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Government: God's Gift to All Men

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2010-07-04 AM
  • Sermons


As you know, if you've been a part of our church any time at all, I love to read and I enjoy, from time to time, reading outside of the issues of theology and biblical topics. And last year I had the chance to read a Pulitzer Prize winning book by David McCullough entitled simply 1776. McCullough writes this, "In Philadelphia, July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress, in a momentous decision, voted to dissolve the connection with Great Britain. That was communicated by means of a letter from John Hancock to General George Washington along with the complete text of the declaration. Washington received that on July 8th at his army headquarters." Here's what the letter from Hancock to Washington said. "That our affairs may take a more favorable turn, the Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the connection between Great Britain and the American colonies, and to declare them free and independent states, as you will perceive by the enclosed declaration."

The fact that those momentous events of July 1776 occurred are no accident at all. In fact, the affairs of all nations are in the hands of a sovereign God, including their inception. In fact, in Acts 17, you remember Paul, when he was on Mars Hill, made this statement, he said, "God made," the Creator God that I'm talking about, "made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth." And then he says this about the nations, "having determined their appointed times." Literally, having marked off their appointed life spans on the timeline of human history. God pre-determined, in eternity past, the lifespan of every nation.

In our case, He not only knew but He determined that a complex series of events would come to a head and in July of 1776 the United States of America would be born. Not only that, but God has also pre-determined the day when our life span as a nation will end. Paul went on in Acts 17 to say this, "having determined the boundaries of their habitation." In other words, God predetermined the fixed borders of every human nation at every moment in its history.

It's equally clear in Scripture that God also ordained the government, the form of government of every nation, including our own. You see, human government was established in basic principle after the flood. In Genesis 9:6, God, in the Noahic covenant, gave this command to Noah and his descendants, "'Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.'" There was implied in that command the seed of nations. Just a few verses later in Genesis 10:5 the word nation or nations appears for the very first time in Scripture. It's the table of nations, the descendants of Noah, and how they became the nations of the world.

The cause of this change in God's plan, the reason nations began, is because of the events unfolded in the early verses of Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel. When God scattered the people He gave them different languages and spread them across the face of the earth in nations. With nations came the structure and authority over those nations and their peoples. We call that authority structure over entire nations, government. That authority structure, or government, is ordained by God Himself.

Paul couldn't make it any clearer than he does in Romans 13 and I invite you to turn there with me this morning. Romans 13, Paul writes in verse 1, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God." In other words, as we even saw in Ephesians, all human authority ultimately comes from God, but here he's talking about governmental authority and he says, "there is no governmental authority except from God, for those which exist are established by God." Paul couldn't make it any clearer than that, could he? Verse 2, "Therefore," because God establishes all existing governmental authority, "whoever resists that authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." It's interesting, as you continue down through this passage, in verses 3 through 8, two times Paul calls government "a minister of God" and one time he calls rulers in government "servants of God."

Peter has much the same theme in 1 Peter 2:14. He refers to all governmental authorities as "those who are sent by God." Jesus Himself affirmed the God given authority of human government, both Caesar's and Pilot's. You remember the interchange in Matthew 22 when they brought Him a coin and asked Him if it was appropriate to pay taxes, and Jesus said, "'render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar's,'" He was acknowledging the realm of human government, "'and to God the things that are God's.'" Again, when He stood before Pilot in John 19 and Pilot said, "'Won't You answer me? Don't You know I have authority to release You or to crucify You?'", Jesus said, "'You do have authority, but you would have no authority over Me unless it had been given to you from above.'" God gave that authority. So there is absolutely no question that the sovereign God of the universe, in eternity past, decided to institute human government. And we are to submit to government as to God.

Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that that means it's wrong for us to disagree with our government. I'm not saying that it's wrong to point out the sins of our leaders or of our government as a whole, nor am I saying that it's wrong to use the legitimate privileges that come with our citizenship. Paul certainly used the privileges that came with his Roman citizenship. In fact, there are several places in Acts where that happens. In Acts 16, you remember, he was arrested in Philippi and beaten, and then they discovered he was a Roman and hadn't been tried. And they came and tried to release him privately, secretly. And Paul says this in Acts 16:27, I'm sorry, that's not the right passage, Acts 16:37, "But Paul said to them, 'They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly?'" I don't think so. He says, "'No indeed! Let them come themselves and bring us out.'" He used the privileges of his citizenship.

