Christian Living,  Culture,  Theology

Rethinking Political Anxiety: God isn’t Limited by Evil

Election season 2024 is ramping up in the United States, and thus Christians will be faced with many occasions to be anxious about who will be in charge of the nation. This is certainly not a phenomenon limited to Americans. It is a very human reaction to worry about who is in charge. It is also a good desire to want a good, just, and wise ruler. But as Christians, it is important to remember that God doesn’t need a Christian in the White House to accomplish what He wants to do. Or to put it another way, God can just as easily direct through unbelievers as believers.

Our Desire for Righteous Rulers

We rightfully desire righteous rulers. In fact, Proverbs 29:2 says that when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice! It is easy to see how justice can be administered by those who hold to God’s righteous standard. Furthermore, although not all of America’s Founding Fathers were Christian, in large part, Western culture and society was tremendously influenced by Scripture. This has led to a society that in many cases had rulers that held to a biblical standard of justice. However, now as the Western culture disintegrates a new kind of morality has arisen—a morality where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

Although it is good and natural to desire righteous and just rulers, God often works very effectively through unbelieving and wicked peoples and rulers. Just because we live in a godless generation or experience an unjust ruler does not mean God is limited in any way.

The Example of Cyrus, King of Persia

One obvious example of the above principle is king Cyrus of Persia. There is no indication in the text of Scripture that Cyrus rejected the Persian gods, or that he devoted himself to Yahweh or Yahweh’s laws. But what we do see is that God moved the heart of this pagan king (cf. Prov 21:1). Ezra 1:1 says, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…”

God’s prophecies concerning the future were not limited by unbelievers being in charge. God simply moved the desire of Cyrus to accomplish what He wanted. The Israelites could thank a pagan ruler for decreeing their return to Jerusalem, but ultimately they recognized that was because of God’s working.

The Comfort in God’s Sovereignty Using Wicked People

In the world we face today, we need to remind ourselves of the comforting truth that God’s sovereign control is not prohibited from using evil men to administer justice. One of the clearest places this is revealed is in Habakkuk.

The book starts with the prophet questioning God about the lack of justice; the destruction, violence, and wickedness that was present in the people of Judah (Hab 1:2-4). Habakkuk’s question is, “Why won’t you do something?”

God’s answer was something that would astonish Habakkuk. God was going to use the Babylonians of all people to come and administer justice against Judah (Hab 1:5-11). This answer provoked quite the response from Habakkuk, who did not understand how God could use the Babylonians as His instrument of justice.

The Babylonians were in the process of defeating the Egyptians and Assyrians to become the premier world power of that time, and they were ruthless and known for their violence and arrogance (cf. Hab 1:9-11). Let’s just say that the Babylonians would probably be brought up on charges of war crimes today with all their raping and pillaging and complete destruction of cities. They were the very definition of wickedness.

Can God Work through Evil People?

And that leads to a moral dilemma. How could God use such a wicked people as His instrument? How could God use a people more wicked than Israel to judge Israel (Hab 1:12-17)? Although the prophet struggled with this issue, he had confidence that God would give him an answer (Hab 2:1).

God’s answer was simple, yet profound: “the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). Although not able to understand why God does what He does, God’s people live trusting Him to administer justice and to preserve the righteous.

Although that is the focal point of His message, God also assures Habakkuk that the Babylonians will not escape justice (Hab 2:6-20). God will use the Babylonians to administrate justice on Israel according to God’s plan, but then He will also give justice to them as well. Such is the God who rules history and orchestrates it all. In the end, Habakkuk summarizes the confidence that God’s people can have in Him:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Hab 3:17-19

By way of brief application, I want to encourage believers living in politically tumultuous times. It is tempting to think that we need just and wise rulers for God’s will to be accomplished. Although we certainly would prefer wise and just rulers to the lawlessness we find in many places, we need to recognize that the God of Habakkuk remains the God of today. He is completely free to use wicked or evil people to sovereignly orchestrate his plan and administer justice. Should we hope and pray for righteous leaders who are sensitive to God’s standard of justice? Absolutely! But let us remember that God’s hands are not tied by the wicked.

Photo: Envato Elements

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs The Bible Sojourner podcast and Youtube channel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *