Friday, March 19, 2004

1 Timothy -- Passing the Baton (5)

This November every newspaper in this country will have a headline that reads, "<P> WINS" where <P> will probably be one of Bush, Kerry, or Nader. It is a good bet that at least one of these names is bad news for you. Bush supporters dread Kerry/Nader. Kerry/Nader supporters dread Bush. What are you going to do if your man loses? What are you going to do if he wins? Let me suggest these next words of Paul:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

It is amazing to me how much God takes credit and responsibility for those who govern the world? The book of Daniel maps out the broad sweep of human empires that all work the purposes of God. While those kings basked in their victories and spoils, the Lord moved His purposes forward:

  1. Before the Babylonian invasion, Nebuchadnezzar carted off the young royals from Jerusalem and brought them into his court. Among them was Daniel, who eventually came to be almost second in command. Daniel would later provide inspiration and protective oversight for those whom Nebuchadnezzar would exile.
  2. A few years later, Nebuchadnezzar carted off another 10,000 Jews. These were craftsmen and builders. They came to Babylon and built communities. Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah provided encouragement to this group.
  3. A few years later, Nebuchadnezzar demolished Jerusalem and deported its people. Thanks to the earlier deportations, there were communities that could receive the refugees.
  4. The consequence of all this is the purging from the Jews of their persistent idolatry. The majority of the Jews since then have been solidly monotheistic and zealous for the true and living God.
  5. So the Medean/Persian empire came next to return the Jews to their land and fund the rebuilding of the city and temple.
  6. Alexander the great conquered the world and made Greek the common language. He also inspired more widespread search for knowledge. Although he died, the presence of a universal business language encouraged the Jews to translate their Scriptures into Greek. For the first time, the Scriptures were available in a broadly known language. Many Gentiles began to pursue a knowledge of God. This is why, when you read the book of Acts, that every synagogue that Paul preached in contained a number of "godly Gentiles."
  7. Then Rome came and built roads and established the Pax Romana--Roman Peace. At this time, Jesus came, died and rose from the dead. The gospel could spread rapidly because of the roads, relatively safe travel, and the Greek language.

So you can see that for all the externals, the Lord is constantly moving forward His program for the salvation of the world. Many times His people were caught in the momentous events and suffered. But He is always with His people who trust Him.

Although we should note and praise the broad sweeps of historical destiny, Paul directs us to pray that those in authority enable us to "lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity." In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, it is the Hobbits who represent this truth. They are the ones who lead such lives, often unaware of the protecting services of Gandalf and the Rangers. 

So you can see from the persistent move of history, that the road for the gospel continues to open and widen. There will come a day, when we all will be able to live Hobbit lives. For now, there is work to do. God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. In terms of nations, tribes, and tongues, we are nearing its fulfillment.

Will it be Bush or Kerry? At one level, the result matters. I do not deny the fundamental differences between these two men. But I am confident of this. The man in office a year from now will be the one who will move the Lord's ultimate plan forward. It matters not whether the man makes it easier or harder for us to lead Christian lives. He, like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Darius, Alexander and his 4 generals, and the Caesars move at the direction of God to work His purposes on the earth.

Does this not deserve our entreaties, prayers, petitions, and thanskgiving?

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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