Kings & Rulers Under God’s Government
Post date: Dec 07, 2016 5:15:51 PM
Dec 22, 2010 by Daniel Eby
The rulers of the nations (presidents, kings, legislators and judges) need to be reminded that there is a God in heaven who rules over all the world and that they are subject to His plans and His laws. To the extent that the follow His plan and obey His commandments they will be blessed and to the extent that they disobey His laws they will be judged, not only in eternity, but in time and history. Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Titus offer us clear illustrations of God’s government over the rulers of nations. The following reflections of Charles Rollin, Professor at the University of Paris, written in 1731, eloquently reveal the greatness of Almighty God as He governs the nations: that He disposes all events as supreme Lord and Sovereign, and that He determines the fate of kings and the duration of empires.
This is Part Two of a three-part series taken from the Introduction of Rollin’s four-volume set on Ancient History. Part One was: God is Sovereign over all Nations; and Part Three will be titled: History, the Nations and the Messiah Prince.
Monarchs: Instruments in God’s Hands
…Not to mention Egypt, that served at first as the cradle of the holy nation; and which afterwards was a severe prison, and a fiery furnace to it; and, at last, the scene of the most astonishing miracles that God ever wrought in favor of Israel: not to mention, I say, Egypt, the mighty empires of Nineveh and Babylon furnish a thousand proofs of the truth herein advanced.
Their most powerful monarch…were in God’s hand, as so many instruments, which He employed to punish the transgressions of His people. He lifted up an ensign to the nations from far, and hissed unto them from the end of the earth, to come and received His orders (Isaiah 5.26,30). He himself put the sword into their hands, appointed their marches daily. He breathed courage and ardor into their soldiers; made their armies indefatigable in labour, and invincible in battle; and spread terror and consternation wherever they directed their steps.
The rapidity if their conquest ought to have enabled them to discern the invisible hand that conducted them. But says one of these kings (Sennacherib) in the name of the rest: By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: And I have removed the bounds of the people and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people,; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth or peeped.
But this monarch, so august and wise in his own eye, how did he appear in that of the Almighty? Only as a subaltern agent, a servant send by his master: The rod of his anger and the staff in His hand (Isaiah 10.5). God’s design was to chastise, not to extirpate His children. But Sennacherib had it in his heart to destroy and cut off the nations. What then will be the issue of this kind of conquest between the designs of God, and those of this prince? At the time that he fancied himself already possessed of Jerusalem, the Lord, with a single blast, disperses all his proud hopes; destroys, in one night, a hundred fourscore and five thousand of his forces: and putting a death hook in his nose, and a bridle in his lips (as though he had been a wild beast), he leads him back to his own dominions, covered with infamy, through the midst of those nations, who, but a little before, had beheld him in all his pride and haughtiness (2 Kings 19.28).
The Handwriting on the Wall
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, appears still more visibly governed by a Providence, to which he himself is an entire stranger, although it presides over all his deliberations, and determines all his actions.
Being come at the head of his army to two highways, the one of which led to Jerusalem, and the other to Rabbah, the chief city of the Ammonites, this king, not knowing which of them would be best for him to strike into, debates for sometime with himself, and at last cast lots (Ezekiel 26-28). God makes the lot fall on Jerusalem, to fulfill the menaces he had pronounced against that city; viz. to destroy it, to burn the temple, and lead its inhabitants into captivity.
…The same Nebuchadnezzar, eager to immortalize his name by the grandeur of his exploits, was determined to heighten the glory of his conquests by his splendor and magnificence,, in embellishing he capital of his empire with pompous edifices, and he most sumptuous ornaments. But while a set of adulating courtiers, on whom he lavished the highest honors and immense riches, make all places resound with his name, an august senate of watchful spirits is formed, who weigh, in the balance of truth, the actions of kings, and pronounce upon them a sentence from which there lies no appeal. The king of Babylon is cited before this tribunal, in which there presides a Supreme Judge, who, to a vigilance which nothing can elude, adds a holiness that will not allow of the least irregularity. Vigil et sanctus. In this tribunal all Nebuchadnezzar’s actions, which were the admiration and wonder of the public, are examined with rigor; and a search is made into the inward recesses of his heart, to discover his most hidden thoughts. How will this formidable inquiry end? At the instant that Nebuchadnezzar, walking in his palace, and revolving, with a secret complacency, his exploits, his grandeur and magnificence, is saying to himself, Is not this great Babylon that I built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty (Daniel 4.30)? in this very instant, when by vainly flattering himself that he held his power and kingdom from himself alone, he usurped the seat of the Almighty: a voice from heaven pronounces his sentence, and declares to him, that, his kingdom was departed from him, that he should be driven from men, and his dwelling be with the beasts of the field, until he knew that the Most High ruled in the kingdoms of men, and gave them to whomsoever, he would (Daniel 4.30-31).
