A few weeks ago I posted 2 blogs that spoke primarily about the Sovereignty of God. I retracted those blogs because I felt maybe I had not explained clearly the Word of God or that maybe I had interjected my own personal views into the Scripture meaning. Since that time the Lord has continually revealed this theme to me throughout His Word and I began to feel like I had been unfaithful to the message that God wanted delivered because I had retracted the posts and at the root of my retraction was a fear that perhaps these truths of the Bible might be deemed offensive to readers who have not been taught the Sovereignty of God. So it is with that that I’ve rewritten the post discussing one of the more common areas where we find suppression of God’s sovereignty, namely governmental officials and rulers. One thing that must be made perfectly clear in studying the Word of God, specifically God’s attributes and character, is that we as humans are sinful and fallible and we cannot view God in the same light that we view each other, meaning , His “thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways His [my] ways, declares the LORD,” Isaiah 55:8 We cannot see clearly to understand God’s purpose and plan in everything other than for the accomplishment of His own glory, but we can rest assured He is fully and sovereignly in control of everything, including positions of political power.
The Sovereignty of God within positions and people of ruling power is not confined to one particular country or body of people, but must be looked at on a global and even historical scale. As a people, we love to complain, grumble, murmur, even protest about our leaders, but we must ask, are these complaints to be directed toward a particular person in leadership or does God’s sovereignty extend even into our leadership and does He therefore raise up leaders for His own glory? In our first example we find Daniel interpreting a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar’s and the following is a summary of that vision, “The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (Daniel 4:17 ESV) In this dream it is to be made known to all men, specifically Nebuchadnezzar, that it is God who rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He wills.
Later in this same chapter Daniel continues his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams which revealed that the king would be like a beast of the field until he recognized, “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:26) Just as Daniel had prophesied, the king was on his rooftop and declared, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30) and immediately he was driven from his kingdom and made like a beast of the field because he refused to recognize that it was God who ruled his kingdom and it was God that had placed him in power and allowed him success. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was restored the moment he “lifted his [my] eyes to heaven, and his [my] reason returned to him [me], and he [I] blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” Daniel 4:34-35 ESV
Nebuchadnezzar paid a hard and humiliating price for not realizing God’s sovereignty in placing him in his kingdom and allowing him to remain there. He learned that it is God who gives and God who takes away, not the plans or doing of man, as we learned in the post on the Providence in the Life of Joseph, and that no one has a right to question God’s purposes in His decisions.
These truths in understanding how God sovereignly commands who He wills into the positions He establishes presents some difficulties and questions in our human reasoning. Again, we must caution ourselves not to interject our human emotions into any determination of the will of God, but instead let us reverently recognize that it is He that is in control. One difficulty we find, in the United States especially, is that too often we refuse to accept that God has instituted whom He wills at the position He commands. We look around our country or the world through humanistic lenses and think “How could God let this person lead” or “God had nothing to do with this person getting elected, so let’s refuse to recognize them.” This is particularly evident these days with the multiple “tea-parties” and focus on political action and involvement rather than on the biblical command of the Great Commission to spread the Gospel. Yet we must again look to the Bible to see how God works through the lives of even evil men to accomplish His plans and make His glory known.
It can be argued that King Herod was one of the vilest, evil, wicked, and morally corrupt leaders that this world has ever known. This man ordered the execution of every male child under the age of two because he felt his kingdom threatened. Not only did he issue this decree, but he murdered his own family because they were a threat to him. Yet without question this man, King Herod, was placed in his position by the authority of the sovereign God. Matthew 2:15-16 provides account of Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt with their newborn Son to escape the murderous plot of Herod, “When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” This persecution by Herod on the little children had been prophesied hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, yet it was allowed to happen that God’s purpose and plan in establishing the heritage of Jesus and fulfilling prophecy might take place. While difficult to understand, we must stop short of questioning God’s motives and look only to God’s purpose in establishing the earthly ministry of His Son.
To again see how God is able to work His purposes through the lives of evil men, let’s remain in the lineage of the first King Herod and follow the life of his son. The sovereignty of God may not be more evident in Scripture than in the life of Herod who ruled during the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Herod’s son was just as wicked as his father, having beheaded John the Baptist, yet never did Jesus intervene into his political affairs, never did He stage protests, and never did His focus even entertain the political realm. In fact, despite the prophetic announcement that, “the government shall be upon His shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus yielded to governmental authorities throughout His life on earth but also declared, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 ESV) In our familiarity with the life of Jesus, we know that there was a wicked ruler in Herod’s son, a cowardly, greedy, easily persuaded Roman official in Pontius Pilate, and an equally narcissistic, evil ruler in Caesar all placed in authoritative governmental positions by God. In Acts 4:27-28 ESV we read, “27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” All of the men involved in the crucifixion of Jesus were part of God’s predestined plan to crush His Son for our sins, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; He has put him to grief.” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV) These men, whom God placed in power, were humanly responsible for the murder of the Holy of Holies, the King of Kings, the Only Begotten of the Father, yet it was in fulfillment of God’s holy plan of salvation. When we feel the weight and power behind this, it should make us feel so comparatively tiny for questioning how God could place a leader in power who wants to raise taxes or pass some legislation that we think goes against our rights. The Sovereign God of the universe placed a leader in power who murdered His Son! Yet it was His plan of salvation for us, it accomplished His redemptive purpose for man. This is the love that God has, that He sent His only Son to be sin for us and to die for those sins on the cross, that through faith in Him we might have eternal life. That’s the sovereignty of God on display.
Our final lesson comes from the apostle Paul in chapter 13 of his Roman epistle, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Romans 13:1-2 ESV Paul informs us that the governing authorities that exist have been instituted by God and for that reason we are to be subject to these authorities. But, I’m aware of how our human nature likes to apply that passage to something other than it’s intended governmental authority, so let’s likewise look at how the Apostle Peter addresses this same issue, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (I Peter 2:13-14 ESV) So we can biblically conclude that God’s sovereignty extends to political rulers and that it is our responsibility as children of God and co-heirs with Jesus to realize that we are foreigners here, that like Jesus our residence is not here, but in heaven with Him and in realizing this we must submit to the authorities that God has put in place. Are you a servant of the King? Stop fighting the rulers of this world and recognize the sovereignty of God and that it is He who places those in power. Trust that God is in control and shift your focus from the rulers of this world to the Kingdom of Heaven. “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
“Who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:23 ESV)
“Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow.” (Isaiah 41:2 ESV)