The Current Scene
There are three national ambitions abroad today among the leading nations. Russia obviously wants Communism to become worldwide, then they, or it, could control all opposition and peace and plenty the result. The Arab World would relish nothing better than to liquidate the new nation of Israel. As for the democracies, uppermost in their minds is peace among the nations.
To the chagrin of all three, if our understanding of Scripture is correct, none will reach its goal. As to world empires, there are to be just four according to Daniel’s image, which is comprised of four metals. The fourth is iron and stands for the Roman Empire which is to be resurrected before the second coming of Christ to the earth. This will stymie Russian ambitions which could be the natural occasion for such a consolidation of the Mediterranean world. The nation of Israel has some very plain and definite prophetic promises as to its national resurrection (Jeremiah 30-33). Many Bible students believe that the present happenings are the preliminary stages to Israel’s ultimate possession and exaltation in their land; then Arab hatred will only be frustrated. As to the democracies, the decree is rumours of wars and their actual occurrence until the return of the Prince of Peace. This in spite of the United Nations and peace pacts.
God holds the nations in check. Throughout history God has withheld an ultimate weapon from the hands of the aggressors. If Napoleon had only had a few machine guns he could have realized his ambitions; or the Kaiser with dive bombers in World War I. Think of Hitler being the first with the atom bomb, which he might well have had had he not chased away some of Germany’s best scientists, including Einstein. If it were not for the American nuclear umbrella, what would Russia not be up to? Furthermore, Russia has been plagued with poor harvests and inefficient farming. This gives them some second thoughts. The Arabs simply cannot unite; what hope would Israel have if they did, humanly speaking? When something approaching the ultimate weapon is discovered (like poison gas in World War I; soon the gas mask appeared), it has been countered by anti-measures.
God is sovereign: “At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep” (Psa. 76:6). The destruction of the Canaanites was to come about when their iniquity had come to the full (Gen. 15:16). The Babylonian captivity of the Jews was to last 70 years. At the termination God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia” to allow the people to return to Palestine (Ezra 1:1). God makes no apology for the way He orders events — “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people” (2 Chron. 7:13). True, God often ordered these calamities as judgments. It can be tied to the problem of sickness. There are some that men bring upon themselves; then there are cases that are beggared for an explanation. The Psalms present every “shock and scorn our flesh is heir to.” The sufferers accept their lot as one of the given factors of life; they are to be endured, buoyed up by faith in a God that can be trusted. One of the worst national calamities to befall Israel was the defection of ten tribes and the establishment of the Northern Kingdom. When king Rehoboam sought to quell the revolt by force of arms, God forbade saying, “this thing is from me” (1 King 12:24). It was a situation the king was to live with. In this welter of national and international confusion may we find His covenant and blood support us in the whelming flood.
At this time of writing the Geneva Arms Talks are in progress. If the critics are right, the negotiators are going to be around for a long time. Much is at stake. In a real war the only thing that would give the West its hope of survival would be the use of nuclear weapons. Rule them out completely and Russian conventional superiority would probably settle the outcome. In fact, it was the American nuclear umbrella that kept the Russians from further advances into Europe. Again, Russia can always retreat into its winter vastness and then counter attack as Napoleon and Hitler learned. A retreat in Europe is a threat to be chased into the sea. Remember Hitler’s blitz and Dunkirk. It’s the allies that need the nukes. The massive peace rallies in Europe fail to appreciate this cold fact; unless they would rather be red than dead. These impressive peace rallies are strangely more passionately concerned about American nukes than those aimed at them from Russia. Without substantial nuclear backup the Washington team is at a disadvantage. Russia is more aware of the “the yellow peril” at her own backdoor.
Commenting on the present gravity the British weekly, The Economist, sees the danger of Europe becoming neutral. This could upset NATO. The weekly went on to say, “In the early 1970’s Senator Mike Mansfield almost persuaded Congress to withdraw half the American troops from Europe; in feisty early 1980’s America, neo-isolationism — or let them look after themselves — could spread even faster.”
