by Doy Moyer
If we believe that God rules in the kingdoms of men, we cannot stop believing it when things don’t go the way we think they should. We often assume God is on “our” side in a particular cultural, political, or even military conflict. If we believe in God, seek to follow His word, and have relative confidence that we are trying to do what is right, then it is hard for us to conceive that God would not be on “our” side in these struggles. If we are engaged in a conflict, then God will surely know the merits of our side and fight for us.
This is not altogether unreasonable. After all, we are used to thinking this when it comes to spiritual battles. We know God is on our side spiritually because He has told us so. When we put on His armor, we can be strong and confident that He will fight for us and come to our aid (Ephesians 6:10-18; Philippians 4:11-13; etc.). What I am saying here should in no way change our confidence that God is with us as His children.
However, that same confidence sometimes gets transferred into the physical, cultural, and military situations of an earthly kingdom in which we temporarily dwell. This is where it gets dangerous. We need to distinguish between spiritual and earthly kingdoms. If we just assume that God is on “our” side in earthly battles of a physical kingdom, we may well find ourselves on the wrong side of the fence. There is a difference between recognizing the biblical truth that God fights for His people — His kingdom, which incorporates all of His people from every nation, and assuming that physical nations are going to have God fighting for them when it may, in fact, be the opposite of what we think.
This is what Scripture shows us. God sometimes uses one nation more wicked than another to bring judgment. Sometimes he uses a wicked king (like Cyrus) to bring about a favorable outcomes (like bringing the people back from captivity). We never know exactly how God is going to work in this world.
Recall when Habakkuk asked God when He would do something about the wickedness in Judah. God already judged Israel by using wicked Assyria, and God responds to Habakkuk by telling him that He would use Babylon to bring judgment upon Judah. Habakkuk asks how God can use a nation more wicked than themselves to bring this judgment. What Habakkuk had to learn was difficult — rather than presuming upon the way that God must do something, he needed to learn to trust God for the best outcome. Read the book.
We will often say that God can use evil people to accomplish something good. This is true. Our problem is when, from our limited, finite perspective, we assume which of the evil people or nations God is going to use to accomplish His purposes. God is not bound by our fallible understanding or expectations. God rules in the kingdoms of men, no matter who or what nation He uses. He could use Babylon just as much as He used Israel, then turn around and judge them for their wickedness.
Many of us live in a nation that has materially prospered. We ought to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and the opportunities we have been given. We ought to honor and submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13). We ought to use our freedom to glorify God (I Peter 2:16). Christians are not insurrectionists who seek to disrupt society or bring harm to others. Yet, like all nations, this kingdom of the earth will come under God’s judgment just as every other kingdom has. We might be tempted to think that God must surely be on “our” side in whatever conflict we enter, and God must surely want “our” candidate to win because we somehow know this is the “lesser of two evils.” Just remember, God judged the “lesser of two evils” with a nation more wicked than they. Be careful about assuming what God is going to do in ruling over the kingdoms of men. We do not have insider information on His particular plans.
I’m not saying don’t get involved. I am saying that as Christians living in a nation that gives us opportunities to participate, we need to do so with care, with love, with prayer, with a good conscience, and with an overarching faithfulness to God’s power and authority. We do the best we can with what information we have, but as with all things involving life, we must say, “if the Lord wills …” (cf. James 4:15). We don’t know exactly how God is going to bring things about. No matter what, we can pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We surely don’t want to be found fighting against God. Let us make sure we trust Him and know that no matter what happens next here, God’s kingdom will always stand firm (Daniel 2:44).