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

God, Nations, Rulers, and the Affairs of Men

May 22, 2019

Another national election – this time in Australia. Plenty of political machinations and moves were involved by all sides. People did all they could to get their desired candidates or parties elected. Millions of dollars and man hours were spent on getting the desired outcomes.

Yet for those who adhere to the Judeo-Christian worldview, we know that much more is involved than mere human plans and activities. There is a God who exists – one who rules over the nations and is working out his plans. Thus even leaders and the nations come under his overall purposes.

There are of course plenty of biblical passages which speak in a rather generic sense about God’s reign and rule over the nations, over rulers, over leaders, and the affairs of men. Let me offer just a few of them here:

Psalm 33:10-12 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 47:3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.

Psalm 47:9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

Proverbs 8:15-16 By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth.

Proverbs 21:1 In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.

Isaiah 40:23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.

Daniel 4:17 the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.

But let me look at some specific passages which speak about the connection between our choices, our actions, and our morality, and how God sets up nations or takes them down; how God establishes rulers or disposes them. Briefly put, it can be said that we can simply get the government we deserve.

A sinful people will often suffer in terms of government and leadership. A godly and righteous people will do better. And the sort of leadership a nation has is also a part of the overall equation. Some general verses that speak to this include the following, mostly from the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 11:10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.

Proverbs 11:14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls.

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

Proverbs 28:2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

Proverbs 28:12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

Proverbs 28:28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.

Proverbs 29:4 By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.

Proverbs 29:12 If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.

Proverbs 29:14 If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.

Jeremiah 18:7-8 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be destroyed; If that nation I warned turns from its evil, I will relent of the evil that I planned to do to them.

A spiritually lame or a sinful people often will get a lousy government which will tear things down even more – morally and spiritually speaking. Things will simply go from bad to worse. I have elsewhere discussed this notion of getting the rulers we deserve: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/23/on-getting-the-government-we-deserve/

But we have further biblical material to appeal to here. Having been reading in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles again lately, it was interesting to see how often the fate of a nation was tied up with its moral and spiritual condition. Repeatedly we see rulers and nations meeting a nasty outcome because of sin and disobedience.

When the people and their rulers are displeasing to God, judgment usually follows, either in the form of pagan nations and rulers, or in some other manner. Plenty of passages can be appealed to here. Here are some of them:

1 Kings 11:14 Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.

1 Kings 11:23 And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada.

1 Kings 12:15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijahthe Shilonite.

1 Kings 14:7-8 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David.

2 Kings 5:1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

2 Kings 13:3 So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.

2 Kings 18:11-12 The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes. This happened because they had not obeyed the LORD their God, but had violated his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.

1 Chronicles 5:26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

1 Chronicles 16:21 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:

2 Chronicles 10:15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

2 Chronicles 12:1-2 After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam.

2 Chronicles 14:12-14 The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar.Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the Lord had fallen on them. They looted all these villages, since there was much plunder there.

2 Chronicles 15:5-6 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.

2 Chronicles 22:7 But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram.

2 Chronicles 25:20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.

2 Chronicles 26:16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

2 Chronicles 28:4-5 And [Ahaz] sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree. Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force.

2 Chronicles 28:18-20 And the Philistines had made raids on the cities in the Shephelah and the Negeb of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages. And they settled there. For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord. So Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.

2 Chronicles 33:9-11 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

Yes, these were Old Testament realities, but I am sure the principles remain the same. God certainly remains the same, and when the nations – including God’s own people – are out of line when it comes to godly living and godly values, then divine judgment is the normal consequence.

But God is also able to show mercy – often when it seems not to be deserved. As I have said a number of times now concerning the recent Australian election, this certainly was an act of grace. We did not deserve this reprieve, but we got it. We can all be grateful for that.

So do we have the same cases of God disposing one leader and government and setting up others today? It certainly seems that way to me. At the end of the day it is not mankind that is in control – not even powerful, mighty leaders – but God alone.

He raises up nations and rulers and he takes them down. The realisation of these biblical truths should keep us all humble and on our knees.

[1923 words]

10 Responses to God, Nations, Rulers, and the Affairs of Men

  • Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
    The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
    “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
    – Psalm 2:1-3 [NIV]

    Psalm 2 is another Old Testament passage at the core of a Biblical understanding of that global revolt against our Creator which began at the dawn of human history with our first parents’ eating forbidden fruit in an attempt at a cosmic coup-d’état and their subsequent expulsion from the sacred garden of Paradise. Psalm 2 was seen by the early Jerusalem Church and its elders and apostles as directly relevant to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and the subsequent persecution of those who followed His Way [Acts 4:23-31; Compare Revelation 2:27; 11:15-18; 19:15].

    Every human government is only an interim, “caretaker government” until He comes unto Whom shall be the gathering of the nations [Genesis 49:10].

  • Spot on, Bill! 3 thumbs up for this informative and helpful analysis backed by Scripture. Thank you.

  • A comparison of the Australian and New Zealand National Anthems
    Australia’s National Anthem – Advance Australia Fair
    New Zealand’s National Anthem – God defend New Zealand

    New Zealanders love their national anthem while we [Australians] feel ambivalent about our own.

    https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/2019/05/02/a-comparison-of-the-australian-and-new-zealand-national-anthems/

  • We have elections for members of the EU that we should have left 3-years ago. However, we have many right-leaning candidates who are not career politicians. So God willing it may be we weren’t supposed to leave 3-years ago, but perhaps the EU is supposed to have an influx of right, rights, to bring it to its knees in more ways than one. The media and the political establishment are doing everything they can to fraught the brave, but even teens are rebelling against the left. Soph, a 14-year-old has her 2nd strike on her YT channel. She has not far off a million subscribers (do not check her out Mr M you will have a heart attack) Soph is like me, but I do not use swear words, but interestingly her million followers are mainly my age and plainly right-leaning, where did that come from?

