Rev. L. Althouse
November 26, 2006
Background Scripture: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:5-7. Devotional Reading: Jeremiah 29:10-14.
This morning I prayed for Kim Jong II, the leader of North Korea. He has reportedly just successfully set-off his nation’s first nuclear explosion, a major crisis to world peace. Yes, I do know that Jong is a merciless tyrant who keeps his nation in abject poverty and oppression and that threatens not only the security of Asia, but the whole world.
So, why did I pray for such a man? Because I truly believe in the power of prayer, that it can change both things and people, because God has power to stir the spirits of even the most unresponsive people. Incidentally, I also prayed for the leaders of Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and the United States - and I do so frequently.
Where did I get such a “strange” idea? 1 Timothy 2:1,2 is quite explicit: “…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life …”
Note: he does not specify Christian kings and persons in high places, because there were no Christian kings nor persons in “high positions” at that time. So, he means the pagan rulers of the ancient world.
Perhaps we forget that God can and does use for his purposes even those who do not acknowledge him. Such a man was Cyrus the Great who proclaimed himself “king of the world, great king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four rims of the earth, son of Cambyses.”
However we interpret 2 Chron. 36:23, we know that he primarily worshipped the god Marduk and restored many pagan sanctuaries. Nevertheless, the exiled Jews regarded him as God’s instrument and Isaiah even called him the “Lord’s anointed.” (Is. 45:1)
What is the important point is not Cyrus’s awareness of God, nor his understanding that he was doing God’s will, but that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom… ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem… Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (vs. 22, 23) God can use for his purposes him whose spirit he can stir.
So, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you can and should pray for President Bush, just as you could and should have prayed for President Clinton.
None of these lies beyond the power of God, just as Paul, the persecutor of the earliest Christians was not beyond the stirring of God’s spirit, not to mention Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola and so many others.
When you have prayed that God’s spirit may stir the rulers and leaders, there is still someone else who could be stirred by God’s spirit: YOU.
Many of the exiled Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile, not only because God stirred Cyrus the Great, but because God was able to stir these exiled Jews.
In Ezra 1:6 we read: “Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem …”
George Eliot’s poem about the great maker of violins ends with these words:
“‘Tis God gives skill,
But not without men’s hands: He could not make
Antonio Stradivarius’ violins
What might God not do without you?
This farm news was published in the Nov. 22, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.