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Are conservative Christian theology and liberal politics compatible?
Thursday, 30 October 2008
McCain, Obama, and who is in control: A tale of four kings and a priest

In recent posts, I've said that some of Sen. McCain's foreign policy statements scare me, that some things said about Sen. Obama scare me, and that many of my friends believe that abortion and immorality will explode and we will lose all of our constitutional rights if he is elected.  Yet I recognize that I should not be afraid. 


It's because the President is not really the one in control, whether his name is Bush, McCain or Obama.  God is.  And God is able to exert His ultimate control in the world even through very bad kings.  I'll give you four examples, directly out of the Bible. 

The first king is King Saul, whose story is told at I Samuel 10 through 16 and I Samuel 31.  God chose Saul to be king. I Samuel 10:1.  Shortly thereafter, God put a new heart in Samuel, and he prophesied.  I Samuel 10:9-11.  Nevertheless, as king, Saul rebelled against God.  Because he was in a hurry to fight a battle and feared his army would slip away if he waited for the prophet and priest Samuel to arrive to offer sacrifices to God, Saul offered the sacrifices himself.  I Samuel 13:7-12.  Later, Saul kept some of the livestock of the Amalekites for himself, when told to destroy utterly.  I Samuel 15.  Because these two incidents of rebellion showed that Saul preferred doing things his own way rather than listening to God, God said he would take the kingdom away from Saul and give it to another better than him.  I Samuel 13:13-14 & 15:26-29.  After that, for the rest of his life, Saul became paranoid, a cruel oppressor of his own friends, and ultimately turned to witchcraft for answers.  He died in battle, and God repalced him with David.  Though imperfect, David was a "man after God's own heart," who listened when God spoke and changed his course when God corrected him.  King Saul demonstrates that, when even a ruler specially appointed by God rejects God's leadership, God is well able to replace him.

The second king is King Manasseh of Judah.  Manasseh's story is told in I Chronicles 33.  Manasseh was the son born late in life to a very good king, King Hezekiah.  Manasseh took the throne at a young age, and rejected evertything good of what his father had done.  For most of his reign, Manasseh was evil, a very wicked king who placed idols in the temple of God, instituted the sacrifice of children to idols in Judah--even sacrificing his own son in the fire--and caused the people of Judah and Jerusalem "to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land."  I Chronicles 33:9.  God first repeatedly warned Manasseh and the people, then, when they ignored his warnings, sent an invading army from Assyria to strip the land and take its leaders, including Manasseh, hostage. 

However, in prison in Babylon, a miraculous thing happened.  "While in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God, and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors."  I Chronicles 33:12.  God responded to Manasseh's repentance, and restored him to the throne in Judah.  "Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God!"  I Chronicles 33:13.  During the last years of his reign, Manasseh cleaned up the idol worship and was a good king.  So God is able to get the attention of bad kings and bring them to repentance.

The priest is Caiaphas.  Caiaphas was a member of the priestly family of Aaron, but he was also a corrupt political appointee of the Roman occupiers of Judea. He had the dubious honor of being the elected High Priest in the year Jesus became a great problem for the ruling classes in Judea generally.  In John 11: 45-53, we are told that, immediately after Jesus became a very serious threat to the religious leaders of Judea by raising Lazarus very openly from the deadthe rulers called a council to discuss what to do with Jesus.  The leadersbelieved this discussion necessary because, by raising the dead,  Jesus had placed himself on a par with the great prophets Elijah and Elisha in the eyes of the masses.  The rulers therefore feared that soon "everyone" (the leaders excepted, of course) would believe and follow him, and the Romans would be forced to destroy the Jewish nation and its temple to quell the resulting revolt.  

At this point, the cowardly, unbelieving, pragmatic Caiaphas gave this advice:  "You don't know what you're talking about!  You don't realize that it's better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed."  After that, the Council agreed that Jesus should die.  Caiaphas had advised them to commit the greatest injustice of human history.  

However, what does the Apostle John say about Caiaphas' advice?  John says, "He [Caiaphas] did not say this on his own; as High Priest at that time, he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation.  And not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God scattered around the world."  Man's greatest injustice was also God's greatest victory, and God used Caiaphas to prophesy it--to speak it into existence in his office as High Priest.

The third king is King Cyrus the Mede.   In Isaiah 44:28-45:7, God calls Cyrus his "Shepherd" and his "anointed one" for the purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem, and describes the power he will give Cyrus over other nations.  In the same verses, God repeats twice that He will use Cyrus in this way, "even though you do not know me." God can direct kings who do not even acknowledge him to do what He wants done.

The fourth king is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar was the king who destroyed what remained of Solomon's Temple and finally took Judah into full captivity.  He did so with great and excessive barbarity.  He slaughtered many Jews (and many from other nations he conquered as well).  If anyone has ever deserved God's full wrath, it was Nebuchadnezzar.

However, God kept working with him.  The story of exactly how God kept working with him is told in Daniel 2 through 4.  Daniel, one of the Jewish captives in his court, interpreted a dream for him that no one else could interpret, in which God showed Nebuchadnezzar a brief history of the kingdoms of the world.  Later, when three of Daniel'd frinds wouldn't worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol, he had them thrown in the fire--only to come out unharmed after meeting in the fire with one the king described as looking "like a son of God." 

But when both of these incidents failed to flly get this king's attention, God sent him another troubling dream, which Daniel interpreted for him.  The dream was a warning that, because Nebuchadnezzar continued to think of himself as a self-made man, and his power and wealth as things he gained by himself and for himself, God was going to take away his sanity for a time, until he acknowledged God.  One year later, Nebuchadnezzar went insane, and lived in the fields like an animal for a period of time.  Then it says Nebuchadnezzar "looked up to heaven" and his sanity was restored when he "praised and worshiped the Most High."  He acnowledged that "the most high is sovereign over the kigdoms on earth, and gives them to anyone he wishes," setting up over them "even the basest of men" exactly as he chooses.

And that is why I should not fear the outcome of this election.       




Posted by ian_j_site2 at 8:03 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 3 November 2008 12:33 AM EST

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