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 Potency of Kings

Kings have authority and potency. That is why they are called ‘potentates‘. They wield authority over their domain and go to war with other kings to gain or preserve territory and authority.

Kings possess inherent qualities of authority. That authority has been expressed to the degree of the ‘divine right of kings’, which suggests that their superiority is divinely endowed.

King Solomon attested to the potency of kings when he declared…

“Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say to him, What are you doing?” Ecclesiastes 8:4

Where am I going with this? I am not here to tell you that kings have authority. What I want you to see is that people who are doing the will of God have authority that is equal to that of kings. So I’m pointing out that kings have quite some authority. Kings can virtually do as they please, and no-one can challenge them. Yet the same is true of the truly godly who are fulfilling the will of God in their lives.

Now, before you head off to defy authority, let me say again that what makes men equal to kings is that they are about their heavenly father’s business. You will not get to a place where you can defy authority just for the sake of doing your own thing. But if you are God’s man (so to speak), doing what God has called you to do, His way, then you can do business with kings, as an equal.

Let me show you several evidences of this in the Bible.

Abraham rescued the whole city of Sodom when it was captured by invading armies. Following the rescue the King of Sodom came to Abraham to offer him a handsome reward. Abraham flatly refused to take it, saying he did not want it said that Sodom had contributed to his wealth (see Genesis 14:1-24).

Abraham dealt with the King of Sodom, not as a lesser man who relied on the King’s graces, but as a man at least equal to the King, who would act as he so chose. Later Abraham proved to be of a higher authority than the King of Sodom when God allowed Abraham to negotiate for the city, but God did not even consider giving such a privilege to the King of Sodom.

Later we see Abraham doing business with a king of the Philistines. We know of this king as Abimelech, which is a dynastic title, like the title Pharaoh in Egypt. God told Abimelech that Abraham was God’s man and he was not to do him any harm. Abraham had no qualms in rebuking this king when his men stole wells from Abraham.

Rather than being in awe of kings, Abraham knew his own place as God’s servant and that he could go about his own business independently of the rulers of the land.

We later see Moses challenging Egypt’s Pharaoh with the same disregard for that king’s earthly authority. Moses had been sent by God and so he acted as an equal, or even a better than Pharaoh, going boldly into his presence to do business with him.

Yet again, even in the trial of Jesus Christ by Pilate, the delegated Roman ruler of Palestine at that time, Jesus declared that the only authority Pilate had over him was what God allowed.

“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.” John 19:11

As you grow in your godly authority be aware that the time may come when you will stand before kings, not as a menial whom they wish to deal with as they will, but as an equal, or indeed even as one who has power over them. This is as it has always been.

Do not despise the authority of kings, for it represents the authority you may one day have as you pursue God’s purposes in your generation.

Any Old Bush Will Do

At Bible College in New Zealand in the late 1970’s I was advised to read Major Ian Thomas’ book, “The Saving Life of Christ”, and in particular, his chapter titled “Any Old Bush Will Do”. I followed that advice and am so glad I did.

Let me share with you some of the significant impact of that chapter.

Major Thomas deals with the life of Moses, pointing out that he had every advantage to prepare him to be the Lord’s servant. He was raised with all the wisdom of Egypt. In terms of worldly preparation he was about as equipped as a natural man could be to do just about anything on the planet.

Moses was also prepared by his spiritual heritage to be a deliverer of the Israelites. Yet when Moses stepped out to do his thing, going to the aid of a fellow Israelite by killing an Egyptian, his whole life fell into a heap. Instead of being a deliverer he became a fugitive. Instead of rallying all his resources to serve God, he proved that he had nothing to offer, despite all that he had gained.

Moses burned out in one short blaze of emotion. At age forty, with decades of supreme preparation equipping him to be a leader par excellence, Moses burned it all in one hasty action.

For the next forty years of his life Moses was on the back-side of the desert, in Midian, looking after sheep in a remote wilderness region. He lost the dainty delicacies of Pharaoh’s household. He lost the pomp and circumstance of his stately position. He lost contact with the people he had hoped to save. He also lost his arrogance and even his self-confidence to be of any use at all.

Then he saw that bush. There, on the side of a mountain, was a bush that just kept on burning. It caught his attention until he could not resist going to inspect this phenomenon. What was it with this bush that it didn’t just become a heap of dusty ash? How could this miserable, scrubby bush blaze on with such persistence, for such a long time?

Moses had burned out in one blaze of failure. This bush burned and burned and burned. It was not burnt out in an instant, even though that what we would expect from a bush in the wilderness.

When Moses approached the bush, God called to Him from the flames and changed the entire direction of his life. Moses, the one-time self-assured and self-proclaimed agent of God, was now standing face to face with the presence of God. And in that blazing presence God gave him the commissioning that was all divine, and not motivated by the human breast.

Ian Thomas imagines a conversation between God and Moses, in which God answers the question that must have been in Moses’ mind. How could a bush of no real substance burn with such enduring flame and persistent blaze? What did that bush possess that it could perform as no other bush could?

God’s reply is, “Do you see that bush over there? That scruffy, scraggy looking thing – THAT bush would have done. Do you see this beautiful looking bush, so stately and fine – THIS bush would have done. For you see, Moses, any old bush will do – ANY old bush – if only God is in the bush!”

“Moses you learned all of Egypt’s wisdom and became confident in yourself. You thought you were some bush! But you burned out and have been a heap of ashes for 40 years.”

