Things to Remember in 2021
My prayer for our nation’s next leaders (plural) is that they will remember the words of Jesus to Pilate in John 19.11: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
God revealed through the prophet Daniel long ago that, “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setters up over it the basest of men…” (Daniel 2.21; 4.17,25; 5.21). They can administer justice as many past rulers have, despite the amoral conditions at the time of their tenure. They can execute or pervert justice, refuse or accept a bribe. They can judge according to appearance or judge with righteous judgment (John 7.24). If their desire for the office is honorable, they can set their hearts to seek God. The results will be found more so in the moral arena of society than in the economic realm. If not, they will expedite the wrath of God upon themselves and this nation. Two passages need to be “frontlets for their eyes”:
Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.
The wicked shall be turned into hell,
and all the nations that forget God.
God has declared to mankind in his word, his righteousness and what is sinful. May we accept his word on both. The people of Israel were given this advice by Moses: “You shall not give a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked person to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the crowd in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to join together with a crowd in order to pervert justice; nor shall you show favor to a poor person in his dispute…you shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Exodus 23.1-3,6-7).
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not distort justice, you shall not show partiality; and you shall not accept a bribe, because a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16.18-19).
Christians are to exemplify this life before their fellow citizens: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” (2 Peter 2.13-17).
Finally, God’s people need to remember this admonition, also from the apostle Peter; “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4.17).
Remembering the words of Jesus to Pilate in John 19.11 is fitting for every member in the Lord’s church: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Authority belongs to God. Man’s authority is only as God “gives” from above. Let us praise the God who provided and accomplished our salvation in spite of the hatred and opposition from the majority of mankind throughout the centuries.
He will work redemption upon the earth (Psalm 74.12). Yet, as was true in Moses’ day, the world will never understand that what happens in life is as God’s judgments direct. Let us be thankful for these judgments of God, for they are the means whereby he accomplishes redemption in the heart of man. As Isaiah said, “…for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26.9). The manner in which God sets up and removes human authority spans generations. Remember the 430 years for the iniquity of the Amorites to reach its fullness (Genesis 15.16)? Remember the Pharaoh of Moses’ day (Romans 9.17)? God was not idle during this time, but working his will.
Finally, my prayer for each of us is that we will daily remember and be strengthened in our faith by the words of the prophet Isaiah: “‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, and the unrighteous person his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it produce and sprout, and providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so will my word be which goes out of my mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.’” (Isaiah 55.6-11).