Nov 20 2022 Politics and the Name of God
20th November 2022
So, I’m sitting down because today’s title is
Politics and the Name of God
This is something that I don’t talk about. And I don’t talk about who you should vote for.
But this is Politics AND the Name of God, not Politics IN the Name of God.
I may have to reference my notes as I don’t want to get anyone mad.
Too many people use the name of God to endorse their views or political candidate. I would suggest that when someone does this – they are breaking the 3rd commandment – they are misrepresenting God when they do that.
The Bible, strangely, never talks about voting!
There is nothing in there to tell you how to vote or about elections. But it does say a lot about politics, that is, if we understand politics to mean the proper use of power in human society for the purpose of human flourishing. Shalom is how the OT would describe this. It is more than, Peace, man.
Exodus 1:8 8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph…
And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.
In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh is mentioned 90 times. And all 90 times, we are not told his name. Last week we talked about the importance of the name. Exodus is NOT the name of the book in Hebrew, but “The Names” – what names are mentioned and what names are NOT mentioned.
The writer of Exodus never mentions the name. The purpose of this is not Harry Potter’s “He who must not be named” – but the purpose is showing the utter lack of power the most powerful man on earth possesses.
If I were to write a book – the History of the US in the 21st Century – New president – 9/11 – Afghanistan/new president - …
In the book – the president’s name would never be mentioned! I think we put too much power in the position.
“It is God and not the nations who rules the world.” -Stanley Hauerwas
Here is a biblical definition of politics:
Zechariah 7: 9 "This is what the LORD Almighty said: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.'
We need to learn to do these things – true justice, without politicizing it. There is a difference between being political, and politicizing things. If you understand THIS above as the definition of politics, every Christian should be engaged in politics – but we should never be engaged in POLITICIZING. We engage in Politicizing when we do it like the world. We must do it radically different from the Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
We need to look at what the Bible says about using power for the proper flourishing of human beings.
The background to Matthew 20 – The mother of James and John comes to Jesus and says – I would like my sons to be at your right and left! This is the political power structure of their world. She is politicizing the kingdom of God.
There is polarization, as the disciples get in a big argument. Huh – Polarization from politicizing!
Matthew 20: 25 But Jesus called them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them.
This is the politics of the world!
26 It must not be this way among you!
Absolutely never use their tactics, slogans, ways, manipulations, their maneuvering. INSTEAD…
Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave– 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
The politics of Jesus is humility, service, and self-sacrifice. We need to develop the politic of the CROSS.
To do that, we must understand that we are first and foremost disciples of Christ. We are followers of Jesus – and Jesus told His disciples to pick up their cross and follow Me.
No matter how high you believe the political stakes are, it is never okay to lay down the cross to engage in a political issue.
So it is never okay to not forgive those who hurt you. It is never okay to not bless those who curse you – or to not love your enemy – we could go through all the things that Jesus talks about. Our discipleship must never be formed by our political affiliations.
Some examples of what this looks like today.
First – do not engage in or hold to the false dichotomy of right and left – the polarization of people. That is the way of the gentiles. Right/left, conservative liberal – turning those you disagree with into the evil enemy – that is the way of the gentiles.
The indication – is how you speak of those on the other side.
We, as Christians, must be really careful how we speak to and of those we disagree with. It is okay to have a discussion – and to hold to strong views – but it is not okay to call people Nazis.
Do not put your hope or trust in parties, politicians, or supreme courts. Do not trust in political leaders or chariots or horses…
In Jesus’ trial before Pilate:
John 18: 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
There you go.
His kingdom is not of this world. There is a double meaning to this – it is a heavenly kingdom. If it were, My servants would be fighting – He is saying that is how the world does politics. My kingdom does not rule that way!
So, how do we do this? I’d like to leave that for our discussion afterward. But there is a second question – I don’t think you all have this issue – I think we are good at this here, but it is an issue that affects all of us. Here is the question: does it work?
If work means, winning elections – I don’t know that I would say – yes it works. But I’m not sure it matters – because it is God who rules, not people, nations, or kings.
There are some examples in the book of Exodus – and 4 women and a young girl will teach us the politics of the cross.
The people of Israel were multiplying – so Pharaoh turns them into slave labor – and they multiply all the more – so plan B is introduced:
Exodus 1: 15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;
What is the name of the book of Exodus? Names. Two midwives whose names are front and center – while Pharaoh is never named. These women will have power over the most powerful man on earth.
16 and he said, "When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."
Pharaoh was the original Hitler, but had the long-game…
17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.
They put their lives at risk – self-sacrifice – they defied the most powerful man on earth.
18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?" 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them."
20 So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.
Plan B failed.
21 Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.
This established human flourishing. Were they running a campaign? No, but they were being political.
Now for Pharaoh’s plan C:
22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "All sons that are born you must throw into the river, but all daughters you may let live."
There is so much going on in this passage – watching Bible Project stuff – so many themes and design patterns – foreshadowing how Pharaoh is going to die (in the river) – but we don’t have time to get into all of that.
Exodus 2: A man from the household of Levi married a woman who was a daughter of Levi.
The third woman – this is very important.
2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was good, she hid him for three months.
Genesis 3 – when Eve saw that the fruit was good – she used it wrongly. But the mom does it the right way – the opposite -
3 But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket (Ark! – only used here and for Noah’s ark!) for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile.
So she obeys the kings command… in a subversive way – that promotes and produces human flourishing. The politics of the cross.
I think it takes a lot of creativity to do the politics of the cross.
4 His sister stationed herself (word is ‘like a soldier’ – this takes a stand – she may have been as young as 6) at a distance to find out what would happen to him. 5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself by the Nile –(There is no reason for her to do this – as she would have been able to bathe in the palace), while her attendants were walking alongside the river, and she saw the basket among the reeds (I think they may have been looking for something to rescue). She sent one of her attendants, took it, 6 opened it, and saw the child– a boy, crying!– and she felt compassion for him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."
She is kind of playing the role of God here. IN a few chapters, God hears the cry of His people – has compassion on them – and rescues them.
7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get a nursing woman for you from the Hebrews, so that she may nurse the child for you?" 8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes, do so." So the young girl went and got the child's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him.
10 When the child grew older she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "Because I drew him from the water."
So there are these 4 women and a young girl. Their victory? Do you know how long it took? 80 years! Their political victory was not seen for 80 years, but boy, was it powerful.
11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
How does Moses do it? The way of the world.
I’ve thought about these things for years – I don’t talk about it a lot. But this verse has affected me the most:
Matthew 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”
I would say this – all those who take up the sword of the politics of the gentiles will perish by the sword of the politics of the gentiles.