This tribunal, which is for ever assembled, though invisible to mortal eyes, pronounced the like sentence on those famous conquerors, on those heroes of the pagan world, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, considered themselves as the sole authors of their exalted fortune; as independent of authority of every kind, and not holding of a superior power.
Cyrus: God’s Deliverer
As god appointed some princes to be the instruments of his vengeance, he made others the dispensers of his goodness. He ordained Cyrus to be the deliverer of his people; and to enable him to support with dignity so glorious a function, he endued him with all the qualities which constitute the greatest captains and princes; and caused the excellent education to be given him, which the heathens so much admired, though they neither knew the author nor the true cause of it.
…But Isaiah affords us this light, and delivers himself in words suitable to the greatness and majesty of the God who inspired him. He represents this all-powerful God of armies as leading Cyrus by the hand, marching before him, conducting him from city to city, and from province to province; subduing nations before him, loosening the loins of kings, breaking in pieces gates of brass, cutting in sunder the bars of iron, throwing down the walls and bulwarks of cities and putting him in possession of the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places.
The prophet (Isaiah) also tells us the cause and motive of all these events. It was in order to punish Babylon, and to deliver Judah, that the Almighty conducts Cyrus, step by step, and ives success to all his enterprises. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways, for Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect (Isaiah 64.13-14). But this prince is so blind and ungrateful that he does not know his Master, nor remember his benefactor. I have surnamed thee, though thous hast not known me… (Isaiah 65.4-5).
Methinks the reality of this noble image, and the execution of this great plan (religion only excepted), appears in the government of Cyrus, of which Xenophon has given us a picture, in his beautiful preface to the history of that prince. He has there specified a great number of nations, which, though far distant one from another, and differing widely in their manners, customs, and language, were however all united by the same sentiments of esteem, reverence, and love for a prince, whose government they wished, if possible, to have continued for ever, so much happiness and tranquility did they enjoy under it.
Ungodly Rulers: A Terror to their People
To this amiable and salutary government, let us oppose the idea which the sacred writing give us of those monarchs and conquerors, so much boasted by antiquity, who, instead of making the happiness of mankind the sole object of their care, were prompted by no other motives than those of interest and ambition. The Holy Spirit represents them under the symbols of monsters generated from the agitation of the sea, from the tumult, confusion, and dashing of the waves one against the other; and under the image of cruel wild beasts, which spread terror and desolation universally, and are for ever gorging themselves with blood and slaughter. How strong and expressive is this coloring?
Nevertheless, it is often from such destructive models that the rules, and maxims of the education generally bestowed on the children of the great are borrowed; and it is these ravagers of nations, these scourgers of mankind they are destined to resemble. By inspiring them with the sentiments of a blindness ambition, and the lover of false glory, they become ( to borrow of an expression from Scripture) young lions: they learn to catch the prey, and devour men—to lay waste cities, to turn lands and their fatness into desolation by the noise of their roaring (Ezekiel 19.3,7). And wen this young lion is grown up, God tells us, that the noise of his exploits, and the renown of his victories, are nothing but a frightful roaring, which fills all places with terror and desolation.
The examples I have hitherto mentioned, and which are extracted from the history of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, prove sufficiently the supreme power exercise by God over all empires; and the relation he thought fit to establish between the rest of the nations of the earth, and his own peculiar people. The same truth appears as conspicuously under the kings of Syria and Egypt, successors of Alexander the Great: between whose history, and that of the Jews under the Maccabees, every body knows the close connexion.
Titus: God’s Judgment Upon an Apostate Israel
To these incidents, I cannot forbear adding another, which , though universally known, is not therefore the less remarkable; I mean, the taking of Jerusalem by Titus. When he had entered the city, and viewed all the fortifications of it, this prince, though a heathen, owned the all-powerful arm of the God of Israel, and , in a rapture of admiration, cried out, “It is manifest that the Almighty has fought for us, and has driven the Jews from those towers, since neither the utmost human force, nor that of all the engines in the world, could have effected it” (Josephus).