Sunday, October 19, 2008
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
The news is alarming. Credit markets around the world are frozen! Temperatures are rising, threatening widespread famine! Americans are sharply divided about important issues! We are losing our prestige around the world! Tom Brady is out for the season!
We have to go all the way back to the Great Depression to find a time when Americans were so pessimistic.
The world is changed forever, and we are learning how to adapt.
At the time when Isaiah was writing down his prophecies, the world was also changing dramatically. It was the dawn of the Persian empire led by Cyrus. After defeating the Babylonians who had held the people of Israel captive, Cyrus commands that they be repatriated to Israel and that the temple be rebuilt. Cyrus is a pagan king who worshipped many gods. Nonetheless, God calls him "his anointed", or "Messiah". Imagine, a pagan king being called "Messiah"! Through the prophet, God is letting his people know that he alone controls the destiny of all nations. Even pagan kings do his bidding though they know it not. He is the Lord of history, controlling the world's events. "I am the Lord; there is no other."
For this reason, Jesus can so easily dismiss the question about the census tax. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus has seen many kings and their empires come and go. All of them were brought to stand before his judgment seat at their death. Jesus knew that Caesar and his empire were no threat to the kingship of God. Political powers, armies and economies are all temporary, but God reigns as king forever. He is Lord; there is no other.
The children's song says it best, "He has the whole world in his hands." God is in control.
Most of the issues we feel so strongly about today will be trivial tomorrow. Would any of us know or care about Cyrus, who was the most powerful man of his day, if his name didn't appear in Scripture? And, a thousand years from now, only the nerdiest history student will know about the United States and who George Bush was. Yet, the Church will still be preaching Christ Crucified, will still be serving the poor, and the newspapers (if they still exist) will continue writing about how the Church is in crisis. And, God willing, we will be enjoying our heavenly inheritance!
Believers are not equipped by God to solve all the world's problems. Neither may we stand by idly as our neighbors suffer. Whatever the case, we do not have to succumb to fatalism or depression. As Saint Paul writes, we prove our faith by "laboring in love and showing constancy in hope." That hope is rooted in our conviction that a loving God is directing the course of world events. He is the Lord; there is no other.