Editorial: Decrees of Men and The Designs of God

Twice over in the New Testament the Caesars who sat on their thrones issued official decrees. No doubt, they did so with a sense of importance and sovereignty. In Luke 2, the edict demanded that all return to their cities for a census. The result was the well-known story of the journey, by Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the birth of the Lord Jesus. Caesar’s decree was God’s design for the fulfillment of Micah 5:2.

Another Caesar ascended the throne and ruled during the first century. His name was Claudius Caesar. Once again an edict was issued affecting thousands of people. This time, the demand was for all Jews to depart from Rome (Acts 18). Another couple were displaced and exiled from home. Aquila and Priscilla were forced from Rome to Corinth. Political exiles, they might have wallowed in self-pity over the unfortunate and inconvenient demand to leave family, friends, and home for the wicked environs of Corinth. A willful, despotic man had changed their life circumstances at his whim.

Once again, behind the decrees of a Caesar was the design of God. Unknown perhaps to this godly couple was the purpose of God to see a work begun in Corinth. Not long after their arrival in Corinth, the apostle Paul arrived in the same city. Their home became the base of operations for this itinerant evangelist and his invasion into the pagan and godless society of Corinth. God’s design had trumped Caesar’s decree.

If we add to this the Old Testament decrees of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, we see that God has always been sovereign in the affairs of state among nations. Leaders may legislate according to their wisdom, governors may govern according to their wills, and petty officials may make unfair decisions touching the lives of many. God may allow all this and more. Yet such is the greatness, wisdom, and sovereignty of our God, that He is able to use all this to bring to pass His ultimate purpose for His Son.

Around us is a world in chaos. Decisions issue forth from governments, resolutions are passed, and declarations of war are made. So quickly does the landscape change that today’s enemy can quickly become tomorrow’s ally. The horrors of ISIS but foreshadow the terrible conditions of a coming day as revealed in the details of Revelation. The world has yet to experience its darkest hour.

We can, however, take comfort in the fact that God is working to bring the globe to the great moment when He will bring back His Son (Heb 1:6) and the world will know righteous rule and peace. It will be like “the light of the morning” after a long and dark night. Like “clear shining after rain” (2Sam 23:4). We do not retreat into the sovereignty of God as an escape mechanism. We do so in absolute confidence in the Word of God as the only light in a dark, and otherwise hopeless, world.