
“His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

As Stephen Miller states, “Without doubt the principal theological focus of the book is the sovereignty of God. Every page reflects the author’s conviction that his God was the Lord of individuals, nations, and all of history.” And as Tremper Longman reminds us, “his sovereignty is not described abstractly in this book, but in the midst of the historical process, in the nitty-gritty of life.”

Christians are not Deists, who believe that God created the world but then left it to run on its own devices. We believe God is intimately involved in the affairs of men, and he is greatly concerned about such things as politics, leadership, social issues, and the like.

Elsewhere I have been discussing the Australian election results and many overseas folks have been offering their congratulations, wishing they too could see leftist regimes dumped for more conservative and godly ones. Many in the US especially feel this way, so while they like what has happened here, they still groan about their situation there.

One American gal wrote, “I’m so proud of Australia! Lead the way, friends!!!” To which I replied, “Thanks – of course it took a lot of work and a lot of prayer by many.” And that almost throwaway line is loaded with deep spiritual truths.

Yes God is at work, but he also expects us to work. He may be sovereign over the affairs of men, but that does not mean he expects us to just sit back and do nothing. We have to do everything we possibly can: we must work as hard as possible, and pray as hard as possible, trusting God with the results.

The dumping of Labor in Australia in other words was a joint work: human responsibility combined with God’s sovereignty brought it about. The tension between our own responsibility and God’s control and Kingship is of course one of those deep theological mysteries which we will never fully fathom.

How is it that we are told zillions of times in Scripture that we must work, act, and pray as if everything depends on us, yet we are also told zillions of times that God is in charge and his purposes will not be frustrated? That is the stuff of which entire libraries have been written, and so I will not attempt to offer any resolutions here.

I simply want to point out that huge amounts of toil, effort, activity and work were put into this election result. It simply would not have happened if all those concerned about the previous government just sat back and did nothing. Thousands upon thousands of people put in millions of hours to make this possible.

And yet we know that God is ultimately responsible for all this, as the book of Daniel – and the rest of Scripture – makes so plain. Thus both man and God were involved, even though how all this works out may forever remain unclear to us.

Those who argued that we should just trust God and not get involved in the political process are absolutely wrong. But those who think it is entirely of our own human efforts are also amiss. So we can all thank those who tirelessly worked to bring in a better, more responsible, and more adult government.

But we must also give thanks to God. He is the one at the end of the day who sets up some and deposes others. Again, we will never properly comprehend this interplay between the human and the divine. But we must believe it since Scripture so frequently speaks to it.

Long ago Augustine put it this way: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” He certainly got things right on that one.

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9 Responses to God, Nations and Individuals

  • From the Sydney Morning Herald today – “On Friday, when Abbott the former seminarian was pressed by 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on whether he had been praying for help to secure the prime ministership, he invokes Hamlet: ”There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.”

    Also Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are men recorded in the book of Daniel Chapters 1–3, known for their exclusive devotion to God and refusal to bow down to the golden image. God publicly rescued them out of the fiery furnace.

    In a way it’s like everyone pretending to bow to the homosexual marriage agenda except devout Christians who will be made a public example through court cases and litigation for refusing to comply…only to be supported by God.

    Jo Deller

  • My feeling is that in the present spiritual climate in Western nations, those who claim Christ as their Lord must not keep silent while His enemies claim that they have the higher moral ground in public debate and public policy matters: To be silent in the face of what amounts to the rejection of the values and God of Heaven in our culture is to become complicit by default in a Western revolt against the Most High God.

    John Wigg

  • We need to have the courage to speak the truth regardless of persecution. I remembered in my tutorial, my tutor put forward an argument for gay “marriage”. He mentioned the ‘classic’ argument against gay “marriage” – the one by ‘deeply religious’ people. He quickly mentioned he did not agree with it, to the laughter of most of the students as if to say, ‘who would agree it’? He was saying no one in this class would have the guts to mount an argument against it – he was sadly right.

    Janice Tooh

  • Potential problem alert, don’t rest on your laurels yet, prepare for more action:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/election-2013/same-sex-lobbyist-cheers-new-order/story-fn9qr68y-1226714824734

    On the other hand, it’s good to hear there are still some holdouts for righteousness, for now: http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/nbnat/1358984117-anglicans-officially-say-no-to-gay-marriage

    Mark Wong

  • My father read a very, very old Book of Martyrs to us every Wednesday night when we were children and the way early Christian and Protestant Martyrs behaved really inspired me. Many were mocked and laughed at for remaining steadfast in their faith in the face of insurmountable suffering, loss and derision.

    The outcome of some of the Martyrs deaths was actually convictions in the hearts of some bystanders and their subsequent conversion to Christianity.

    Jo Deller

  • Thanks Bill,
    One point I have not seen mentioned was the poor voting for the predominantly or expressly Christian parties.
    I took a look through my electorate of Corangamite and then three others in Victoria and found the combined primary votes of Family First, Australian Christians and Rise up Australia roughly equated to, or was surpassed by, the Sex Party!
    That reflects very poorly on the church to it’s shame.
    Jeremy Peet

  • I am reading “Deliver us from Evil” by Ravi Zacharias. I must say I haven’t read a better book that explores and explains the connection between personal action and the nature of cultures. It is so easy just to describe trends and movements, but they are all based on, and represent the sum of individual actions. That is both encouraging and sobering.
    It is encouraging to know that all our hard work will have results, and sobering because hopefully it makes us realize that not only God is watching us, but sections of the world too.
    I don’t know Bill, why so many people have problems reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s free will. God is so far bigger greater, more creative etc. that I don’t think there is any problem incorporating man’s free will in his sovereignty because it is not an either or situation but a this and that as well.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks for making me think.

    Perhaps the election result was God’s will. What kind of Prime Minister will Abbott be?

    In the meantime, I think it’s important to pray for our leaders.

    Scott McPhee

  • Thanks Bill. I was quite despondent this morning vowing never to pray for an election outcome again. 2007, 2010, USA 2012 and this election left me believing God never answers my prayers for political outcomes. I live in Fairfax, we had a great LNP candidate, a Christian who put his life on hold for a year with no pay to campaign for this election. He ran a great campaign but was beaten by Clive Palmer with his money and ALP/Green support.

    Des Morris

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