"Politics in Perspective"#88-12
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 22, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Daniel 7:1-14
People in political turmoil need perspective, sort of like how parents of small children need perspective. For example, I have four children. They're all still young, but they're not what you would call small anymore. But I remember what it was like when they were small. I remember 3 o'clock in the morning, and that baby is hungry, like a beast, and needs to feed. Mom nurses him, and then it's my job to change his diaper, wrap him back up in his blankets, nice and tight. We call that the "baby burrito." And then to put him back in the crib. I remember those days very well.
I remember our first trip with him to visit my wife's mom and dad. I remember 3 a.m. sitting on the bedroom floor with him in the dark and laying him on the champagne-colored carpet of my mother-in-law, and changing the dirty diaper. And I've got him by the legs, and I'm lifting him up and his hind end is pointed right at me. And that's when I hear the rumbling coming from deep within my son's lower intestine. Rumbling, like from the Tom Hanks movie, Joe Versus the Volcano. And in that moment, I am Joe, and I am caught in this eruption of a little Mount Vesuvius that I'm holding in my lap. I remember that like it was yesterday. And that's why I say that parents of small children need perspective. Now sometimes, like at 3 a.m. after the baby's done his business all over you, you might just need a shower. But even then, a little bit of perspective goes a long way. You've heard all the parenting cliches: "Enjoy it while it lasts." "They won't always be this small." "They grow up so fast."
And it's all true. It's all true. You just might not want to hear it at 3 a.m. when you're sanitizing the blast radius of a baby burrito blow-out on your mother-in-law's carpet. Nonetheless, parents of small children need perspective, and so do people in political turmoil. Turmoil in politics can cause personal stress. How could it not? Political turmoil might make a good movie or a good mini-series, but when it's your life, when you're awake at 3 a.m. wondering what business they've got cooking up next, you're just trying to stay out of the blast radius.
There was this old man who wrote a book for people in political turmoil. His name was Daniel. He lived roughly two and a half millennia ago. Daniel lived through political upheaval. He saw eruptions of nationalism. He witnessed assassinations of heads of state, hostile takeovers by military coups, Daniel lived it, and he wrote his book for people in political turmoil because he knew that they would need perspective.
Daniel was a Jew, part of the people of Israel, and this was a people group that lived by a certain story of the world, a story of everything. In the beginning, there was God—God, the Creator of everything that ever has been, is now, and ever shall be. God the Creator, according to the Jewish way of seeing things, is not some political tyrant ruling by coercion and intimidation. He's not an angry judge, blasting people at random with lightning bolts. God at heart is a wise and tender Father. He always has been, always will be. And so this God created a man and a woman, and through them, created all men and all women. And He created them so that He could adopt them into His family to be a part of His family business.
Now, what's God's business? In a word, creativity. He's a Creator. He loves to make things and to carefully care for what He has created. And He wants to invite man and woman into His domain. He wants to share His dominion with them. But as we read in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, something goes terribly wrong. There is this beast, supernatural serpent, a creature of God but in rebellion against God. Now, we know that there's something supernatural about this beast because it's talking. And with its words, it deceives the man and the woman, and they decide that they don't want to be in God's family anymore. They don't want to be children. They want to be something more. He wants to be not just a man, but the man. And she wants to be not just a woman, but the woman. But when they listen to the words of the beast, they don't become something more. They become something less than what they were made to be.
They become impulsive and conniving, self-serving. They become beast-like. And then before this last scene of the first part of the Bible ends, we hear a promise from God that one day He's going to raise up the Man, the Son of Man, who will defeat the beast and win back humanity for God's family. But it'll come at a cost. It will come at the ransom of His life. Now that's Daniel's story that he brings into his book. It's the background for his whole book, and especially the central pivotal chapter in Daniel 7. Daniel has a vision, a dream, and we're told that this is a vision from God about how He is finally fulfilling His ancient promise about the Son of Man. Listen to how it goes in these excerpts from the first half of Daniel 7.
Daniel had a dream and he wrote down the dream. He related the main words. He said, "In my vision in the night, I looked, and there before me, I saw the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea. And out of the sea, there came four beasts, each one different than the others. The first beast was like a lion with wings of an eagle, and it was lifted up from the ground to stand on two feet like a man, and it was given the mind of a man. The second beast was like a bear. The third was like a leopard. And on its back, it had four wings, wings like a bird, and it had four heads, and dominion was given to it. And in my vision in the night, I looked and there before me stood the fourth beast. Dreadful, terrifying, exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth, and it crushed and devoured its victims, and whatever was left it trampled with its feet. And it was different than the three beasts that had preceded it in that it had ten horns. And as I was considering these horns, look, another horn, a little one, came up among them and uprooted the three horns that were in front of it. And look, it had eyes. Human eyes were in this horn and a mouth, and it was speaking great things, boastful things. And I kept looking until thrones were set up, thrones.
