I wrote the following article in 11/27/2000. A terrorist attack on American soil, a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the election of the first African-American president, the crash of Wall Street and an economic recession later, and where are we? Have things changed? In some ways. But in some very important ways, nothing has changed.
Leadership must always bear appropriate responsibility for the direction and outcomes of those whom it influences, but we should keep it all in perspective of a greater vision of history. Is God acting in and through these leaders and their decisions? What are His purposes? Does prayer make any difference in what happens or is political activity the real path to liberation?
Well, the 2000 Presidential election is finally over — in your dreams. Katherine Harris once again certified a winner in the Florida race, but Vice-President Gore had already indicated that he would continue to challenge the results until “the voice of the people is heard.” The election may be an election judge’s nightmare, but it is a media mogul’s fantasy – and just in time to rescue many journalists from unemployment lines following the millennium-mania of last year.
Many things must disturb any thinking Christian, from the ability to interpret a voter’s intent based on a dimpled chad, to the demonstrations of overly zealous political activists who seem to believe that their chanting (or ranting?) should affect vote tallies. But we should not allow political manipulations and maneuvers to subvert our faith in the sovereignty of the God who “rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:28).
Is this election important? We probably should not rank it in the top ten. Historically our nation has faced greater crises than some that loom on our immediate horizon. It is not unimportant, however. But then, what election of a national ruler ever is? Some critical issues await the attention of our 43rd President, issues that will have varying consequences for our future. And who knows what crisis may invade our national peace in the next four years?
But let’s put this election in its theological context. Regardless of who is inaugurated in January, 2001, he will be the man that God has sovereignly appointed to office. “But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another” (Ps. 75:7). “And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan. 2:21). No man ever has, or ever will, sit in the oval office whom God did not determine to sit there.
In times when rulers were determined by their genetic heritage rather than hand recounts, God demonstrated this authority. Nebudchadnezzar was probably the most powerful man in sixth century B.C. One day he awoke with a craving to eat grass like cattle and an uncontrollable urge to roam in the fields with the wild beasts. This mighty king entered into a phase of insanity, until he recognized “that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Dan. 4:25). When that time was complete, God restored Nebuchadnezzar to his throne, and the king acknowledged before God that “no one can ward off His hand, or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Dan. 4:35).
Another world-class ruler enjoyed the benefits of probably the most advanced civilization in history. Possessing enough political power to control any slave uprisings, why should he listen to the request of an elderly Hebrew misfit to allow these slaves to go into the wilderness to worship their God? God, however, had a plan for this arrogant and stubborn king. “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. . . . Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring the sons of Israel from their midst” (Ex. 7:3-5). Ten plagues later, this mocking monarch begged Israel to leave his land. Israel learned that “God removes kings and establishes kings.”
In our democratic society where government is designed to be participatory, have we learned that lesson yet? Perhaps we naively believe that our republic is a reflection of the heavenly form of government. That democracy is divinely established to replace unstable monarchies. That God does not need to intervene since the will of the voters is sufficient to preserve a stable society. That a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, will usher in the final kingdom (or, uh, republic? uh, democracy?)
God is in His holy temple. He is seated on His throne. He is not merely an observer to history. He is history’s author. All of history, including the vote count in Florida, is unfolding precisely as He has already determined that it should. Nothing will interfere with His plan. That is where we “strangers and aliens” should place our confidence. After all, the next four years are very temporal, and we are looking forward to the eternal government of our eternal King.
Followers of Christ should be active in government affairs. We bring a perspective to the table that citizens of this world only cannot offer. We should provide a view of justice and compassion that reflects the nature of our Creator. We can bring the kingdom of God, the character of God’s rule, to bear on all three branches of government.
Yet, we also bring a confidence in the course of history, regardless of what turn it takes. As we live with faith in a sovereign God and trust in His plan of redemptive grace, we should not worry or panic if crises explode. Let’s bring that faith to the table in the second decade of 2000.