Revelation – Nebuchadnezzar, Jonah and Jeremiah

This political season has been one of the strangest in Christian circles. The last several years have been a morass of conflict over liberal and traditional interpretation of Scripture and doctrine that I did not believe could ever be topped for creating division in the body of Christ. Little did I imagine the rise of someone like Donald Trump that has thrown Christians into all out battle with one another that brings to mind images of Christian gladiators fighting to entertain the emperor and his court. It is baffling, and the most frequent reasoning I hear from those who support Trump for leaving their allegiance with a man who so very clearly does not evidence the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life leaves me seriously questioning the motives of my brethren for this support.

You see, probably the number one reason lifted as justification for this support by my fellow believers, when all arguments are made, when behavior is pointed out, when baffled people of God finally throw up their hands after beating their heads against an impenetrable wall is that God can use anyone to accomplish his purpose. That God can use even unGodly men to bring about his desired result. They then make reference typically to two figures in Scripture: Balaam of ass fame, and Nebuchadnezzar. I get the sense that when they speak of Nebuchadnezzar, they are referring mostly to the passages in Daniel where he is a main player in the events.

I think perhaps, for all of us who are Christians, it might be a good moment to look at these figures we point to when we speak of God answering our prayers through unGodly men. I, myself, have made the argument that God, being God, can and does work through anyone He chooses. So I don’t dispute their assertion that God can indeed work through unGodly men. But, in my study of Scripture over the years, I have found a pattern of how God works when it comes to His people. He gives them options. He usually gives them a good option and a bad option. His overall purpose is to bring people back into reconciliation with Him. He gives us the way that leads to that, or not. Our choice. So when we look for God’s hand moving through unGodly men, it might behoove us to look at what He is doing through those men.

An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration...
An Angel Met Balaam with a Sword (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which brings me back to our men not of God that have been raised when Christians speak of God’s ability to work through Mr. Trump. Let us begin with Balaam, because in truth he is the simpler to deal with. The account of Balaam and his ass can be found in Numbers 22-24. He was a pagan diviner. He was summoned by an enemy of Israel. When he prayed to his gods to grant him insight on the issue Balak, king of Moab, wanted him to address, the God instructed him not to curse the people of Israel. When Balak’s men were insistent that Balaam come to him anyway, God continued to instruct Balaam. Because Balaam recognized power when he saw it, he went before the king of Moab and pronounced blessed from God on the people of Israel, and curses against any who came against them.

In essence, God used a man not of God to speak to another man not of God, to prevent an attack against His people. And it worked, but had nothing to do with Him using a man of God to instruct or to lead His own people.

Nebuchadnezzar is a more interesting story. When we think of this name, we often associate him with the book of Daniel, and see him as the protector of Daniel and his companions against the pagans of Babylon who sought to destroy them out of jealousy. While this is true enough, as far as it goes, it leaves quite a lot out of the story. For instance, the reason Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in Babylon to begin with. The beginning of the story recounted in Daniel is set around 603 BC. If we look in other books of the Bible, and in histories of the time, we will find that the reason Daniel and his companions find themselves in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar is because the king has attacked the nation of Judah (all that remained of the nation of Israel in that day), and after winning he stole many of the Hebrews to bring back as slaves to his court.

English: The Flight of the Prisoners, c. 1896-...
English: The Flight of the Prisoners, c. 1896-1902 , gouache on board, 8 15/16 x 11 5/8 in. (22.7 x 29.7 cm), Jewish Museum, New York, NY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, if we look outside the account of Daniel, and turn our attention instead to the book of Jeremiah (which by a mystery of God I have been studying recently), we will discover that God was indeed using Nebuchadnezzar during this time of the Israelites history. Nebuchadnezzar and the forces of Babylon were being given permission and motivation by God to inflict punishment upon the people of Israel for her infidelity, idolatry and sinfulness toward God. God uses Daniel and his companions to communicate a necessary respect for Him to Nebuchadnezzar. Which in turn likely played a role in assuring that the king did not overstep God’s intended wrath. But, nevertheless, the account of God using Nebuchadnezzar for His purposes regarding His children should give us pause if we are using it as grounds to embrace an unGodly man to lead us.

Nebuchadnezzar, in the histories both Biblical and otherwise, would go on to attack Judah twice more. Once to put down rebellion and leave them still mostly whole and fairly autonomous. And finally to decimate the remaining population, forcibly relocate all who survived the onslaught and loot and level the Temple of the Lord. Eventually, God would go on to punish Babylon for its affronts against God, and eventually release His people. But not before 70 years of exile and the loss of their riches and glory.

Which brings me back to pondering the intent of those Christians who dismiss Trump’s unGodly behavior with the claim that God uses unholy men to answer prayers. There were moments in Jeremiah where, in his despair, he prayed for God to smite his people. There have been moments where my heart, and many other’s hearts, have cried out that God would do something to shake up the complacency and decay in our nation. But, the reality is, in my heart of hearts, I do not desire to see God’s mighty wrath released fully and completely against a people who insist on dallying with every voice that tickles their ears. I don’t really want to live the story of Jeremiah. I’d rather instead the fate of Nineveh in the story of Jonah. Perhaps there are those among us who see in Trump God’s mighty wrath as the answer to their prayers. Or perhaps they don’t and maybe they need to go back and remember how God uses men who are not of Him. We have choices before us. Ones that will lead us to reconciliation as a nation with God, or not.

Pray always, and glorify the Lord.

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