Again, in chapter 22 of Acts, in verse 25, he does the same thing here. Again he finds himself in trouble, they're about to beat him. Verse 25, "they stretched him out," with cords, "with thongs, and Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, 'Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?'" And, of course, shortly thereafter they release him because it was not. Paul again uses the privileges of his citizenship in Acts 25:11 when he was before Festus. And Festus, verse 9 says, wasn't going to do justice, instead "he was going to try to do the Jews a favor," and Paul caught on to this, and he says in verse 11, "'If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I don't refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them,'" not even you Festus, "'I appeal to Caesar.'" He was using the privileges that came with his citizenship.

In the same way, you and I can use every legitimate privilege that comes with our citizenship. That means we can vote. It means we can lawfully protest the decisions of our government. It means we can graciously express our differences with the policies and laws that are made in our nation. Certainly the Old Testament prophets did this again and again. John the Baptist did this about the sins of Herod. You remember, he confronted him about being married to his brother's wife, ended up getting him beheaded. Jesus spoke to the High Priest and says, "'If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike me?'" You're not doing what's lawful, Jesus said. Paul did the same thing in Acts 23.

And so we can use the rights that have been given us. But what we cannot do as Christian citizens is disobey the laws of the land. The other thing we cannot do is become disrespectful and express our disagreement in ways that fail to honor the people and the position that have been put there by God Himself. Let me give you an example. You may feel, as many people often feel, that your taxes are too high. You may feel that government is too big. And there are many things that you can legitimately do as a citizen, under the privileges of the citizenship you have. But it becomes sin for you as a Christian if you decide to cheat on your taxes. Okay, they don't deserve as much as they're getting, so I'm just not going to pay them. That is a sin.

It is equally a sin if you express your disagreement with the policies of our government with disrespect for its leaders. We are to obey the laws of the land. There is no civil disobedience for a Christian, unless, the one exception is when the government commands us to do what the Bible forbids or it commands us not to do what the Bible commands. In other words, when government tells us to do something contrary to what God has clearly revealed in His Word. That's the only exception.

And you see this throughout Scripture. Back in Exodus 1, you remember, Pharaoh said, kill all the male boys. "The midwives feared God," Moses writes, "and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the boys live." In 1 Kings 12 Jeroboam had said, you must worship these two golden calves I have set up. And God said, if you do that, if you obey the king's command, it will be a sin. In Daniel 6, remember, Daniel was told that he can only pray to the king, and yet he went and prayed to God as he had done before. And when he was eventually arrested and then finally exonerated and spared from the lions, he says, "I have committed no crime." That's what he says to the king. And, of course, the famous one in Acts 5, Peter and the Apostles said to the Sanhedrin, "'We must obey God rather than man.'"

So, we must obey government. Why? Because human government was ordained by God. All government, whether it is totalitarian are democratic, whether it is monarchy or oligarchy, is established by God. The question is, why? For what specific purposes did God establish human government? This morning I want to consider that question. I want us to consider the divine purpose for human government. The Bible provides us with several specific purposes that resided in the mind of God when He chose, in eternity past, to establish human government, and I want us to consider them together.

The first four of those purposes I want us to see are found here in Romans 13. Look at Romans 13; let me read it for you again. Romans 13:1,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For [here's why] rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. For if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

Now, in those verses, particularly in verses 3 and 4, there are several divine purposes for government and I want you to see them. The first purpose that we find here is to express God's common grace, to express God's common grace. Now, for you to understand that I have to set the background a little bit. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden He allowed them to eat of every tree there except for one. You remember, in Genesis 2, "from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall [what?] surely die." That meant on the day they ate the fruit of that tree, they deserved to die.

The same thing is true for us. Romans 6 says, "The wages of sin is death." That means, from the standpoint of God's justice, every single time we sin we deserve, that very instant, to be removed from the earth, to be eternally separated from God, and to suffer in hell forever under the weight of the full fury and wrath of God, every single time we sin, including the first time. From the moment we sin, God's justice demands that, but not a single one of us here went to hell after our first sin. You didn't go to hell after the sin you committed yesterday or this morning. And, in fact, there are billions of sinners in our world who sin constantly and who will never come to believe in Jesus, but still enjoy long, full, and happy lives.

