Summer Question #11
2007 #10: Evil Rulers
Proverbs 8:15, "By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice."
Today's Question: "God says that no ruler has been placed in charge of any entity without His express approval. How can this fact be reconciled with the vast number of vicious, cruel tyrants whom have persecuted the human race down through history (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Amin, Pot)."
I know I said last week that #9 was the last of the questions, but it is still Summer, and more came in. So we have the above question that I really don't wish to answer. This is, of course, all the more reason to take a stab at it, but my fear in answering it is that if I am honest in my response, I will be out of accord of much of current thought among Evangelicals. I am not sure what to do, but we Evangelicals (I include myself) have a fairly low view of the glory, majesty, and complete otherness of the God we worship. We are so prone to ascribe Him much less Sovereignty than He has. We are prone to think less of God than the Bible thinks of God. The question did not supply a verse, but I have supplied a verse above that seems to fit. Multiple verses could be supplied that tell us that rulers - righteous and unrighteous - have their authority, at the end of the day, from God.
God makes kingdoms, and brings them to an end at His pleasure. The rise and fall of Babylon in the Old Testament is attributed to the pleasure of the Lord alone. We cannot read the prophets in the Old Testament and not see clearly that the Lord's hand is in the establishment, sustaining, and demise of kingdoms, and that all this is done according to His will. Tyrants do arise, and God knows them, sees what they do. As we see in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, God put him in place for the distinct reason of punishing His people. The actions of a tyrant are displeasing to the Lord. The things they do are wrong, and the Lord is displeased, and does not approve of what they do. It is an affront to God, but He uses such means for the correction of His people. We don't think in terms like this anymore, but it is impossible to study, with integrity, the Old Testament from Isaiah to Malachia, and not see that God has used tyrants to punish and wake up His slumbering people. Again, we much prefer the gentile Jesus in a manger, who is all loving, and full of forgiveness to all who come seeking mercy, and we should always hold to this. However, let us not forget that this is not the only revelation of the character of God we have been given in the Bible. God has a history of punishing those who rebel against Him, and the New Testament revelation of this aspect of the character of God is consistent with the revelation we find in the Old Testament.
We have to see the hand of God, and acknowledge it, in all the calamities that befall our culture or us. I know this does not sit well with many, but the alternative is a world spinning out of control, and a god that, while he created it, is helpless to prevent evils. In our own lives, seeing the hand of God in the death of a spouse, death of a child, or car accident is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do. We have to remember Jeremiah 10:23, "I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps." Or, let us remember Job, who having lost his wealth, health, and all his children, says to his wife in Job 2:10, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" He here directly attributes adversity in his life to God, and as the same verse continues, a commentary on his words is added, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips."
Jobs words were true, and it is a mindset and attitude that most of us can only strive towards. It is hard to accept pain as coming from the Lord. Let us seek with Job to freely take our complaints and griefs before the Lord in prayer, but never let us make our complaints against God. As hard as it is to write, it can only be true that while we long for the favor, love, and mercy of God, we also must submit to His will, and shut our hearts and voice from complaining.
I know this is hard for many to agree with. I submit what I written to your consideration. I do feel that many of us should seek to focus more on repenting than complaining in our interactions with God. We are prone to forget or even fail to understand who it is with whom we gripe. It is not our world. It is God's world, and He has been merciful to us. He has been ever-patient with our continued excursions into sin. When we are in affliction, or when we see affliction in the world, in our communities, and families, it is a time for us to consider our ways, that we might correct what is amiss, repent, and amend our thoughts, conduct, and desires for the future.
Soli Deo Gloria,