“For in the division of the nations of the whole earth he set a ruler over every people; but Israel is the Lord’s portion.” (Reference: Sirach 17:17 )
This verse from the writings of Sirach comes from a time when not much was recorded of other parts of the globe. The “nations” was a relatively small area, and to the focal and orienting point was Israel and the situation there. So in considering this verse we are not looking at the actual point but the intent behind it. Hendrick Terwoort and Jan Pieterss, writing down the points of their faith for the authority that had imprisoned them capture pretty well the intent. “. . . [We] believe and confess that magistrates are appointed and ordained of God. Wisd. 6:3; Sir. 17:17; Rom. 13:1, for the punishment of the evil, and the protection of the good; to which magistrates we desire from the heart to be obedient, even as is written (1 Pet. 2:13): “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Rom. 13:4. . . . Hence we would kindly beg your majesty, that you would rightly understand our meaning: that is, that we do not despise the August, noble, and gracious queen, and her wise council, but esteem her majesty worthy of all honor, and we also desire to be subject to her in all that we can; for we confess with Paul as stated above; for she is the minister of God; and that whosoever resists this power resists the ordinance of God; for rulers are not a terror to them that do good, but to those that do evil.”
I knew when I read this verse the sort of things I wanted to say. Sometimes I think my non-political stance has risen to the point of being “political.” And if that is so, I think it has been something that has come about only in the last year or so. Then I read what I wrote five years ago on this verse. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover the “me” of five years ago was starting to evolve to the sort of perspective that I have now. So I am just going to quote myself “again”. My perspective five years ago was a gentler softer one. And maybe it is good that I soften my stance. It is a small revelation, but a revelation nonetheless, that it is possible to be so non-political as to be “political.” And of course, beloved, the blessing of five years ago is still bestowed upon your today. Selah!
The United States claims to be “one nation under God.” Israel claimed to be a nation under God, but they chafed at God’s laws and pulled away from faithful worship. They sought commerce with other nations and followed the religious traditions of other faiths and other gods. They adopted the practices of other peoples and left behind the laws that God had set down for them. And because they had forsaken God, God left them to their own devices. Theologians tell us that the Jews were not to be the only people, but the first of many people and a light for others to come to faith. Americans have also held themselves up as a light and example for others.
This verses says that the other nations had rulers, but Israel belonged to and was under God. Does this mean that because of self-declaration the United States belongs to and is under God? I have always felt that the U.S.’ declaration of being under God to be presumptuous. And if the course of the United States is analogous to Israel, it is rather dangerous to belong to and be under God. There are major expectations to being ‘God’s nation’ and dire consequences to failing in the calling and charge. Perhaps that is why I am so glad to be a Canadian; less pressure.
But if we are called to and part of the kingdom of God, we belong to God and are under that sovereignty no matter who we are or what our citizenship. The expectations are still daunting, the consequences of not being worthy depressing, but the rewards . . . . . . It is worth it!
May you be ruled by God and find joy in that. Selah!