Politics in the Bible

Expanding a point made in a recent post about God’s Supremacy [The Supreme God] I want to celebrate with you the place of God in politics, by showing you politics in the Bible.

God as the Ultimate Political Figure

Reading through Isaiah recently I was struck by the familiar words of Isaiah 66:1.

“Thus says the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me? And where is the place of my rest?”

I was reminded of Isaiah’s vision, described in Isaiah 6:1.

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.”

There is no more powerful political symbol than the throne. While some modern monarchs are reduced to a mere formal role in their society, the throne still bears the age-old significance of ultimate authority.

Of Thrones

The fact that God is seated on a throne immediately speaks of his political authority. Thrones are the places from which the rulers speak. It is their place of power over all in their dominion.

Yet thrones do not always prevail. That is to say that one kingdom will be overthrown by another and the old throne of authority will be displaced. This has been the process of history. Kingdoms come and go and kings reign for a season before being replaced by an alternative kingdom.

God’s Enduring Throne

The Bible tells us that God is on a throne. That throne is special in several ways. It is ‘supreme’ in several ways.

Firstly God’s throne is in heaven. His is not an earthly throne that draws its scope from earthly territory. God’s throne is in heaven, so its scope spreads from there. Earthly geography is just a small portion of the realm over which His throne presides.

Secondly, God’s throne is an eternal throne. It is not vulnerable nor will it ever be replaced by some competitor, or superior force from another land.

“Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of your kingdom is a right sceptre.” Psalm 45:6

Historical Evidence

God’s primacy as the supreme political force in human history should be evident in human history. If it cannot be seen in practice then its reality becomes irrelevant.

Do we see God interfering with human political process? Do we see God exercising His personal political authority over the political affairs of men?

The short answer is ‘Yes’. So let me summarise some of the historical evidences.

Confrontation of Rulers

We see that God’s people were able to confront kings and act completely independently of the prevailing political landscape. God’s people were able to defy kings and rulers, without resorting to violence and without recourse from those they confronted.

Consider the examples of Moses challenging Egypt’s Pharaoh and of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego defying Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar.

Pre-emptive Prophetic Announcement

To prove God’s hand in the political affairs of men we have several examples of God pre-emptively announcing what would happen politically in the future.

God told Abraham about the defeat of Egypt half a millennium before it happened. Daniel prophesied of Alexander the Great and his achievements before they occurred.

God gave Nebuchadnezzar a summary of world kingdoms and their relative significance spanning many centuries into the future.

The prophets warned Israel and Judah of their captivities long before the various invasions and conquests took place.

Present Day Evidences

Current evidence of God being still on the throne and supreme over the events of human politics includes the existence of the nation of Israel. Prophecies of this restoration, against all the odds of human history, were made in Bible times, dating back almost 2,000 years.

The existence of the political entity of Israel is clear evidence that God’s place over the affairs of nations persists to this day.

Another evidence is the persistent ability of righteousness to prevail. If God was not involved in the political affairs of present-day human experience then the opportunity for evil to prevail would be enormous. Yet we see that righteousness still prevails. Evil processes, regimes and purposes, while able to emerge for a season, are brought down and replaced by that which is more reasonable and blessed.

Good Men of Good Intent Still Prevail

Despite the enormous economic and political influence of those who wish to exploit, control and abuse others, men and women of good intent continue to prevail. People with nothing on their side but principle, faith and character have been able to topple regimes, change laws, liberate people and change culture.

This is evidence of God’s sovereignty. God promises His people that if they will do such inane acts (in apparent practical terms) as repent and pray, they will have power and influence over the affairs of life. These otherwise insignificant men and women can achieve much, and they still do today.

God is Still on the Throne

God is the Lord of all the earth. His throne is in heaven and His eyes are on the earth. Any one individual who will be God’s agent in any situation or culture can prevail against all the forces known to man.

No political power, economic contract or military infrastructure can overthrow God, nor can it frustrate the man or woman who is acting in God’s supreme authority in the affairs of mankind on the earth.

