While John and Marti are on retreat, our good friend, Dave Roper will be providing our Catches each day. For more on Dave’s works, click here.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
[God] treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD;
It is like an irrigation canal:
He turns it wherever He will. Proverbs 21:1
We often see farmers trudging through their fields with ditching tools on their shoulders. The farmer’s work is to turn the flow of water into the field “wherever he will.” The farmer’s will is sovereign. That’s the point of the proverb above.
An ancient Midrash (Jewish commentary) on this verse states the premise: “God gives to the world good or bad kings, according as He seeks to bless it or to visit it with punishment; all decisions that go forth from the king’s mouth… come from the Holy One.”
The proverb is a reminder that no matter what earth’s rulers determine to do, God always has the upper hand. When our Lord bends a king’s (or a president’s) will to do his will, he cannot be resisted.
The Bible is replete with examples: Tiglath-pileser, the Assyrian monarch (Isaiah 10:6, 7), the Persian emperors, Cyrus (Isaiah 41:2–4) and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:21), and Rareness the Great, the Pharaoh of Egypt (Romans 9:17) to name a few. All were autocrats of the first order and were powerful enough to direct all aspects of government and society. Yet, in pursuing their own agendas, they were directed by God as He chose. All the biblical writers make the same point: human authority has its source in God’s will.
Does this mean that our rulers will necessarily make wise decisions? No, God may “cause” our rulers to make foolish decisions that he may “visit [our nation] with punishment” (Cf., 2 Chronicles 18:1-22) and, more’s the pity, his children may be collateral damage. Nevertheless, we can know at all times that our rulers are not running amuck; God is in control.
Perhaps the best example of this principle is the well-known and oft-quoted exchange between Jesus and Pilate when Jesus was on trial: Pilate blustered, “Do you not know that I have power to release you and power to crucify you?” Jesus calmly replied, “You have no power over me unless it has been given you from above” (John 19:10–11).
Did the biblical writers see the logical contradiction in this equation? Of course they did; they were not fools. Nevertheless they stated the truth as it is without amelioration. Reality is full of mystery and paradox; we can know and find comfort in things that we cannot understand.