While the United States and Russia are at present the leading world powers, prophecy does not indicate that the U.S. will play a leading part in the end time events. A Mediterranean Confederacy, or the Revived Roman Empire, will emerge and dominate the scene. A breakdown at Geneva could aggravate this final lineup.
Nor must we overlook the importance of the whole Middle East. Europe is even more dependent on its oil wealth than the U.S. It is the prize that Europe must keep and Russia covets as her reserves dwindle. The OPEC nations will only play centre stage in the world’s imbroglios while its oil lasts. At least this is from the human standpoint and God generally seems to work from human circumstances than by miracles. Anyway Eastern oil is expected to he exhausted in about 30 years. After that, if the premillennialist’s interpretation of prophecy proves to be too hasty, then new trends will arise from other sources. God tells us what He is going to do, but not how. However, we do have a license to observe the signs of the times and venture an interpretation.
The Unruly Member
Under President Reagan, the United States is undergoing a direct change in its political principles. For the past fifty years the politician who could promise something for everyone predominated the elections. The consequent man-made amenities have been costly. By now the nation’s money has been debauched. To many, thrift and hard work ceased to be rewarding. The economically productive members of society were overtaxed to feed the insatiable appetite of welfarism. A daring President is in the process of curtailing expenditures and dreams of balancing the budget. It is like taking a bone from a dog. The otherwise hard working and competent budget director, David Stockman, has expressed his misgivings about the economic policies he is supposed to champion. No doubt the new rise in unemployment stimulated his damaging remark to a Washington Post editor, “I’ve never believed that just cutting taxes alone will cause output and employment to expand.”
Stockman was taken to the Reagan woodshed and he has repented and for the present holds on to his job. The President’s opposition is making the most of this affair in the hope of returning to business as usual — high taxes, expanded social spending, growing deficits and perpetual inflation. The President’s necessary austerity to combat this “more of the same” from liberalism, to say the least, faces hard sledding. Scripture speaks of Israel in its unhalted degeneracy reaching a point “till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16). Stockman may be reaching, from his recent experiences, some realism which he should have wisely kept to himself.
Back to the tongue in James we read that “it is an uruly evil.” The book of Proverbs is heavenly wisdom for our earthly path. Therein we come across this text, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (21:23). In Christian circles, too, the undisciplined tongue can create havoc. Our speech will eventually expose our inward thoughts as our infallible Saviour said, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34).
Church And State
The politically brilliant Thomas Jefferson has strongly molded the thinking of the United States in the matter of church and state — each was to be mutually separate. This, probably from the evangelical standpoint, is the best solution. However, the liberal churches gave their aid and comfort to human rights, health, education and social services. Fine if limited to their centres, but no, government must foot the bills. This trend has seemingly for the present backfired. The liberal rulings that followed have relieved many from the normal disciplines of life and Opened vast areas for abuse. A recoil from this is the rise of Protestant Conservatism. The goal is a revival of old-time Americanism which is an outgrowth of the “Puritan Ethics.”
The Anabaptists, Friends and Puritans could not tolerate the state-run churches following the Reformation. They wanted no more from the government than a right to earn an honest living and to practice their understanding of Christianity. That persuasion has its adherents today. It is more often found among those who interpret the Scriptures along dispensational lines. Right or wrong, this position does not enjoy the blessings of Christendom and would perhaps answer to a Christian minority.
The encouragement is “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). The closer any group of believers approximates the divine pattern for the church, there the eyes of the Lord discover His delight. In Zechariah the postexilic Jews were exhorted to not “despise the day of small things” (4:10). In the second chapter we learn that Jerusalem and what was taking place there was “the apple of his eye.”
Those who are in the world, but not of it, should entertain some second thoughts as to how far they can seek the government to enforce their preferences.