January 11, 2013

The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes. Daniel 4:17, 25, 32

So here we are in 2013, having barely escaped one national financial debacle, but anticipating another showdown—this time over spending and debt—in two months.

In March, Congress will have to deal with the billions of dollars worth of across-the-board mandatory spending cuts scheduled to automatically take place (a procedure known as sequestration). Federal government funding is covered through the end of that month, but in order to finance operations through the fiscal year, which closes September 30, spending will have to be reduced and/or the debt ceiling raised. (For an easy to read analysis go here.)

In addition to military spending, the budget cuts also would affect non-defense, “discretionary” programs, such as the national parks. According to Deputy Interior Secretary David Hay, as quoted in a National Parks Traveler post, a sequestration “would not necessarily require immediate reductions in spending [and] I do not expect our day-to-day operations to change dramatically…Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions.”

And what about us individuals? Congressional inaction could lead to slow economic growth, layoffs, and reduction in government services and payments, among other things. Not to mention having to listen to the political back and forth all over again…

All this comes on the heels of Election Day, and the swearing in of a new Congress and, soon, the presidential inauguration. Maybe you’re pleased that your favorites won, and look forward to having better representation. Or perhaps you’re not so happy because your candidates lost, and you’re worried about what your newly elected officials are going to do. (For a thought-provoking article about the election results, check out this article from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Its perspective may surprise you.)

Either way, you can be confident of this: they are in office by God’s appointment. That message is so important that it’s reiterated three times just in the book of Daniel.

The title Most High (Yahweh, or Jehovah), as mentioned in those verses, is undoubtedly the most significant name for God in the Old Testament—it occurs an astounding 6,823 times! The designation emphasizes God’s active, self-existent nature, since the word comes from the Hebrew verb “to be.” The first mention of the designation is in the creation account (Genesis 2:4), and probably the most well-known use comes in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

The New Testament continues the theme of God’s hand in government and our relationship to it in Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17 and, most notably, Romans 13:1 and 2: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”

The Scripture passages don’t say only certain forms of government are ordained by God, nor do they guarantee that governments will necessarily fulfill His (or our) desires. And the message that God puts rulers—good or bad, pleasing or maddening—in place over us and requires us to submit to them can be a real challenge.

But the bottom line assurance is that God is in charge, despite circumstances or our feelings. Nothing escapes his purview. He “sits high and looks low,” as my pastor paraphrases Isaiah 57:15. He knows exactly what’s going on. He can preserve and protect His people, and turn things around for good (Genesis 50:19, 20; Romans 8:28). And none of His purposes can be thwarted (Job 42:2).

If you’re discouraged about what’s going on in Washington or the statehouse or your own town, it’s your duty and your right as a citizen to speak up, to contact your representatives and make your opinions known. But first, talk it over with the Most High. He’s in office for life.

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