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THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - How the Bible views a dictator

‘What is history’, said Oliver Cromwell once, ‘but God manifesting himself’.

It is hard to hold that view when watching film footage of Russian military might moving inexorably into Ukrainian territory.

Western threats of sanctions have done nothing to deter the dictator Putin.

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Dictators are among the characters who populate the pages of the Bible, beginning with Egypt’s Pharoah, and continuing to the bleak pages of the Book of Revelation.

Rev David Clarke

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah saw a formidable dictator at first hand.

His tiny country of Judah, no bigger than an average English county, faced the ruthless force of one of history’s cruellest dictatorships, the Assyrian empire, which held the world in its iron grip for 200 years.

The Assyrian emperor boasted that his forces had made pyramids of human heads, and had reddened deserts with carnage.

Destroying another nation, he boasted, was as easy as robbing a bird’s nest (Isaiah 10;13).

How did Isaiah view such a thug?

Sometimes, argued Isaiah, God uses a dictator to punish his people.

Assyria was ‘the rod of God’s anger’(10;5).

Isaiah was conscious that God’s chosen people of Israel had betrayed the trust and love God had lavished upon them.

They must not imagine that the righteous God of all the earth would wink at their disobedience.

However, promises Isaiah, God will deal with Assyria in due course; ‘I will punish the King of Assyria for the wilful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes’(10; 12).

God can use even the wrath of men to praise him (Psalm 76;10).

The Assyrian Empire crumbled, so too did that of Babylon.

And Babylon itself fell to the power of Persia.

And the Persian general, Cyrus, allowed captive Jews to return and rebuild the walls of devastated Jerusalem. God works through many agents.

In God’s world, while dictators may strut their little hour upon the stage, their downfall is assured.

In Victor Hugo’s great novel, ‘Les Miserables’ there is a description of the battle of Waterloo, and the author asks the question, “Was it possible for Napoleon to win the battle? We answer in the negative.

“Why? On account of Wellington, on account of Blucher? No, on account of God.

“When the earth is suffering from an excessive burden, there are mysterious groans from the shadow, which the abyss hears. Napoleon had long been denounced in infinitude, and his fall was decided. He had angered God”.

Who can doubt that the same applies to Vladimir Putin.

Ultimately, the only kingdom that endures is that ruled by ‘Christ, the swordless, on an ass’.

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