(on the first day of the Republican Convention)
Whatever happens today and in the next 3 months is going to determine our future. Is that true?
Do politics determine the course of the nation? The course of the world?
When Deitrich Bonhoeffer came to the US to study theology he was concerned that American Christians really believed that it was true. Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany during the days of Hitler’s rise to power. The Nazi’s created a state church and ordered all pastors of Jewish descent defrocked. The Old Testament was to be removed from the Bible with its pro-Jewish message and Jesus was to receive a new biography -- his Jewish ancestry would be obliterated and he would look and act like a true Aryan hero.
Political power at its worst.
Bonhoeffer took his life in his hands and together with others they formed another church – the Confessing Church. They officially protested to Hitler and he responded by ordering the arrest of their leaders. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and eventually executed.
Political power at its worst.
While all this was developing he came for a while to study theology in the US. He made an interesting observation in a letter to a friend –Christians in the West think it’s the government who grants them freedom to worship God. Their ancestors came here to escape religious persecution and they put all their hopes in the government to guarantee their freedoms.
They put too much stock in the power of their government.
Bonhoeffer who knew the terrible things a government could do thought we put too much stock in the power of the government.
He thought it was essential for us to know that -- ultimately – its the living God who guarantees our freedoms. It’s the living God who rules. It’s the living God who determines the course of the world.
Believers in Jesus are the true worshipers of this living God. He’s called us out of every nation on earth and made us into one people, one nation. He’s commissioned us to worship him wherever we find ourselves in this world. He gives us our freedom to worship.
1Peter 2:9,10 “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We’re God’s people, made up of Christians from every nation, and we can worship him in spite of the state and it’s laws if need be. We can pray anywhere anytime even if we die for doing it. Our God has the real political power. The living God rules the world. He has a plan and we know he’ll make it happen. The Kingdom of God will prevail and his glory will fill the earth. His king will return and his will be done.
All of which is to say that what happens in the next few months is not ultimate – we don’t have to fear – regardless of the direction our nation seems to be going. Our God rules.
Daniel 4:25, “The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Those are the words of Daniel. Daniel who saw his nation invaded, Daniel who was taken in the first wave of Jews and carried off to Babylon as a slave. During his lifetime he served under three different leaders – he saw a lot of changes in personality and policy – much more than we see every four or eight years when the presidency goes back and forth between Democrat and Republican.
No matter who was in leadership, Daniel always showed them great respect. Daniel knew that he was called to respect whoever was in power even when they weren’t the greatest of leaders because they held office by the will of God. He told Nebuchadnezzar, “It’s the God of heaven who has given you dominion and power and might and glory.”
The living God is in control of the world and Daniel knew it. The living God has all the power and Daniel knew it. Regardless of who held the political reigns at the moment, Daniel served them with respect but his ultimate loyalty was to his God.
He knew God has a plan to take control of the government of his world and that every human political entity will eventually fall – the kingdom of God will eventually crush them all. The Son of God will be enthroned and all dominion and power and glory will be given to him. God gave him a vision of this future reality -- so he would know that God’s kingdom would one day fill the entire earth with the glory of God. And so we would know it too.
The book of Daniel gives us the big picture, the vision of God’s plan for his world, and we need it. We need it to help us get politics into perspective – especially during an election. Politics aren’t ultimate – The Lord Jesus is ultimate. We need to lift our eyes and look to him and put all our hopes in the plan God has for his world – a plan he’s bringing about through Jesus. And we need to keep on worshiping our God through all the changes in the world.
The issue of worship came to a head for Daniel under the regime of Darius just like it did for the church under the Nazi regime in Germany. Darius was reorganizing his government, decentralizing. He created 120 provinces with a ruler or “satrap” over each and he appointed 3 administrators to oversee the provincial rulers. Daniel was appointed one of those three. He was so good at his job that Darius was planning to put him over the whole government. The other satraps didn’t like it – they were jealous and they tried to catch Daniel in some indiscretion. During a year of non-stop political campaigns doesn’t that sound familiar? Dig up some dirt. Only they couldn’t find any dirt on Daniel. . . I’ll pick up the story at Daniel 6:4:
“They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
So the administrators and the satraps went as a group to the king and said: “O King Darius, live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered — in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
He ended up in the lions den but the lions didn’t touch him and the next morning he emerged without a scratch. Darius was so relieved and so impressed that he wrote an edict:
“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Amen Darius! As we watch the conventions, as we enter into the final months of this election, we need to remember who rules and we need to orient ourselves to the purposes of our God every day.
Every day three times a day Daniel would throw open his windows and face Jerusalem and pray to his God. He was orienting his heart to his God, filling himself up with the big picture of what God would ultimately do.
Daniel was hoping and praying that God would bring his people out of captivity back to the land of promise. But as you read through Daniel you can see that God wanted Daniel to have a bigger picture – he wanted him to look even beyond that event – to a greater day when a marvelous thing would take place – when God would place one like a son of man on his throne.
Daniel 7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
That’s Jesus. He’s been seated on the throne – he’s been given all the authority, all the power, to rule the earth. Every other authority, every other political entity is destined to pass away but the dominion of Jesus is destined to fill the earth. As believers in Jesus, we’re already living in his dominion. His kingdom, Jesus said, is among us. In us. And that means we have no reason to be afraid, no matter what happens in the world.
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