Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by John D. Clark, Sr.
“You will henceforth return no more that way. . . .
You shall see [Egypt] again no more.”
Deuteronomy 17:16; 28:68
After being delivered out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were led by Moses into the wilderness of Sinai. God had promised to give them Canaan’s land; all they had to do was follow the guide that God had given them. That guide was a sheltering cloud by day which became a comforting pillar of fire by night (Num. 9:16–17).
In the wilderness, God tried Israel’s faith, and on several occasions Israel responded to the test by making plans to return to Egypt – not to be slaves again, of course, but to rule. They knew that Pharaoh and his army were dead, drowned in the Red Sea, and that the Egyptians feared them, for their land had been wasted by the plagues that God sent. So, it seemed preferable to many Israelites to return to Egypt than to continue across the barren wilderness toward the Promised Land. But the cloud would not lead them back to Egypt; it went steadily onward to Canaan.
Many Israelites, though, wanted to return. On one occasion, they threatened to stone Moses and elect another leader who would take them back (Num. 16). They may have imagined that it would glorify Jehovah if they reigned over Egypt in His name, as they tried to honor Him by erecting a golden calf in His name at Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:3–5). Despite all Moses’ efforts, that is the way many Israelites thought.
This, too, is the way many in the body of Christ think. They would return to the Egypt of earthly affairs, such as politics, and rule. But God has called them out of earthly entanglements so that they might “walk in the newness of life” and worship the Father “in spirit and truth.” God’s people are told to pray for those whom God puts into political office (1Tim. 2:1–2). They are not told to become embroiled in the world’s politics themselves.
Paul said that Israel was baptized unto Moses in the cloud that led them (1Cor. 10:2). New Testament believers are baptized unto Jesus by the Spirit (1Cor. 12:13). The Israelites had to follow that with which they were baptized in order to reach the Promised Land. Believers in this covenant must follow that with which they are baptized to obtain the promise of eternal life (Mt. 24:11–13; Rom. 8:14). God’s Spirit is no more leading His children back into the world to become entangled in politics than the cloud was leading Israel back to Egypt to take over the country.
We who have put our trust in Christ Jesus abide in the peace he gives only as we keep our minds on the things of God. Paul warned us that “to be carnally [worldly] minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). And he exhorted us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ sits at God’s right hand, and think on things that are above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1–2).
Old Testament Israel was concerned with earthly matters because they were an earthly nation. The body of Christ, however, is not an earthly nation; they are part of a heavenly kingdom, and they are ambassadors of it, unconcerned with altering the politics of the nations in which they live. As respectful foreigners, we are to obey the laws of the nation where we live, not oppose them. The exception to this rule is if an earthly ruler commands us to disobey God. The same apostle who exhorted us to “obey every ordinance of man” also said to the rulers who ordered him to disobey God, “We ought to obey God rather than man.”
When Jesus was being arrested in the garden of Gethsemene, Peter, thinking that he was doing God service, pulled out a sword and attacked those who had come to take Jesus. But Jesus rebuked Peter. He said, “Put your sword in its sheath, for all who take up a sword will die by a sword.”
Consider, please, this question. Did Jesus’ prohibition apply only to swords? Would it have been acceptable with Jesus if Peter had attacked those men with a gun instead of a sword? Or would a whip or a knife have been acceptable? Or would Jesus have been pleased if Peter had organized a rebellion against the chief priests or sponsored a petition to have Caiaphas ousted? What difference does the form of fighting make? Jesus said that his servants do not fight (see Jn. 18:36).
God’s children accomplish God’s will “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). Every deed that is not inspired by the Spirit is carnal, and carnal weapons are useless in spiritual warfare. Have faith in God, my Reader! The weapons of the Spirit are “mighty, even to the pulling down of strongholds” of evil (2Cor. 10:4). Peace is a weapon; joy and truth are weapons; the love of God is a weapon; the power of the Spirit is a weapon. Our warfare, as the body of Christ, is an invisible warfare, and it can be successfully fought only with invisible weapons.
If rather than use their spiritual weapons, God’s people turn back to the world and take up the sword of earthly political power, then according to Jesus’ own words, they are destined to be trampled upon by that same power.
Dear child of God, let us reason together. It is an indisputable fact that the majority in this world is on the “broad way which leads to destruction.” Then, if we, being the minority, resort to the earthly weapon of majority rule, common sense – not to mention Jesus – tells us that we are bound to be outvoted and defeated. Stay out of politics! We must fight our battles God’s way, or we will lose.
There is peace in knowing that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will ” (Dan. 4:25). God’s plans on this earth include the use of wicked men to rule it, and we are not to oppose them. Paul pointed this out: “There is no power but of God ”; he wrote, “the powers that be are ordained of God ” (Rom. 13:1). Therefore, if the body of Christ attempts to alter the course of earthly governments by earthly means, is not the body of Christ fighting against the One who ordained those governments? Listen again to Paul: “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God. And those who resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13:1–2).
One dear brother, who has since gone to be with the Lord, said that before he learned this liberating truth, he carried hatred and fear in his heart toward foreign nations that were enemies of this country. In his imagination, he pictured himself killing as many of them as possible if they ever attacked this land, before being killed himself. That is not the will of God for His people. Later, this same brother, after learning the truth, saw himself as an ambassador of the kingdom of God, a foreigner representing Jesus to the nation in which he lived. And as ambassadors, unencumbered with the concerns of earthly government, we are to serve God in “righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit. For he that in these things serves Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men” (Rom. 14:17–18).
Because of their submission to the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar, young Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were no doubt considered by many Israelites to be traitors. We know that Jeremiah was condemned as a traitor for telling his fellow Jews that they should surrender to the foreign king, Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 38). And I understand how it may seem unpatriotic to suggest that believers should not be involved in the political partisanships of this nation. But no nation of this earth is sacred or eternal. Until the time when Jesus returns to rule the earth with his “rod of iron”, earthly kingdoms will rise and fall, conquer and be conquered, prosper and decay. And in whatever times we live, in whatever place, and under whatever form of government, our only purpose is to represent our King, and our only weapons, those which pierce the souls of men, not their flesh.
I thank God for the privilege of living in the United States of America while serving the Lord Jesus. God has graced this land with liberties which are envied by all other nations. Those liberties, however, should be seen as coming from God, sustained by God, and when taken away, taken away by God. Considering the events transpiring in the United States right now, it is clear that God is withdrawing the favor He once showed to this nation. The precious name of Jesus is dishonored by this nation and it’s leaders. What can we expect to be the result of this refusal to acknowledge God’s Son? The confidence in future military victory over the enemies of this nation exhibited by modern political leaders is founded upon faith in technology and weaponry. But we are taught in the Bible that “safety is of the Lord.”
The “Lord” from whom safety springs is the Father of the Lord Jesus, who is now routinely dishonored by this nation, and others, where He was once publicly glorified and respected. Child of God, listen! If God determines to turn this nation over to other men, you must still act as ambassadors, not rebels, toward those to whom God gives the reins of government. Do not resist the ordinance of God!
Our duty as ambassadors for Christ is to pray for those in political office, not rebel against them. Obey the laws of the country in which you live. Be thankful for the government you have over you because, as bad as some governments are, this world would be a far worse place if they were not there at all. The governments of earth are ordained by God, and they all play a role in fulfilling His wise purposes. God has not lost control of His universe, and as long as the body of Christ remembers that, they will not listen to fools who would lead them back into Egypt. They will, instead, mind their own business, the business of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.