“If this bush that you admire were dependent on its substance to keep burning it would have burned out in no time – it would be a heap of ashes like you. But it is not the bush that sustains the flame, it is God in the bush, and so ANY old bush will do!”

Major Thomas points out that many of God’s men were prepared by failure. Their failure disconnected them from self-reliance. It was almost a pre-requisite, to erase self-confidence and ready them for reliance on God. So, even failure is not a problem for God. Rather, it is part of the preparation program.

Have you notched up a failure or two? Have you been faced with the cold reality of your limitations and ineptitude? Have you managed to burn yourself out in a short-lived blaze of hopeful ambition?

If so, then you are ready to go to the burning bush. You are ready for that life-changing revelation that it is not the bush that does the job, but God who empowers the bush. It is God who works in us, both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

I have met some strange bushes in my day. Often those bushes are treated with suspicion by on-lookers. Even now there are people who are offended at Todd Bentley and the Lakeland, Florida Revival, since Todd and his team don’t match people’s expectations. I have met people who seem too pompous and others who seem too uncouth. I have met people who are too lacking in culture and education and others who are too preoccupied with both. Yet I have seen God move through all kinds of bushes.

You may be the strangest bush ever created, but if God is empowering you and burning through you, then you can have as much impact on a nation or generation as that simple bush had on Moses and the nation of Israel 3,500 years ago.

Revelation of God

If you were raised in the fear of some idolatrous and despotic deity how would that affect your understanding of the true and Living God? If you only knew of gods as demanding, enslaving, capricious and cruel would you readily understand the God who is “love”?

I was recently blessed by the testimony of Meng, a lovely woman of God who helped me focus these thoughts. I asked her for her notes so I could share her thoughts with you and spring into some of my own observations as well.

She shared something of her testimony recently and drew attention to Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (See Matthew 16:13-19). The significance for her is that her own vision of God has had to be expanded, progressively over the years, to open her heart and understanding to the wonder of the God who is her Father. We all have a head knowledge of who God is and can recite some of His numerous titles. In response to the question of who Jesus is, we could all say, “Messiah”, “King of Kings”, “Saviour” and so on. Yet we could easily say those things out of head knowledge, like facts learned for a school exam, rather than truths that burn deep into us.

Peter had a revelation of who Jesus is. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. And Jesus commended Peter for receiving ‘revelation’, since such knowledge of Christ came from God, not from Peter’s own analysis or his discussions with others.

Now, in Meng’s case, having come from an Asian religious background, her understanding of God was tainted by her existing concepts of what a deity is. She described her situation quite poetically, in the allegory of serving the gods of Egypt in her former life of slavery to sin. I let you read it as she put it.

“Before I came into the Kingdom of God, I served under the gods of this world. I was in bondage in Egypt and I served under the god, Pharaoh. As his slave I had to work long and hard to please my master and when I didn’t work hard enough, Pharaoh, my taskmaster, would punish me. I was made to feel guilty and I was compared to others who outperformed me. My god was my taskmaster. I had to work for acceptance – and although I worked very hard for it I still didn’t get it. No matter how hard I worked, it was never enough – my only reward was to work harder. That was all I knew about god and gods.

When I was set free from Egypt, I brought the same concept of God out with me. I left the slavery of Egypt but I still have traces of Egypt in the way I live in the promise land.”

Meng testified to how she has lived under a performance syndrome, having to push herself to do her best, in the vain quest for acceptance. As a Christian she continued with the impetus to please God, as if He too demanded excessive striving before He would accept her.

What set Meng free from that former concept of God were the truth of God’s Word and an ever deepening revelation of God. Isaiah 55:1 blessed her as it reveals how God’s wonderful graces and abundant benefits don’t come because we can earn them. Christ in us makes us acceptable to God, not our own vain efforts.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit and the showering of God’s love in her heart (Romans 5:5) have been rich healing streams, releasing her to embrace the revelation of God as her ‘papa’ who she can snuggle close to, just as a child would to her daddy. Relationship is replacing performance. Being a child of God and a ‘friend’ of God (as Moses was) are transforming revelations. Being the bride to our heavenly bridegroom, Jesus, is also a strong relationship revelation. And in it all Meng is enjoying an ever deepening hunger to know God, to enjoy a powerful revelation of who He is and to go into richer and sweeter relationship with Him.

So, who do you say that Jesus is?

Notice that Peter’s heightened revelation of Christ resulted in him being given new destiny. Jesus blessed Peter and prophesied great authority for him. That’s what comes from an increasing revelation of God. We are transformed by every new insight we have into who God is.

The surest way for you to become like Christ and to be transformed from the inside out is to get a clearer and deeper revelation of God. Those old religious ideas may have become a strong-hold in your heart and mind. I have met people who can only think of God as a fearsome God of judgement. They cannot accept the truth of God’s love and grace.

Your past concepts of who and what God is may well be robbing you of your spiritual growth. And your ideas of what a father is, based on your childhood experiences, may also be blocking your acceptance of God as a loving Heavenly Father. The false teachings of various groups may have infected your thinking.

I recommend that you read the Bible with eyes to see the rich depth of God’s reality and the awesome grace and love which He possesses, along with His holiness, authority and power. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and relationship with God is the outcome of His salvation. I pray that you, like Meng, have an ever increasing longing for intimacy with the God of all eternity.