How can God do that? How can His justice tolerate that? The answer is, His common grace. By common we don't mean ordinary, we don't mean pedestrian, run of the mill. By common grace we mean that it's not saving grace or special grace. Instead, it is that grace of God by which He does good and provides temporal blessings, not only to us who are believers, but even to unrepentant, unbelieving sinners who will never believe in Him. That's His common grace. And one expression of God's common grace to all mankind is human government.

Now look at Romans 13:4, "for it," that is, government, the antecedent of it here is government, the governmental authority, "it is a minister of God to you for good." God intends human government to be for our good. It is an expression not only to us who are believers, remember now he is writing to the church in Rome, they're centered right there in the heart of the empire, in the shadow cast by the imperial leadership of Rome and the Roman Empire, and he said to them, that government that sits there on the seven hills of Rome, that government is for your good Christians, and not just for your good, but for the good of all the people who live in Rome.

The same thing is true for us here today. Government is God's common grace not only to us who sit here as believers, but to all of those who live in our nation, and to all of those who live under any government. Government is a gift of God's common grace. P. R. Gilchrist writes, "It is inconsistent with the Scriptures to consider that human governments derive legitimate authority ultimately from a social compact or from the consent of the governed, or even from the will of the majority. The state may be considered an expression of God's common grace extended to all mankind." So let that sink in your mind a moment. Government, of all shapes and sizes, our government, whatever particular leaders or party may happen to be in control at any given moment of time, government is an expression of God's common grace to mankind, to you, to us.

Now, this is important to get in our heads because, let's just be honest, Christians are some of the worst whiners and complainers about government. It's usually because we want a Christian government. I hate to tell you this, but even in Old Testament Israel with God's chosen people, over 400 years there were only 10 count them, 10 good kings, and some of those were suspect. There are no perfect governments. But even when government is bad, even when we disagree with its laws and policies, understand this, it is still an expression of God's common grace to us. So don't complain. Thank God for government. And pray for those in leadership, 1 Timothy 2 says. You see, one of the divine purposes of government is to express God's common grace to us.

Now, I know what you're sitting there thinking, I can see it on some of your faces. How exactly is government a blessing? How is it a "minister of God for good to us"? Well, the rest of the purposes that we will uncover together explain exactly how human government, exactly how our government, is a blessing to us. So let's look at the other purposes.

That brings us to the second divine purpose. Not only is government intended to express God's common grace, but secondly, it's intended to restrain evil, to restrain evil. Look back in Romans 13:3, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but they are a cause of fear for evil behavior." The Greek word translated fear here is phobia. It's fear. Government produces fear. Why? Because of evil behavior. You see, when government executes justice, even imperfectly, but when it does so and it does so in a timely manner, it serves as a deterrent, it restrains sin in that nation.

You see this even back in Israel. In Deuteronomy 17:13 there was the death penalty on the person who acted presumptuously. I won't go into all the theology of that, but listen to what Moses writes, when the person who acted presumptuously is put to death, "Then all of the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again." It restrains evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11, Solomon writes, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." The opposite is true as well. When the sentence is executed quickly it gives them pause; they don't give themselves over to do what they want to do freely. Government restrains evil. People do not carry out all the evil that's in their hearts because of a fear of punishment from the government.

Wayne Grudem writes, "There is much evil in the world that is irrational and that can only be restrained by force because it will not be deterred by reason or education."

You see this, don't you? Whenever there is a temporary state of anarchy you see what people will do given the opportunity if there were no restraint by government. Sheila and I got a little taste of this when we were in Los Angeles. We happened to be there for, living there when the riots broke out following the verdicts in the Rodney King abuse case. And the opportunists who seized that and who began to exercise their fallenness was absolutely frightening.

I commented to Sheila, as I watched that whole thing unfold, it became clear to me during those days that, we use the word civilization, civilization is merely a thin veneer on the depravity of the fallen human heart. And at any given moment, that veneer can be peeled away and you see humanity express itself. Many of you watched, as I watched, people destroy and steal and set fire to homes and businesses, and fire their guns with impunity on firemen and policemen and ambulances, and carry off everything that wasn't bolted down from every store they could break into. Gangs roved the streets and seized the opportunity to get even with rival gangs. That's what would exist without the fear and control of government.