    When Soph returned to school, 8 members of her class walked out in protest of her right leanings, but interestingly 22 didn’t. The left has thrown everything at us kids, but for all their efforts and millions spent on indoctrination, a 14-year-old-girl mocks them on social media, yes she will be taken off social media with another strike but that will infuriate her 1,000,000 followers and just bring forward the day social media loses its freedom to selectively ban some and not others.

    Keep up the excellent work Mr M, you have some nightmare teens who need a little correcting now and then, but are fighting in the way they know best which would shock you, but once the wars won we can sort out the corrective measures that may be needed.
    Sarah and Abby.

  • Too true Bill…thank you Jesus for showing mercy to us and bringing a respite to this nation which will give us time to put our hearts right before you. May those who love you stand in the gap for our children’s sake. Each generation has its battles to fight, ours is over the soul of this nation right now.

  • I love this website John Miller wrote about:

    https://atributetoaustralianchristians.wordpress.com/

    Reading this web site is very encouraging for all Christians.

    Now that Our Lord has ensured victory in the election for his servant Scott Morrison, because the Prime Minister promised to legislate to protect freedom for believers, I have had many discussions about what sort of religious freedom we want.

    Should it be minimal protections for all religious people? Or should it be more specific protections for Christians only?

    How do we ensure “religious freedom” isn’t abused by folks like Sam Ekermawi to persecute good people like Sonia Kruger?

    How can we guarantee our rights won’t won’t be used by Muslims to say they have a right to wear the burqa?

    I have been told there are laws that stop us having religious freedom especially for Christians. What are those laws and how can we get rid of them?

    God has granted us a reprieve. This was an election about religious freedom and the Body of Christ won it. We must use this mandate to change the laws so there are no more Israel Folau’s and no more Sam Ekermawi’s either.

  • Dear Bill through your site, Bill, to address Michael Taouk. Any definitive list has a habbit of omitting many significant people, as does this list.
    Could it be elected politicians will do the same with religious freedom? I’m not saying the noise will not be worth making.
    Mark Bryant

  • Are not the words of Galatians 5: 1 & 13ff singularly germane to the matter of the boundary between religious freedom and and criminality?

    It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
    [NIV]

  • Mr Taouk,
    How can we guarantee our rights won’t be used by Muslims to say they have a right to wear the burqa?

    A society is built on the same rights for all, however, in answer to your question, Christianise society.

    I have been told there are laws that stop us having religious freedom, especially for Christians. What are those laws and how can we get rid of them?

    Another doesn’t hold your freedom; it’s yours. If your freedom is taken from you, that’s theft. If that happens, the thief may imprison you if you try to take back that which is yours. Under these circumstances, the thief has to care for you 24-7 this care usually occurs behind bars. Your freedom isn’t something you demand, its something you die for if necessary.

    (SC)
    Living in godlessness has all the attributes of the godlessness some will experience in the next life. Goodness can’t be found in godlessness since goodness is an attribute found where God pours out his grace and blessings.

    Our role is to evangelise the good-news, you will be persecuted for doing so, and if you do not evangelise the good-news, then you will eventually finish up existing in godlessness. ‘winning’ is not to finish up in eternal godlessness, even if that means you are crucified upside down in the here and now.

    In short, there is no justice in godlessness if there were, we wouldn’t need God. There is no freedom in godlessness as you are a slave to sin or a slave to the powers of godlessness. If you are not hated, you are probably not going to experience the love that comes with depending daily on your creator.

  • I firmly believe that 1 Samuel 8 affirms God’s support for democracy and I am very grateful to the Christian founders of the U.S. who established that democratic rule is feasible. This is one of the many ways in which the prophecy that through God’s people all the nations of the Earth would be blessed (Gen 22:18, 26:4) is fulfilled.

    The problem now is whether we maintain that democracy with the increasingly evident shutting down of free speech, religious freedom and basic human rights. The homosexual lobby famously claimed that history would judge and they are probably correct there because the fruit of support for wrong thinking is inevitably that truth needs to be suppressed and we see the evidence in situations such as with Israel Folau. The inevitable result of having basic laws founded on lies and national rule controlled by delusion is that people will suffer.

    By God’s grace we have been given a short reprieve but while constant indoctrination and shutting down of the truth is allowed to continue in education facilities and in the media, this can only be a temporary situation. We need to rise to the challenge now.

    Never mind the false claims of dominionism or claims of theocratic rule like what we see in Muslim countries or what secularism is supposed to support. Democratic rule, free speech, true human rights, true equality and fundamental freedoms were all set up by the Christian culture that is now being falsely accused by the biggest straw-man argument of all time. This is all based on the very wrong promulgation of what secularism actually entails. True secularism was always meant to allow progress towards the truth – not to shut down truth so that every false notion can be given equal status.

    Christian culture was specifically designed to allow each person to find their own way while it constantly opens the door to truth and well-being. This is fundamental to Christianity because the whole purpose of this creation is to determine those, who by their own free will, want to be God’s children.

    The only argument against Christianity is from those who fear the truth. Fearing truth will lead to shutting down both truth and free speech which will inevitably lead to despotism. We have ample evidence of this from history. The scriptures don’t warn of being a slave to sin for no reason. This is what is in store for us if we don’t act now and put some fundamental changes in place.

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