In a crowded seminary class, the guy beside me started questioning the professor about his encouragement to preach through books of the Bible. The professor, ever the southern gentleman, responded with grace and patience. But the third time the student pressed, the professor sprung off his stool and told the student directly, “Who are you to tell the Holy Spirit what to do?” I slid my chair to the side, away from the now rebuked classmate, and had nightmares for weeks.
I relay this story because, like many of us, I have wrestled with how to respond to last week's events. Most of us were grieved as we saw a mob storm into our capitol. I grappled with what to preach this past Sunday. Do I press on in working through Daniel or break my plan to preach something directly about the events of this week? There was a strong temptation to go looking for a text that would let me address issues head-on. However, as I worked my way through the next section of Daniel in which Nebuchadnezzar has his terrorizing dream, one verse, 4:17, stood out to me. This verse gives you why Nebuchadnezzar was going to be struck mad and would act like an animal for a season. It was so that people would know that the Lord is the one who appoints the leaders of this world. How appropriate a text for a country sharply divided over its present and soon to be leaders. The Holy Spirit had prepared the right text for my congregation. It was one that did not give prophetic vision to address the day's issues, but a text that reminded us of a fundamental and straightforward truth. The Lord rules this world. This is what we needed to hear.
The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. - Daniel 4:17
This truth seems simplistic. God is in control. While we want more answers to questions about the hows and whys of God’s plan, this is enough to give us peace and strengthen our faith. This basic and simple truth of the Scripture puts us on solid ground so we can stand in a world turned upside down.
Now is a time that Christians must stand firm on the foundational truths found in the Bible's theology. Consider what the Catechism teaches us:
Q. 11. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
The world has gone mad! We find ourselves starting 2021 still in a pandemic, still dealing with political unrest and cultural wars. What are we to do? We must stand on the truth we already know! We do not seek a new answer from the Bible. We stand on the clear and essential truth. God is in control. We need to remember the truths our church was built on and go forward from that great foundation.
Many have been terrified of Donald Trump in office, and others are frightened of Joe Biden coming into office. If you are a Christian, you need to remember your theological foundation of who controls this world. You need to believe and trust what we see here in Daniel 4:17. It is the Most High that rules the kingdom of men, and He gives leadership to whom He will. It is not ultimately foreign interference, voter fraud, Big Tech, or minority groups that put a man or woman in our White House. These are secondary means that God uses to execute His holy, perfect, and unchangeable will.
This emphasis on God’s control is not to say that we should not care about secondary means. We should be concerned if there is foreign interference or voter fraud. However, Christians should have a level of peace and even continued joy, knowing that God rules the nations. All Kings, Presidents, and even tyrants are a part of His plan and His purposes.
Hear the words of the prophet Habakkuk,
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you "Violence!" and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. - Habakkuk 1:2-4
The Prophet did not like God’s response.
"Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. - Habakkuk 1:5-6
God was going to answer Habakkuk’s prayer, but God would use Babylon to do it!
How often have we prayed that our land might see a revival of Biblical Christianity? What if, in God’s plan, it meant that we had to endure political, social, and cultural unrest? What if the church had to face a pandemic that forced us from our comfortable routine? What if the church had to be torn from political attachment involving self-appointed saviors or the socially woke who each in their own power promise to make America great? Once awakened from our comfortable slumber and free from these political attachments, we can return to God. Is this not the common starting point of most revivals in history? Is this not where the church turns from its apathy and misplaced commitment and returns to Christ and His Word? Revival starts with the church. It begins with Christians. It starts with us coming back to the basics of the Gospel and the Bible.
We would do well to remember what we hear in Daniel. God is in charge. He is working. Christians, God is working for His glory and your good. You can trust this truth. Here is where we must stand and join with the prophet Habakkuk at the end of his book, saying:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. - Habakkuk 3:17-19