Robert Haldane writes, "The institution of civil government is a dispensation of God's mercy and its existence is so indispensable that the moment it ceases under one form, it reestablishes itself in another. The world, ever since the fall, has been such a state of corruption and depravity, that without the powerful obstacle presented by civil government to the selfish and malignant passions of men, it would be better to live among the beasts than in human society. As soon as its restraints are removed, man shows himself in his real character. When "there was no king in Israel, [what?] 'every man did that which was right in his own eyes.'" Understand, government is God's gift to us because it restrains evil.

Thirdly, government exists to promote and protect the good, to promote and protect the good. Verse 3, "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same." Do good and government will praise you. Normally, and I say normally because we have to remember, and I don't have time to develop this, but Satan is given some leeway in the governments of the world and we see that satanic influence erupt in governments like that of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler and other places where there is far more evil than good, but usually, normally, government treats peaceful supportive citizens well.

If you're a good citizen, usually you don't have to worry about being afraid of the government. In fact, often government officials at various levels will publicly recognize and commend those who model certain virtues. They may or may not be Biblical virtues, but if there are certain virtues that are important to that society they will praise them. Peter puts it like this in 1 Peter 2:14, he says that those in governmental authority "are sent by God for the praise of those who do right."

We see this frequently in our own country. We see awards passed out, public recognition, medals, plaques. I even remember receiving one personally myself, as many of you did. It was on one of those levels, I don't remember what, of the President's Physical Fitness Award. That was a way to promote good in the culture. Most governments, however evil or corrupt, will recognize worthy achievements, worthy accomplishments, that benefit the nation or others. That's one of the God given responsibilities of government.

There's a fourth purpose of human government, it's to punish the one who practices evil. Look at Romans 13:4, "But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it," that is, the government, "does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Government exists to punish evil doers, those who practice evil. Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 2:14, those in authority are "sent by God for the punishment of evildoers."

Government is a "minister of God." The Greek word minister is the word from which we get our English word deacon. Government is a deacon for God. It serves God. How does government serve God? Well, look at verse 4 again, it is "an avenger who brings wrath." Whose wrath? I think in the context it's saying that when true justice is done, God is initiating His wrath through the channel of the government. "Government is a deacon of God, an avenger who brings God's wrath to bear," not in a permanent eternal sense, but in a temporal sense, "on the one who does evil," the one who practices evil.

How do governments know what's evil? Well, back earlier in this book, you remember, we've talked about it many times before, in Romans 2 Paul says that the law of God, the substance of God's law, is written on every human heart. So no matter where you go in the world, even the most evil governments have some sense of what is good for a society and what is wrong for a society. Even evil governments understand, for the most part, that murder is wrong. They understand that lying about contracts is wrong, that stealing another person's property is wrong. They are there to punish evil doing. And again, we understand the excesses that can come because of fallenness and because of the influence of Satan.

How exactly does government punish evil doers? Notice here in Romans 13, government bears what? "A sword." Now folks, that is not to wrap the knuckles of criminals, that is to execute them. That's what you use a sword for. This is a different message for a different time, but let me just say that the Bible clearly distinguishes murder and capital punishment; one is forbidden, the other is commanded, in Genesis 9 and again here in Romans 13. When government "bears the sword," and remember in this case we're talking about imperial Rome, "it is a minister of God, it is an avenger of God's wrath on the one who practices evil."

By the way, just as an aside, under the Mosaic Law, when God set up the laws in Israel, there were essentially three means of punishing a law breaker. There was death, capital punishment either by stoning or by the sword, usually, there were some exceptions, but death. Secondly, corporal punishment, scourging, no more than 40 stripes. And thirdly, there was restitution and fines. You notice what's missing from that list? Prisons. There isn't a single example of prisons in Old Testament Israel.

In fact, prisons were brought to America in the 1700's by the Quakers. They believed that locking up a criminal for a period of time would make him penitent, hence the name that is sometimes used for them, penitentiaries. Instead, our prisons have become cesspools of iniquity. Instead of reforming, it helps criminals learn new ways to break the law. It encourages homosexuality and drug abuse and gangs. Instead of becoming places that you want to stay away from, for many people in our culture it's become a place they want to go back to.

So our brand of justice hasn't always worked out particularly well, but whether it's done well or poorly, by God's plan government exists to punish those who do evil.

