The build up of arms in North Korea and the associated threats are troubling – as we see for example, in the fluctuations of the equity markets. In a world where there is so much division and uncertainty, we need wise and cool heads – wisdom for leaders and cool, clear minds amongst the people of God.
Wisdom for Leaders. In his First Letter to Timothy, Paul the Apostle writes: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Paul expects that God’s people will pray for all people, including those in positions of authority. He has in mind leaders at every level of government.
Something we overlook these days is the fact that the followers of Jesus Christ, for the first three hundred years or so, were often persecuted under Roman rule. The Roman historian Tacitus, for example, tells us that Emperor Nero used the followers of Chrestus as scapegoats for the fire in Rome. Nero put them through all kinds of barbarous cruelty including the lion’s den in the arena in Rome. In Paul’s day, God’s people had every reason to hate the state, yet the New Testament calls upon us to respect the civil authorities for what they are: in the providence of God they are there for the good order and protection of society.
In every generation, God’s people are called upon to pray for leaders. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer reflected this in the liturgies he developed for the Church of England in the 16th century. For example, in a recent update of his 1552 Service of The Lord’s Supper we pray: Almighty and ever-living God, we are taught by your holy Word to offer prayers and supplications and to give thanks for all people… We pray that you will lead the nations of the world into the way of righteousness; and so guide and direct their leaders, especially N, our (Queen/President/Prime Minister), that your people may enjoy the blessings of freedom and peace. Grant that our leaders may impartially administer justice, uphold integrity and truth, restrain wickedness and vice, and maintain true religion.
Cool Heads. The Book of Psalms reminds us that in the midst of extreme events, as well as the day-to-day realities of life, our only hope is to turn to the Lord God for his help and to his Word for his wisdom and strength. For example, Psalm 46:1-2 says: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
These words show us that the Bible knows about suffering and evil, especially human evil and its devastating effects on this world. We see here that God ‘s presence is not dislocated from such evils, nor is it abstracted from them. Rather, the Psalm reveals God as being in the midst of them: he is not the cause of evils, but neither is he removed from them.
Further, because the Bible speaks about evil, it anticipates human wickedness. We should never be surprised at what evil men and women might perpetrate, for we live in a world that is in rebellion against God. We should not be surprised at the consequences.
Psalm 46 encourages us: There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God…. God is in the midst of her; she will not be moved; God will help her at the break of day. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts (Psalm 46:4-6). God has not left us to our own devices: he has committed himself to be involved. While we see the instability of humanity – the nations rage, the kingdoms totter – we are also assured of God’s final say – he utters his voice – in judgment on the nations.
The Psalm concludes with the command: Be still, and know that I am God (verse 10). This is not so much a word to God’s people, but rather God’s word to the turbulent seas and a rebellious world. It is a command that foreshadows Jesus’ words to the stormy seas: ‘Peace! Be still (Mark 4:39). It is the same powerful voice of authority that commanded the deceased Lazarus: ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ (John 11:43)
God will be exalted among the nations; he will be exalted in the earth (Psalm 46:10).
If such a God is with us, the Psalm concludes (verse 11), we can have every confidence that when we turn to him, he will hear us and sustain us. Despite the awfulness of our experiences at times God is our strength and refuge.
Optional. You may want to meditate on Psalm 46.