Christianity 201

July 16, 2019

Pray for Authorities

by Russell Young

The Scriptures tell believers to pray for their leaders. “I urge you, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim 2:1− 3)

We live in a partisan world, but it has always been so. In spite of this, Paul admonished believers to hold up their leaders, not because they agree with them, but that they could live peaceful, godly, and quiet lives. Prayers ought not to be dependent upon the persuasions of those in authority and their political aspirations, they are to be in pursuit of our peace and godliness and the Lord has placed all authorities in their positions.

Paul’s words are challenging. It is hard to pray for those in power especially when they appear to attack the things that we value. However, the prayers of the righteous are to achieve God’s objectives. Unless the throne of grace is approached a lack of interest in our condition, and for his glorification within our countries, is demonstrated.

Hosea has revealed the Lord’s judgment against the leaders and the people of Israel. He stated, “A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD. Israel’s arrogance testifies against them.” (Hos 5:4−5) The “spirit of prostitution” was the spirit that permitted their lives to be lived according to their own unholy interests and practices. They deemed themselves to be ‘captains of their own ships.” In their arrogance they felt no need for the one who had guided and protected them for so many years but rested in their own abilities and life choices. The LORD noted, “I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.” (Hos 5:12) In their distress the tribes of Israel had sought help from Assyria while ignoring God. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face—in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (Hos 5:13−15) Throughout their history the sovereignty of the LORD had been ignored or challenged. The Israelites and the leaders during Hosea’s time had dismissed him as one to be honored. They had lost sight of their holy and loving God and no longer considered him to be of relevance in their lives.

Before transferring his kingship to his son Solomon, King David exercised poor judgment bringing deadly consequences for many in the nation of Israel. He effectively dismissed the might of his God and had presumed that the power and protection of God’s chosen people rested in themselves. He commanded that a census be made of his fighting men. He had forgotten that the LORD was his strength even through he had been throughout their history. The consequence did not fall on David alone however, it fell on the nation. The death of many by the plague rested on those that David called his “sheep.” (2 Sam 24:15) They had to bear the consequence of their leader’s decision.

Our authorities are part of our national body and have been put in place by God for the achievement of his agenda. Prayers and petitions for authorities need not be directed for partisan political purposes but for enhancement of the Lord’s kingdom within our own nations. Through the affirmation of his rule believers can enjoy peace and a godly state.

We do not need to use the weapons of those around us to influence policies; the option of prayer is a much greater power than is often appreciated. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:3−4) Authorities need the wisdom of God in this complicated and perverse world and they need to be provided insight from the one who has it.

God’s people should not take his blessings upon their nation as something deserved. He finds pleasure in the humble, in those who recognize his majesty and authority and who come before him with a contrite heart and for the pursuit of his purposes. Even David, a man after his own heart, lapsed into failure and brought condemnation on his people.

Paul wrote that “men are without excuse. For although they knew God (through his creation), they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom 1:20−21) Perhaps the godlessness that has invaded our nations is the result of his “turning his back” on the nations because he has been neglected by those in authority and by those who can enlist the divine power to destroy strongholds.

Those who want to see just, righteous, and godly government and who want to live in peace need to take greater ownership in their national development before he “returns to his lair” and they are condemned to bear their guilt before seeking his face—and in their misery earnestly seek him. The halls of power are not so far away that they cannot be influenced by the Lord Almighty through prayer. “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2) We have not been commanded to agree with our leaders and their values, but we have been commanded to pray for them so that we might live in peace and godliness.

Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.

August 19, 2014

A Message to Prime Ministers, Presidents and Kings

We continue today with weekly contributor Clarke Dixon.  You can also read this at his blog by clicking the title below:

Biblical Message to World Rulers: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Reflections on Psalm 2

There is no shortage of rulers, now, and in recent memory, who have plunged or kept the people under their care into darkness. We think of Bin Laden and the recruitment of people into lives of terror. We think of the Taliban and remember the dismal treatment of women. We think of Boko Haram and the atrocities committed of late. We think of those associated with the new “Islamic State” and the reports of beheadings, kidnappings, forced conversions, and executions. Already the rulers of these organizations are responsible for thousands dead and thousands more living in terror this year. But we can also look back to other atrocities within living memory. There is Hitler responsible for 10 million deaths, 6 million of which were Jews, and we are not even counting those who died in battle from the war he started. Stalin is said to be responsible for 7-13 million dead, some say much more. Mao is said to be responsible for 40-50 million dead. How many more lived, but lived in terror? These rulers and all like them have something in common beyond being responsible for plunging people into darkness: they are mentioned in the Bible. Consider:

1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3 NRSV)

These verses originally speak to the rulers surrounding Israel in Old Testament times, and the “anointed” referred to the earthly king of Israel. But they also point to Jesus Christ as true King, and to rulers throughout all of history and even today who operate in ways that are far from the Kingdom ways of the Lord. No thought is given by all such rulers to the possibility that Jesus Christ is “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16) and that they are subject to His rule. They are expected to follow Christ as they lead others.

Since Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, He has the right, in fact the obligation, to execute justice with regards to those who rule:

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:4-9 NRSV emphasis mine)

Revelation makes the connection between Psalm 2 and Jesus quite clear:

15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:15-16 NRSV emphasis mine)

Keep reading in Revelation and you will learn what happens next to “the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty” (v18). It is not pretty.

Can you imagine that day, when the each ruler of the earth will stand before the judgement seat of Christ to give an account for how they ruled? Can you imagine the questions that will be posed to them?

  • Why did you not follow Me? Why did you not follow the example I set of servant leadership? I am the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. Why did you not do likewise?
  • Why did you not lead people to Me? Is it not your duty as a leader, as a shepherd, to lead your people to greener pastures? Why did you instead plunge them into darkness?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice the greener pastures? Did you not see the positive impact My people have had in the world, wherever they have been truly following Me?
  • Why are you making excuses? Did you not notice how people have been following Me for many, many, many generations. Did you seriously think Christianity was just a passing fad? Did it never cross your mind that maybe your rule and your cause was the passing fad?
  • Did you stop to consider the positive impact upon your people had you drawn close to Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibilities.
  • Did you stop to consider the eternal implications for you in your relationship with Me? The potential was too profound to ignore the possibility.
  • Did you put any effort at all into exploring the evidence for My claim to being your Lord? Did you ponder the evidence for the truth of Christianity? As a leader, ought you not to have taken a lead in the most important questions ever asked?

Can you imagine it? And can you imagine what would happen if rulers everywhere would seriously explore the Christian faith? Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if rulers everywhere would repent from their sins and turn to the Lord following the example of the Good Shepherd who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NRSV)?

Final questions: Are you aware that you have people in your realm of influence? Are you aware that you may be considered a ruler of this earth? Are you aware that those same questions could be posed to you?

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12 kiss his feet,
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:10-12 NRSV)

Let us pray for those who are living in darkness. Let us pray for the rulers who plunge or keep their people in darkness. Let us be encouraged that this world’s story is far from over and that darkness will give way to light. Let us pray that we will serve well, whenever and wherever we reign, and that in doing so we will reflect light into the lives of our families, friends, and enemies.