April 16, 2020 – The Lord Reigns, Praise His Holy Name- Psalm 97

jesus reigns

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness,and all peoples see his glory.              

All who worship images are put to shame,those who boast in idols—worship him, all you gods! 

Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, Lord.

For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.  Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,and praise his holy name.           Psalm 97 (ESV)

The Lord reigns.  Let that one sink in. Governments and authorities are comprised of people like us-people who are sinful and fallible and often self serving. Distrust of elected officials on both sides of the political fence is at an all time high in these trying times for a variety of reasons, some more sound than others.  “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save, (Psalm 146:3) is timeless advice.  We should be informed regarding public policy and events. We have not only a right but an obligation to question those in power, and to expect informed and truthful answers from them.

Even when it appears that those in power may be operating out of evil motives, our judgments are biased and not always correct. We should respectfully listen to and consider views that are contrary to our own even when we do not or cannot agree with them. Wrong decisions can be made with the right intentions and in good faith. Right decisions can appear to be wrong in the moment, but can end up being right in the long term.

As Americans in this representative republic, we need to ask questions and to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and the impact their decisions have upon those they serve. Part of the reason why corruption and graft are so deeply ingrained in our current federal, state and local governments is because individuals do not ask the hard questions and do not demand accountability from our elected officials.

All who worship images are put to shame,those who boast in idols—worship him, all you gods! 

It is also easy for Christians to have a distorted view of the left hand kingdom (civil government,) either trusting in it as if it were an idol, giving it entirely too much power, or distancing themselves completely from civil discourse because “politics is a dirty business.”  For the time being, we live with one foot in each kingdom, which requires that we have the obligations of being a citizen of both.

We must be mindful of the Fourth Commandment’s requirement to honor the authorities placed over us. Good government is certainly a gift from God.  At the same time, the Nuremberg Defense (Befehl ist Befehl) is not a valid defense for a Christian.   To say, “I was only following orders,” when complying with a man made law that contradicts God’s laws is wrong.

The left hand kingdom is still subject to the sovereignty of Jesus, even if we have a hard time seeing the hand of God when officials display corrupt motives and wrong actions.  God can use even what seem to be the worst decisions at the moment for our ultimate good. With the perspective of hindsight we can see that even Pontius Pilate’s decisions and actions had a place in God’s good plan for us.

We must trust in the ultimate sovereignty of God, but at the same time, we cannot remain silent in the face of corruption, injustice, graft and wrong decisions.

Christians should be involved in political discourse. We back down from the public square to our peril and to the peril of our neighbors.  We must hold authorities accountable especially when their actions and policies are doing harm. Jesus Himself had no problem upturning the tables in the temple when the vendors were ripping people off.   However, we must engage in political discourse with the understanding that everyone involved in government, including ourselves, is a fallible, sinful human being. We can’t be as convinced as Jesus was in the righteousness of our motive or in the nobility of our cause.

 

The desire for control is written into each of our sinful natures.  The temptation of the Garden was the serpent whispering to Eve, “you will be like God.” The abuse of power and control is a tremendous temptation for those in authority.  Likewise the governed can have a rebellious nature against legitimate authorities, even when they should respect the authorities.

We come back to the Psalmist’s prayer: Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.  Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.

It can be difficult to trust that God is in control even in the midst of trying times and in situations where public discourse can be intentionally inflammatory and plagued with misinformation or lack of information. It can be difficult to love and to be at peace with people we disagree with.  We pray that the Holy Spirit would bring us to a place in which we can work together for the common good and have peaceful discourse even when we disagree.  We pray that we would trust Jesus and know that He is truly the one in control- not us, not civil government, or any other entity.

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