I simply can’t recall a time when the political world has seemed so crazy. Life has quietened down somewhat since the referendum result but there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about the future make-up of Great Britain, the relationship with the rest of Europe and whether one of our main political parties will crash out of existence. But we’ve been able to leave that aside over the last couple of weeks in order to watch (whilst perhaps covering our eyes) the conventions from across the Atlantic. I’m somewhat relieved I don’t have a vote in this one. From a Christian perspective where you have one candidate saying appalling things about abortion and another candidate saying appalling things about everything else then it is not a great choice to have.
All of this has made an interesting background to my ongoing reading of 1 Kings. I was in chapter 12 earlier this week where we read of the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms. At one level this is down to a piece of crass political stupidity on the part of Rehoboam who ignores the advice of his elders and exploits the people with forced labour. No wonder they rebel. But the division of the Kingdom is not simply a result of Rehoboam’s actions. The Lord stands behind it: “So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfil the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.” (v.15)
Dale Ralph Davis has been an enjoyable companion on my journey through 1 Kings and I particularly appreciated his comment on that verse, which feels somewhat timely: “Contrary to our fears, human stupidity is not running loose but is on the leash of God’s sovereignty. I think that bears a relation to my sanity.” Whether it is Brexit, Corbyn, Trump or Clinton, nothing is outside the sweep of the sovereignty of God. That is good news.
Yet I think we need to say something else. On the morning after the referendum result my Facebook feed was full of people who were very cross and Christians affirming the Lordship of Christ and the sovereignty of God over all things. Sometimes those groups overlapped! The points made were true enough. However, we should not read God’s sovereignty in terms of a guarantee that everything will go smoothly for us and our country. We need to note an uncomfortable reality. In 1 Kings and the rest of Scripture the Lord’s sovereignty is used to humble nations as much as it is to bless them. Yes- God is sovereign over referenda and presidential elections but He will sometimes use them to bring a nation down.
Let’s be honest- He would have just cause. We recently looked at Zechariah 9 as a church which starts with God humbling proud nations. European and American culture has increasingly stressed its independence from God and His laws in its proud self-sufficiency. We are ripe for judgement and humbling.
It is probably too early to say whether that is what the Lord is doing at the moment. After all perhaps Brexit will lead to a nation bathing in sunshine and Donald Trump will be regarded in history as a great and wise President. But we do know that God has humbled nations throughout history and it is not inconceivable He is doing that now.
If God does humble our countries then what does the Christian do? We acknowledge that it may be painful. There may be economic consequences and perhaps a sense of the countries we live in being smaller and less significant. That may involve a removal of some of our nationalistic pride which probably wouldn’t be bad for us- it is always a slightly odd thing for Christians to indulge in. But in the midst of that we will trust a sovereign God and believe that He is acting justly and wisely. And we will humble ourselves before Him asking that in wrath He would remember mercy.