"And the Ancient of Days came and took His seat. His clothing was white as snow. The hair on His head was like pure wool. His throne was flames of fire. Its wheels were burning fire. A river of fire flowed and came out before Him. Thousand thousands served Him, 10,000 times 10,000 stood before Him, and the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
"And I kept looking because of the sound, the sound of the words that the horn of the fourth beast was speaking, great, boastful words. And I kept looking until the fourth beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the other three beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
"And then, I looked in my vision in the night and there was coming on the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man, a Son of Man. And he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, and to Him was given dominion and glory and a Kingdom, so that all peoples, all nations, all languages should worship Him, serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion and will not pass away. His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed."
The word of the Lord, excerpts from Daniel 7.
What did Jesus think He was doing—Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter—what did He think He was doing with His life? Now, if you asked a hundred random people that question you might get a hundred different answers, but what would Jesus say? Now, if you read and listen to His biographies in the New Testament—the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you'll get a clue as to what He would say. See, there's this title that He applies to Himself. Interestingly, almost no one else calls Him by this title, but He uses it for Himself. And not just occasionally, eighty times He applies this title to Himself. He says, "The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He says, "The Son of Man has no place to lay His head." "The Son of Man will come with His angels in the glory of His Father." "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected." "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many." "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified."
Eighty times Jesus refers to Himself by this title, and the very last time was the night before He was crucified at His trial. The Jewish high priest asked Him, "Are You the Messiah? Are You the promised King? Are you the Son of the blessed One, the Son of God?" And Jesus says, "I am." And then He quotes Daniel 7 and says, "And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power coming on the clouds of heaven." And apparently they knew exactly what He meant, because these were the words that finally set them off, and they handed Him over to the beast to be crucified. They were threatened because if Jesus really is the Son of Man, their political security was temporary.
Political security is temporary. Okay. I'm going to list five political entities, and I want you to guess what they all have in common. Let's start with the Roman Empire. Number one, the Roman Empire was an impressive empire. The "Peace of Rome" was supposed to last forever, but in the end, it petered out after about 1,500 years. And the last parts of it were conquered by number two, the Ottoman Empire. The motto of the Ottoman Empire was "The Eternal State." The Eternal State lasted about 600 years. Then we have number three, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR. The USSR covered eight times more territory than the Roman Empire. It was supposed to be the revolution to end all revolutions. It lasted 70 years.
Switching over to the Western Hemisphere, number four, we have the Republic of Texas, which gained independence from Mexico in 1836. It was a sovereign state for nine years before being annexed by the United States. And don't forget number five, the free independent Republic of West Florida. In the year 1810, West Florida declared itself an independent country, and its government lasted three whole months before surrendering to the United States Army.
What do these political movements have in common? Whether they lasted 15 centuries or 15 weeks, they're all temporary. Keep that in perspective. All political security is temporary. But if you believe Jesus really is who He says He is, if you believe that He really did give Himself as the ransom sacrifice to defeat the beast and win back humanity for God's family, if you believe that God raised Him from the dead so that all nations, all peoples, all languages, one day would worship and serve Him forever as the Son of God, the Son of Man, then you can let politics be temporary. Because you already belong to a kingdom that will not pass away.
Political entities, like all other human arrangements in this mortal life, are temporary. It's like childhood. Now by that, I don't mean that political systems are necessarily improving with time, like they're predictably following some childhood growth chart. I don't mean that. No, this present evil age is more like one long overdrawn phase of rebellious adolescents. But because of Jesus, it's only temporary. Now, temporary isn't necessarily bad. However, whoever came up with a free independent Republic of West Florida, I don't think they thought it through all the way. But still for the most part, temporary isn't bad. It's just not permanent. It's a phase, like childhood. It's got its ups and downs. And like every child, politics has its beastly side, even and especially church politics, but it's just a phase. It'll be over before you know it.
So don't look to politics for your security. Use politics for good and to help people. And look to Jesus to come again, to raise the dead, to bring the Kingdom. Put away childish things. Be a man, be a woman. Be about your Father's business. That little baby who blew out his burrito all over me almost 18 years ago is now a young man, and I am so proud of him, and I want the best for him. And you probably have someone that you're proud of and you want the best for them. And I pray that they would know and that you would know, and that we would all know, that even though all these human arrangements are temporary and that Jesus could return tomorrow, we can still use our creativity and energy to do good and to help people. That's what it means to be a man. That's what it means to be a woman. You don't have to be the man. You don't have to be the woman. You can just be a man, a woman, because you know the Man. You know the Son of Man.
