This has been an unprecedented week in America. No matter what one’s political persuasion, few, if any would have predicted that the President of the United States would orchestrate firing the CEO of General Motors. This really is change. It may not be the change many were expecting, but it is change. Some are no doubt asking about how much power can one person have? Is this new connection between the private business sector and government a good thing? At the moment, there are more questions than answers. While political activity and government initiatives are important, Christians must not lose sight of the real center of power. It is vital to keep a sharp focus regarding this pivotal point.
The Apostle Paul instructs that we pray for governing authorities in Timothy:
1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way… I Tim. 2:1-2 ESV
Notice how Paul says that we are to pray for leaders. He could have just used the word pray by itself. But he drives the point home by giving four words that indicate that considered, regular prayers be made for our leaders. I just want to look at one of those four ways – intercessions. Why would Paul want to pray for intercession for the Caesar’s who ruled Rome? At least one reason is that government leaders are not placed in power by their own will. (Romans 13:1) God placed them in their role as leaders.
Leaders may have schemed and maneuvered to attain their place of authority, but they serve at God’s pleasure, whether they recognize this truth or not. And if they fail to recognize they serve at the pleasure of God, they govern by pride. This is why Paul says we should intercede in prayer for our leaders. Leaders who are dominated by pride, as the Caesars were, are leaders who govern at their own peril. One result of this kind of leadership is that it will be more difficult for God’s people to lead a peaceful and quiet life, which is what Paul says we should be praying for.
Paul is urging Christians to remember who is really in charge, even if governing authorities appear to be able to do whatever they chose. Paul is saying to stay focused. God is in charge. The book of Daniel records the story of a king who became enamored of his own power and failed to acknowledge the rule of God. As he thought about his kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar had this thought:
“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:30 NIV
God responded while these words were still on the king’s lips. Nebuchadnezzar endured a time of great humiliation because of his pride. He thought that he was secure as he walked along the roof of his palace considering his kingdom. In this instance God chose to reinstate Nebuchadnezzar. However, for many other leaders he did not. The Caesar’s in particular often met violent ends to their rules. But, Nebuchadnezzar came to see the true power of God.
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:34-37 NIV
These words are instructive to the people of God throughout history. Our leaders serve at the decree of God. When Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity (reason in ESV) was restored he could see clearly Who was really in charge. These words in Daniel should bring great comfort to God’s people in troubling, unprecedented times. Things are not out of control. God’s power is not diminished. He is the same God who humbled Nebuchadnezzar and spoke the Universe into existence. We should continue to pray as Paul directs in I Timothy. Paul’s confidence came from his knowledge that he was speaking directly to the one Who is really in charge.
This post also appeared in the Shepherd Press Newsletter. Each week the newsletter has an article similar to this one about biblical perspectives on current events. The newsletter also has great specials on materials from Shepherd Press. If you would like to receive newsletter in your email you may subscribe to it here. The newsletter is a great way to introduce your friends and fellow church members to Shepherd Press.