John Calvin writes, "From experience we thoroughly agree with the statement of Solon that all commonwealths are maintained by reward and punishment; take these away and whole discipline of cities collapses and is dissolved." There has to be reward and punishment, the praise of those who do well and the punishment of those who don't.

There's a fifth divine purpose behind human government, it's not found here in Romans 13 and it's a surprise, I think, to many people. It is to protect the afflicted and oppressed, to protect the afflicted and oppressed. There are a lot of places that I could take you, particularly in the prophets, as well as in Deuteronomy, but I want you to turn to Psalm 72. Psalm 72, Solomon writes a Psalm in which he talks about the reign of the righteous king, the kings that will follow him and be righteous, human kings, and ultimately, of course, the perfect righteous king, our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice how he describes the reign of a righteous king, verse 1,

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king's son.
[Now watch this.]
May he judge Your people with righteousness
And your afflicted with justice.
Let the mountains bring peace to the people,
And the hills, in righteousness.
May he vindicate the afflicted of the people,
Save the children of the needy
And crush the oppressor.

Now look down at verse 12,

For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
He will rescue their life from oppression and violence,
And their blood will be precious in His sight.

Notice here, we're not talking about merely punishing law breakers, but making laws that protect those who are taken advantage of. You see this same thing over in Psalm 82. Psalm 82:3, God's talking to the rulers here and He's telling them they're not doing a good job. Verse 3, here's how you should do it,

Vindicate the weak and the fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
And deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Now listen, I understand what it is to be against big government. I certainly appreciate that and agree with that. But can I plead with you not to let your politics get in the way of being honest with the Scripture? These are merely a couple of examples of a huge body of Biblical teaching that government has an ordained responsibility to look out for the poor and oppressed, to protect them from the abuses by the wealthy and the powerful. It happened in ancient Israel. It happens around the world today. And folks, let's be honest, it happens here as well. This is one of the responsibilities of government. The Old Testament prophets often urged Israel's kings to do this.

In Jeremiah 22 God speaks to the kings and He says,

"Do you become a king because you're competing in cedar?
[In other words, you're building a really nice house, does that make you a king?]
Did not your father eat and drink [he enjoyed life]
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy;
Then it was well.
Is not that what it means to know Me?"
Declares the Lord.

He's talking to a king. But it wasn't just true for Israel's kings. It's true for Gentile rulers as well. In the passage I read to you this morning, Daniel 4, I skipped over a section where Daniel interprets the dream, and after he interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar, he tells him how he can avoid what's been prophesied against him. Look at Daniel 4:27. He says, here's my advice, "Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you," Nebuchadnezzar here's how you can dodge what's just been prophesied against you, "break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities [how?] by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity." So even pagan kings, pagan rulers, have it as part of their responsibility to protect the afflicted and the oppressed.

A sixth divine purpose for human government is to serve its people, to serve its people. Look at Matthew 20, very briefly, Matthew 20. You remember, the sons of Zebedee's mom comes to ask that they would have an exalted place in the kingdom. And, of course, the other ten disciples are incensed, as you would expect them to be, Matthew 20:24, "they became indignant with the two brothers." And then Jesus makes a statement and it's about His kingdom, but in a backhanded way it's about government. Notice what He says in verse 25, "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.'" In other words, they're in charge, they're autocratic, the people exist for them. Verse 26,

"It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; [just like me, Jesus says,] the Son of Man, I didn't come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life a ransom for many."

Jesus is, in a backhanded way, commenting on the responsibility of government. He's saying, the Gentiles and their rulers have it all wrong. It's not about exercising authority; it's about serving the people. Christ is a king and yet He's also called a servant. He's here to serve.

Martin Luther writes, "A ruler must consider his subjects and properly dispose his heart toward them. And this he does if he applies his entire mind to making himself useful and serviceable to them, and does not think, land and people are mine, I will do as I please, but thinks, I belong to the land and people, I ought to do what is profitable and good for them." You see this as well, by the way, in 1 Timothy 2 where we're told to pray for our leaders, and then he says why, "so that you may lead a quiet and tranquil life." Part of the responsibility of government is to serve us by providing an atmosphere of quiet and tranquility so that we can live our lives in godly fear and dignity.

