From Tyranny to Hope

Throughout the biblical history of Israel God used international forces to push the Jewish people towards righteousness and blessing.  God’s covenant with the Jews was for blessing through obedience and, through them, blessing for all nations on earth.  But when God’s chosen people strayed far from their promised commitment and threatened their own destruction, God used other nations to bring course correction.


As far back as Abraham and Issac, God used Abimelech the King of the Philistines to bring correction to the patriarchs for their lying. (Gen.20,26) When God’s plan for Israel was nearly thwarted by Jacob’s sons harsh and rash genocide of the Shechemites (Gen.34) It is Egypt that God used as a place of refuge and then correction for this infant nation.  And as the great Israel of Soloman’s time begins a steep moral decline, God raised up the Assyrians to bring pressure to bear.  As that decline continued God brought heavier judgment on Israel through invasion and finally exile to Babylon. Then, it was the Babylonians who rebuilt and reestablished the Jews in their homeland in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.  From the broadest perspective it seems that God has always used the unrighteous nations to judge the unrighteous in order to draw our attention back to Himself.


I have just returned from six weeks in the Middle East and Asia where I have had much time to ponder the ways of God in current events.  I was in Egypt on 9/11/2001.  As I returned last month, far from creating greater fear and timidity of the Christians in Egypt, radical Islam and the threat of terrorism is creating greater boldness among the believers and greater tolerance for Christians among the Muslim officials.  In Egypt, Bangladesh, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur it seemed so clear to me that the pressure of capitalism and economic development is dealing a deathblow to Islamic fundamentalism, marginalizing the extremist by increasing the quality of life.  People who have something to live for, even if it is material blessing, do not throw it away lightly.  Of course, as economic development works against extremism, it also creates a spiritual void.  But, could that be part of God’s strategy for the Middle East?  Could a crushing blow to Islam through capitalism create the environment for sweeping evangelism?  If so the Christians in Egypt and Malaysia are more prepared than ever.  Egypt was a stronghold of the earliest church.  Who is to say that we will not see that again?


Consider the past century in China!  After nearly 2000 years of dynastic tyranny it is communism that tore down the walls of the closed empire, creating an atmosphere condusive to great revival.  There are now millions of Chinese believers.  And, now that economic development is systematically dismantling the control of communism, this mammoth Church is preparing to influence the world beginning with India and the Middle East.  Was communism the political pressure God used to bring China to Himself?  Could capitalism be God’s tool to diffuse Islam and bring a great freedom for His Spirit to reach these lost and barricaded nations?


Seoul is now reported to be 40 to 50% Christian.  Some feel the huge, affluent and educated church of Korea may be in danger of becoming self-absorbed and fat.  However, North Korea is looming on the horizon.  It cannot be long before the political tyranny there fails completely.  Has God prepared a body of believers in the south for the challenge of reaching the lost in the north?  And is the challenge of reaching North Korea the very thing that the church in South Korea needs to stay vital and Christ centered?


In God’s scheme of things could Cuba be just the challenge needed to sharpen a self-indulgent church in America?  The church in Florida alone could take on the challenge of flooding, evangelizing and developing Cuba, changing the destiny of a nation.

And what about Europe?  As “Christian Europe” becomes an archaic phrase used mostly by humanist politicians to defend values for Europe that God could never tolerate, what might God be preparing to pressure us back to focus on Him. Bordered by Muslim North Africa to the south, the Middle East to the southwest and Russia to the northwest it does not take a very active imagination to see the pressure God could bring to bear.  It is “reach” or “be reached!”

This perspective should give us hope!  God is not thwarted in the cacophony of global issues before us today.  Quite the opposite, He is alive and well and doing what He has been doing in all of human history.  He is using the unrighteous to bring pressure on the unrighteous.  He is seeking to reach and teach the nations and there is no power great enough to stop Him.  Quite the opposite, He uses the most unlikely, if not unwilling of powers, in order to accomplish His will.


Secondly, this perspective should show us how to pray!  Let us pray that the systems of men that control the peoples of the world be crushed by any means God deems necessary.  Let us pray that the chaos that results not be wasted but the void filled with the life-giving message of Christ.  Let us pray that a bound church be liberated through any means necessary and become again the bride worthy of the groom.  Pray that even now Christian business people, Christians in government and law, Christians in education and health care, Christians in family therapy and development, evangelist and church planters in South Korea begin to prepare for a free North Korea.  Pray that the economic development in the Middle East continue to keep ahead of the influence of terrorism.  Pray that a vibrant wave of evangelism from Malaysia, China and Korea flow over the Middle East.  Pray that by any and all means, Europe be returned to its Christian roots, which is Christians in Europe.

Yours for all that is His,