The Bible as a Political Text

The world has many celebrated political texts which illuminate various political perspectives. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a political treatise in story form. His “1984” is similarly charged with political messages. Hitler had his Mein Kampf. Marx relied on Darwin’s Origin of Species. Mao had his Little Red Book. Political texts come from the Greeks and Romans, along with many writings from before and since.

The Political Bible

But have you ever considered the Bible as a Political Text? I had never given the matter any thought until recently. I had unconsciously ascribed the Bible to the “Religion” Category. Many people who oppose the Bible are keen to promote it as nothing more than a book of religious sentiment. Sadly, unthinking Christians (and I include myself in this category) have allowed unbelievers to tell us how we can use the book God gave us.

Consider the Evidence

The Bible is the book from which a whole nation was governed for thousands of years. Did you get that word ‘governed’? The Bible supervised the Jewish nation through the stages of personal sovereignty, communal governance, prophetic leadership, judges, kings, priests and messianic ministry.

The Bible prescribes personal responsibility, communal accountability, leadership jurisdiction, limitations of power, prescribed punishments for crimes, payments of levies, interplay of priest and civic leaders, court procedures and so on.

And not only are these things discussed in practice and theory, they are demonstrated in the accounts of people’s lives.

Living in a Political World

Daniel and his three friends lived under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar and successfully confronted that king’s authority, relying on the principles given in the Bible.

Moses confronted the political power of Pharaoh, doing most of his business with that world ruler in Pharaoh’s own court.

Abraham dealt directly with the Abimelech (Canaanite leader) of his day, and so too did Isaac.

Jesus Christ was tried and crucified in the Roman courts and the Apostle Paul made many appearances before Roman appointed rulers.

The people of the Bible interacted with political powers and relied on the teachings of the Bible to empower them and to determine how they stood before those kings.

Some Amazing Political Statements

Consider this quick pick of hot political statements straight from the pages of the Bible.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” Jesus Christ, Mark 12:17

“Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.” Jesus Christ, John 19:11

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” 1Peter 2:17

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
Have Another Look

I trust that these few examples are enough to fire up your interest in the Bible as a Political Text. You just might be amazed at the political wisdom and the personal authority you can operate by, once you see what the Bible is really saying.

The Importance of Timing

There is a time for everything. So says Solomon in his supreme wisdom. Yet timing is a lost art for most people, especially in our opportunistic culture today. So, do you understand “times”? There’s a lot in the subject of time and timing. So this is just an introduction to the topic. You will remember that end time prophecies refer to such things as “time, times and half a time” (Daniel 12:7, Revelation 12:14).

Jesus knew the times and said of himself, “my time has not yet come” (John 7:6,8).

Members of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, Issachar, were noted for their ability to understand the times, thus knowing what Israel should do in various situations (1Chronicles 12:32). Knowing the significance of times and seasons enables people to make the right choice at the right time.

King Solomon gave us a poetic celebration of the reality of times and seasons.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The most sobering reflection on ‘time’ comes out of the life of Elisha, the powerful prophet of Israel, approx 850 years before Christ. After this man of God healed the Syrian leper, Naaman, he declined to accept the lavish and valuable gifts offered him by the grateful military captain. Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, however, had no qualms about getting a share of the goods and so he secretly went to Naaman and asked for some of the booty, which Naaman happily gave him. When Gehazi returned to his post Elisha challenged him, since the prophet knew by divine revelation what Gehazi had done.

Significant in Elisha’s challenge to Gehazi is the issue of ‘timing’.

“And Elisha said to him, Didn’t my heart go with you when the man (Naaman) turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive-yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” 2Kings 5:26

Elisha knew something about timing that Gehazi did not know. It was not the right time to get wealth. Gehazi’s problem was not greed, nor deception, but ignorance of the time in which he was living.

Now, considering how vital timing is in such a case, how well are we acquainted with timing and seasons in our lives? I suspect that most of us think opportunity is all that is required. If there is an opportunity to get something then the opportunity speaks for itself. Many people end up in some kind of curse, just as Gehazi did, when they act without regard for the times and seasons.

I suggest we all need to be much more prayerful and sensitive to times and seasons. We need to seek God for insight and revelation about how times and seasons impact our lives. Let’s do that and stay in step with what God is doing in us and our community, and the world at large.