Would you talk to Him with me? Let's pray. Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, we look for You to come again in glory to bring Your Father's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As nations rage and roar around us, help us keep things in perspective so that though we put away childish things, we will always remain God's children, because you live and you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Reflections for November 22, 2020
Title: Politics in Perspective
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, celebrating 90 years of Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church. Next week marks the beginning of Advent. Dr. Michael Zeigler talks now with Dr. Kari Vo about writing our latest series of Advent devotions.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. I'm visiting with Dr. Kari Vo. She is a writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries. Kari, tell us, what do you write for Lutheran Hour Ministries?
Kari Vo: Oh, wow. Well, I write pretty much whatever I'm asked, but a big part of that is the Daily Devotions or the seasonal devotions.
Mike Zeigler: Okay. And you are a doctor, you have a Ph.D. in English, right?
Kari Vo: Yes. English Renaissance period.
Mike Zeigler: All right. That sounds very exciting. You write primarily the Daily Devotions for Lutheran Hour Ministries and some other things, So, this word, "devotion," what does that mean? Why do we use that word?
Kari Vo: This is meant for those times of private prayer that people have where it's basically just you and God and perhaps your family or maybe a prayer partner you might have, might be you alone. But it's a time that you are spending just to pray and to be in God's presence, to listen, to understand what He's saying from maybe a Bible text that you're reading for that day. And these are meant to be used during that time period; although there's other uses for them, too.
Mike Zeigler: Okay, so it's a text, or in some cases with ours we have audio recordings of them, which I get to do, I get to read some of the things that you've written. But it's designed to usher you into time in the presence of God, solitary time with Jesus.
Kari Vo: Yes. The different Bible texts are—to me they're like diamonds or emeralds or rubies. They have different facets to them. You can look at them and depending on how you hold them and how you look into them, you see different things, more beauty, however you turn it. The process of writing a devotion is very much trying to capture that one particular beauty that God has brought out that we can say, "Hey, this is our God. This is what He's like. Isn't this wonderful?"
Mike Zeigler: Good. That's another clarification of what we mean by these devotions. They are designed to help usher you into time with God, prayer, reflection, and they are tied or based or inspired by not just stories, sentimental stories, but biblical texts.
Kari Vo: Definitely. They're Bible-centered. They begin with the Bible. They end with the Bible. The whole thing comes out of there. They're Christ-centered, and the goal is to see what God is showing us about Christ, about ourselves, and about us and Christ together in that particular small section of the Bible.
Mike Zeigler: Now you mentioned you write Daily Devotions, and upcoming you have a series that is focused on the time of Advent. Tell us about those devotions. What could someone expect from those Advent devotions that we have?
Kari Vo: Well, those run seven days a week, and they're a bit shorter. But they are entirely focused on the Christmas story. Now, that doesn't mean that they don't occasionally go into the Old Testament because God has promised to send us Jesus from the very beginning. But most of it, you will find the very familiar story of how the angel came to Mary and told her that she would have Jesus, of how Joseph was brought in on this, how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and all the other events surrounding that story. So it's very familiar. But on the flip side, we look at each thing there and we say, "Okay, what in this is maybe God helping me to focus on for today?" that maybe I haven't seen before? Maybe it's new or different, or maybe I have seen it before, and I just really need to pay attention to it today.
Mike Zeigler: They're starting next week, the season of Advent begins, and every day there's a new devotion that's released that can be used to help focus your attention on what God did through the coming of Jesus and what He might be doing in my life now.
Kari Vo: And what exactly does that mean for us, especially in this year where we've had so many disasters. We need God with us, and this is designed to help us to see all the many different ways that He is with us.
Mike Zeigler: If you wanted to use these devotions to start your time with God, you can find them on lhm.org. If you go to the resources tab and scroll down a little bit, you'll see them right there, Daily Devotions, and these ones will come out next week. God with Us is the title. They are available in written form and audio. Dr. Tony Cook has voiced these devotions that Kari has written for the season, and we pray that they are a blessing to you.
Kari Vo: They're also available in Spanish, and I believe some of our partners are translating them into other languages as well.
Mike Zeigler: Good. And there's many ways to get them. You can subscribe to an e-mail that'll be sent to your e-mail address every day. There's an app. If you look on your smartphone in the app store and search Daily Devotions Lutheran Hour Ministries, you can download the app. Many ways to get them and in multiple languages.
Kari Vo: Yes.
Mike Zeigler: Thanks for taking time to visit with us today, Kari.
Kari Vo: Thank you.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)