Does God reign? Is he faithful? Two very big questions.
Studying the books of Ezra and Nehemiah recently I’ve been stuck afresh by the fact that God does indeed reign and he is indeed a God of covenant faithfulness.
The Jews had been in exile for 70 years. Time to get comfortable – they were called to settle, marry, influence and bless the nation they were in. And after all those years they might well have wondered whether their God was indeed the true God, after all they were now subservient to another nation and its god/s. How sovereign was their God? And after all this time who were they now, and did it matter?
But then God stirred King Cyrus in order to fulfill his covenant promise to his people Israel, later he would move on others to continue his purposes and also release provision for the task of rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem.
No king, president or prime minister, nation, empire or ideology is beyond the influence of God. I think of how God has moved to change the course of history – the fall of the Roman Empire following the advance of faith in a crucified and resurrected saviour; of europe and the advance of the Nazis in the first part of the twentieth century, and how a man by the name of Winston Churchill was suddenly brought to the fore, a man who had a sense of destiny on his life and who biographers and historians say saved not only the United Kingdom, but Europe and the world by his foresight, vision and tenacity to guide, direct and lead, sometimes where it didn’t want to go; I think of the rise of communism and it’s grip on a large part of the world and the subsequent fall of the Iron Curtain and the people who were part of that story. Impossible situations, transformed by God.
One of the things that we find in the exile and return of Israel is how God uses the politics of the day to further his purposes – the transfer of people from conquered nations to the conquering nations became God’s judgement/discipline of his people, then in Ezra/Nehemiah the transfer of captives back to their respective nations becomes the fulfillment of the word, the prophetic promise, God had given to them that come 70 years and they would return to their own land.
It reminds us that God knows the end from the beginning. That he is not waiting to see what will happen next before he decides what he must do next, in other words, God is not in theological terms an ‘open theist’. He is a sovereign God, and sovereigns reign. He is not a constitutional monarch.
Not only is God sovereign, he is also a God of covenant faithfulness. Though His people frequently failed, and were in exile for that reason, God was faithful. He was with them even in judgment in a foreign land and after 70 years in fulfillment of His prophetic word they returned to their homeland.
God has sovereignly acted in Jesus, impacting forever the course of human history. God had loved. God had spoken. God had come. In Christ God has fulfilled covenantal faithfulness in both directions as God and man. Today we proclaim a sovereign and saving God who is able to save and keep, a God who is faithful and true, a God who is able to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. A God who is able to work in and through the politics and powers of the day to further His purposes in our lives. A God who engages us in this purposes by calling us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
So wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, do not be discouraged, do not be dismayed, God is on His throne – He reigns, He knows, and He is faithful and true, and He has given us His Word.