There's a seventh and final purpose for human government and it's the one that's really a shocker. Human government exists to reveal God. Human government exists to reveal God. Government is a self-revelation of God. That's not what we usually think of when we think of government. You see, government is not solely for our personal benefit. It exists to teach us an important lesson about God Himself. You remember that God, in eternity past, decided what He would do in human history, so human government was not an afterthought. God didn't wake up after the Tower of Babel and say, you know, I need to go to Plan B, I guess it's time to put some nations and governments in place. No, it was established for a purpose and it was established for the same purpose everything else was created, to display the glory of God. Government exists to tell us about God.

You say, what could government tell us about God? It tells us the fact of God's government or God's rule. In fact, again, in the passage I read to you this morning, but part of the part I skipped over in Daniel 4, listen to what we read there. Daniel says to King Nebuchadnezzar, verse 24, I'm going to give you an interpretation, here it is, "you'll be driven away from mankind, your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field, given grass to eat," and so forth, "until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and He bestows it on whomever he wishes." You will be given your kingdom back, verse 26, "after you recognize," watch this, "that it is Heaven that rules."

You see, Nebuchadnezzar had gotten it all out of distorted, a distorted picture, I should say, of the reality. He'd gotten everything out of focus. He'd lost sight of what he was there to do. Human government is a reflection of the government of God. It's not surprising that in Scripture God is called king and ruler and leader and despot and judge and governor, because He is the ultimate ruler. He rules over the physical universe, the intelligent universe, the moral universe. He rules over absolutely everything. And human government exists as a living illustration of God's government, however imperfectly it may reflect it.

And here's the really amazing part, everything God demands of human government is simply a reflection of the character of His government of the universe. God executes justice perfectly. He punishes evil doers. You remember in Exodus 34, we love that self-revelation, where God says, "'The Lord, the Lord God, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in unfailing love,'" we love all that part. Then He says, "'But by no means will I leave the guilty unpunished.'" Not one person will ever escape justice in My kingdom, God says. When we see people punished by government it is a reminder of God's justice, that nobody will escape His justice.

God praises and rewards those who do well. We're coming to Ephesians 6, where he tells those who labor as slaves, "whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord." I will reward you for doing what's good, God says. He defends and protects the needy and the oppressed. Psalm 146, "He executes justice for the oppressed; He gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free."

God promotes the good of His subjects, both those who are rebels against Him. Matthew 5, Jesus says, "'He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.'" Luke 6, "'He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.'" So God is good and promotes the good, even of those who rebel against His kingship, and to His own. And I was reminded of this this week, how can we get around Romans 8:28, "For God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose." He's promoting the good of his subjects. This is our God.

Human government then, is a gift to us all. It is a gift to all men in all times. It expresses God's common grace. It restrains evil. It promotes and protects the good. It punishes the one who practices evil. It defends and protects the needy and the afflicted. It serves all people. And ultimately it reveals God. Today, because of the fall and because of human sin, human government is, frankly, an imperfect picture of the rule of God, but it is a picture nonetheless. It is clear that God rules. Just as you and I can't escape the reality that we live under a government and we are accountable to that government, we are more certainly under the rule of God.

You can pack up your family and your goods and move to Montana, you can move to Idaho, and you can pretend there is no federal government, but eventually it will catch up with you. In the same way, you can live your life pretending that you don't live under the government of God, but I can promise you this, you cannot escape reality. There is coming a day of reckoning when you will stand before your king and your judge. Let me plead with you, if this hasn't already happened, that you make sure you're reconciled to that judge through His Son before you stand before Him.

Christian, take heart, there's a day coming when you and I will live under a perfect government because we will live under the personal, physical reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love what the prophet Isaiah says in that famous passage that we relegate to Christmas time. Isaiah 9:6,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness.
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will accomplish this.

Listen, there is coming a day when government will be a perfect reflection of its creator because it will be our Lord Himself who rules. Until then, may God remind us that human government with all of its flaws, human government even at its worst, is still God's gift to us for the reasons His word teaches us. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your truth. Thank You for how it corrects our thinking. Lord, we are so earthbound, we are so prone to just think about what we read in the newspaper. Father, open our eyes to see You, to see You on Your throne, to see Your great sweeping eternal plan, to see human government as an expression of Your goodness, of Your mercy to all of us.

And Father, help us to live in both kingdoms to which we belong, well. May we be loyal citizens here, but Father, may we never forget we belong to a kingdom which can never be shaken. We look forward to the day when righteousness will reign in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Until that day, keep us watching, keep us looking, keep us faithful. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.