Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cyrus' anointing

by John D Ramsey

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The election is over and American sentiment ranges between elation and deflation. Neither presidential candidate appealed to me, frankly. Neither man exhibited a right-versus-wrong morality, but rather both men promised a make-it-right perversion of justice.

The recent financial crisis proved that neither major presidential candidate had the mettle of a statesman. When Secretary Paulson asked Congress to preserve the wealth and status of his Wall-Street cronies at the forever-expense of the American taxpayer, both presidential candidates raced to become the first to capitulate. Governmental amelioration of bad choices appears to set some things right; however, without the conviction of true right versus wrong, government only perverts justice. A bailout only spawns additionally moral hazards and perverse incentives. Now everybody wants a bailout, but who will ultimately pay?

Anna Schwartz co-wrote with Milton Friedman, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 and The Great Contraction, 1929-1933. In her nineties, Ms. Schwartz has been an economics expert for a relatively long time. Brian M. Carney interviewed Anna Schwartz for the Wall Street Journal,
. . . "firms that made wrong decisions should fail," she says bluntly. "You shouldn't rescue them. And once that's established as a principle, I think the market recognizes that it makes sense. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich."
I agree with Anna Schwartz, but herein resides the difficulty with experts. Someone wishing to refute my position need only bludgeon me with his bigger, badder, expert. While we may never agree, we can part ways feeling either superior or moralistic.

What is lost in our culture, and to what Anna Schwartz alludes, is a fundamental sense of right versus wrong. We have substituted expedience and nuance for truth, and we are a weaker people for it. We have sacrificed our integrity upon the altar of political and social idolatry.

The beauty of principle—the conviction of right versus wrong—is that you do not have to be an expert to understand it.

The other day, Claire came home from 4-H with four dollars that was awarded her for public speaking. She ran into the room excited to show me her envelope, but then she scampered off quickly. I called after her, “Claire! Did you pay taxes on your four dollars?” I asked.

“No,” she replied.

I asked Gabby, “How much tax should Claire pay on her four dollars?”

Gabby answered without even looking up, “Ten thousand dollars.”

Claire yelped, ran upstairs, and hid her money.

This illustration was playful and teasing, yet illuminating. Gabby had no claim to Claire’s money; yet, if she must impose an arbitrary and unjust tax, why stop with the whole amount? Children understand that changing the rules mid-game is unfair. When they do it, they do it not to be fair but to gain advantage. Likewise, modern politicians seek to change the rules upon whim. The electorate ignores right versus wrong, and rather chooses a desired outcome without regard to truth or justice.

Right versus wrong is no longer principle; it is a notion. Unsophisticated right-versus-wrong, has become a target of derision. What is right has been replaced by whatever gratifies me, and whatever gratifies me I can justify by whatever tortured ethical contortions I can conjure. Yet the culture mistakes this sophistication for wisdom. A rejection of right-versus-wrong is not merely a competing ideology. Rejecting right versus wrong is a rejection of God.

The Apostle Paul commented upon the perversion of the culture of the first century, saying,
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Romans 1:21-23 (KJV)
We might demur at the thought of our sophisticated society groveling before graven images, yet we do, if only metaphorically. The late Michael Crichton, as published in the Wall Street Journal, remarks,
Nobody believes weather predictions twelve hours ahead. Now we’re asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their [sic] minds?
Yes, Michael, nearly everyone has lost his mind. Such is an unfortunate, albeit necessary, consequence of rejecting God. Our culture has replaced the knowledge of God with the ruminations of lunatics who in turn make merchandise of the masses.

Just because the world’s so-call scientists or even economists agree among themselves to believe something, it does not follow that it must be true. For instance, sacrificing taxpayers on the altar of the Wall Street technocracy did not alleviate the financial crisis. Investors are still wondering, where is the bottom? And, now, what are the rules?

Eventually, the economy will recover, and the architects of the crime, like witchdoctors, will take credit for staving off a worse disaster. Meanwhile, the powerful investment bankers are grateful for your sacrifice. Likewise, selling global warming might make the world a cool place to live, but only for those who manage to grab a spot near the top of the Ponzi. Global warming doctrine and financial bailouts redistribute wealth and consolidate political power, but they accomplish little real benefit.

When we as believers in Jesus Christ realize that all the sophisticated ideologies fluttering about in the culture are merely godless religions and not truth or science, then we are better equipped to respond to them. By respond, I do not mean that we entrench for 2010 or 2012. I mean that we should obey the truth we have held all along.

For instance, our responsibility to governmental authority has not changed. Nor would it be different had the election turned out otherwise. Peter tells us,
Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)
Peter does not tell his flock, to agree with the king, but he does insist that they honor him with integrity worthy of the Lord.

Saul, the first king of Israel, rejected the Lord, and the Lord rejected Saul from being king. Yet, even in the midst of his rebellion, Scripture refers to Saul as “the LORD’s anointed.” It refers to him as such more often than it refers to any other king of Israel as “the LORD’s anointed.” Saul’s wickedness did not nullify God’s choice. Nor did it thwart God’s purpose.

The term, “the LORD’s anointed” was normally reserved for the leaders and kings of Israel. However, Isaiah speaks for the Lord to Cyrus, king of Persia, saying,

This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut:
I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.

I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.

I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.

I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me.

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

“You heavens above, rain down righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.

Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness grow with it;
I, the LORD, have created it.

Isaiah 45:1-8 (NIV)

God raises up world leaders to make his glory known and to accomplish the salvation of his chosen. He uses men whether or not they acknowledge him as God. Isaiah goes on to warn those who despise God’s choices. He says, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’?” Isaiah 45:9 (NIV)

Consequently, we accept the outcome of any election as the expressed will of God. We realize also that God seeks to accomplish something much different from our personal comfort and financial prosperity. God seeks to make himself known and to bring about the salvation of his chosen ones. God’s salvation does not come by the consensus of men. Rather it comes by God’s own power and by his judgment.

Regardless of whether we are invigorated or vexed by the outcome of the recent election, we must align our hearts with the purposes of our Maker. The insanity and injustice of modern culture is not our battle to fight. Even as the electoral fever breaks into the wet chills of political reality, we should not entangle ourselves in a lost battle for the culture.

Rather we should equip ourselves as effective evangelists in the battle for the lost within the culture. Cultural morass is merely a symptom of the disease. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. This is our message regardless of what God is doing among the nations.

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