Sovereignty

Here in the USA we don’t use the word sovereign a lot. Our founding is part of the reason. After winning the war for independence, we cast off the rule of England’s monarchy and set out to form a representative government. As such, we have a president not a king.

In fact, today is Inauguration Day for our country. The political turmoil of the last year has been difficult. The divide in our country is great and frustrations are high. I know that many are concerned about the efficacy of this past election. Many are concerned about the direction of our country under a new president. Many are concerned about our country given the character of the candidates in this election and previous elections. I’ve written on some of these subjects before: Where is Your Hope? and Of Presidential Debates and Hoping for Something More.

While not always the case, today’s word of the week intersects with Inauguration Day. Whatever your concerns about the state of our nation, the direction of our policies, and what it means for us, I’m asking that you remember Jesus alone is sovereign.

The word sovereign means someone having supreme authority or power. My friends, Jesus alone claims this title.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Matthew 28:18

As a theological term, sovereignty undergirds God’s rule in the world and his oversight in salvation. It is God alone that saves. It is God’s prerogative to elect, redeem, and forgive.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Ephesians 1:3-4

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time

1 Peter 1:3-5

But God’s sovereignty extends beyond theology. Jesus declared that he has all authority in heaven and on earth. While we await a future return of Christ, Jesus reigns right now from heaven over the affairs of men.

Jesus’ present and future reign means that we can trust him (no matter the political situations), and that we must seek him (no matter our personal limitations and lack).

What does God’s sovereignty mean today for Christians on Inauguration Day? Here are some truths that we should keep in mind. It would do you well to make time to read the Scriptures with these truths.

  • Trust that Jesus is in control (Mt. 28:18). Nothing that has happened in the world is outside the sovereign rule of King Jesus.
  • Seek first Jesus and his kingdom (Mt. 6:33). Our responsibility is not to worry or fret, but to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness on earth. This expectation doesn’t change even though political leaders change.
  • Pray for our political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-7). Our prayers for kings and leaders need to be about God’s will and freedom to preach the good news. Our mission doesn’t change no matter what else changes.
  • Submit to governing leaders (1 Peter 2:13-17). As believers we can certainly promote our values and participate in the political process. But in living as free people under Christ, we must not act in ways that are violent or harmful. Our testimony of goodness promotes the glory of God.
  • Know how the story ends (Revelation 21:11-16). If you participate in the political process long enough, your candidate is going to lose. Guess what? As Christians, we are going to win.

Let me close this blogpost with some of the greatest words ever written about the sovereign rule of King Jesus. This is Psalm 2, penned by King David of Israel 3,000 years ago. May they encourage you, like they’ve encouraged me.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The last few days have been unsettling. Recently, I had a conversation with a church member who expressed concern that the US drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani might become a full on military engagement. Iran’s retaliation against US bases in Baghdad certainly do not alleviate those concerns. It is not wrong to be concerned about the potential of another Middle East conflict.

Without question, we should pray. We should for our political leaders who need divine wisdom. We should also pray for the people in the crossfire. There are Iraqi and Iranian nationals who will be caught in the middle of a conflict they do not want. We should pray for the peoples of the region, Israel and other countries, who are regularly face terror threats and acts of violence that have been the precipitating reasons for the current situation. We should pray for our soldiers who are in the Middle East now and those who might be heading there. We should pray for believers in the region who may face even more persecution in a destabilizing situation.

You might be thinking, is that all we can do? Pray.

The reason we can pray is because international conflicts and world affairs do not fall outside the sovereignty of the living God.

During 2019, our Wednesday night Bible study focused on the book of Daniel. The book is full of turmoil, difficulty, and political intrigue. As an exile, Daniel lived under a pagan kingdom. Yet he remained faithful to God. The hero of the book of Daniel is God, who gave Daniel the grace to remain faithful, the ability to interpret dreams, the faith to pray, the willingness to speak truth to the most powerful men in the world

Daniel’s prophetic visions describe turmoil in Jerusalem, terrible tidings for the Jewish people under evil kings, uncertainties and quandaries (Dan. 7-12). But his visions also say something else. They tell us that God is in control.

That God described in predictive detail what would and did happen in the years following Daniel’s life is illuminating. That God foretold his rule and reign through the coming Ancient of Days is encouraging. That God declared to Daniel “And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Dan. 12:13), is comforting.

The lesson in the book of Daniel–do not be afraid, God is in control. This is a fitting and timely reminder given the circumstances facing our world today.