The media has called it Zuma’s “Night of the Long Knives.”
The midnight events as Thursday 30th March gave way to Friday 31st March streamed through the news feeds. A major Cabinet reshuffle in South Africa has occurred, with political carnage being the order of the night. Hirings, firings and lateral movement was the issue. A week of uncertainty, tinged with some scary certainty, ended as the President expelled the Finance Minister and his Deputy, Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas. Opposition parties are in protest, business leaders cry, “Foul” and the blog sites reflect the anger, disappointment and fear of ordinary South Africans.
No doubt opinions will continue to fly. Emotions will rage. Discussions will be had across the board in our country, amongst all strata of our beautiful people.
As professing believers in Christ, how do we see this all? What perspective and should we have? Irrespective of our own political allegiance, what are the umbrella principles and worldview issues that should dictate our responses and conversations and prayers?
In a nutshell, writing as a pastor to help our people, I’d venture this in summary – look high and look long!
1) Looking high involves a robust view of the sovereignty of God – that He is on His throne, that none of this takes Him by surprise, that His will and purposes are being worked out even in this turmoil, and that nothing undermines or thwarts His supreme authority. Linked with that, consider that petty human kings, rulers, authorities and governments serve at the behest of God… If Mr Zuma thinks it is his prerogative to hire and fire ministers, he might be well advised to consider that he too serves under God’s supreme control…
“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.” (Isaiah 40:21–24, ESV)
2) Looking long is the believer’s hope, isn’t it? Jesus Christ is coming back. He is coming back as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” He will judge the living and the dead. Perfect justice will prevail round the Judgement Seat of Christ. He will restore all things, and make all things right. There is blessed forward-looking hope for the believer. What is happening in 2017 is a blip on the radar screen of eternity for the believer in Christ.
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–9, ESV)
In light of that, how then do we pray for our government, and our President?
There are many texts to shape that kind of prayer – prayers for conviction, for restraint, prayers for repentance and them to come to faith in Christ. Ample cases could be made for imprecatory prayer, seeking God’s intervention and justice to be brought to bear to stop the rot, halt the abuses, and bring good for the poor and vulnerable who face the brunt of the aftermath. To be sure, praying for God’s righteous anger to burn would be appropriate, coupled with His mercy to flow – for the nation, for the government and for the President.
But I am compellingly drawn to the timeless words of Psalm 2…
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2, ESV)
This really should be a model of prayer for South African Christians at this time – for God’s Spirit to bring conviction of the sheer arrogance, power-mad behaviour and godlessness that prevails.
Mr Zuma, it is highly unlikely that you will ever get to read this posting – but I hope you read something similar from someone, at some stage. Believers in our country are concerned – not just about the political issues, which are often mere opinion. We’re concerned about the godlessness, the lack of righteous behaviour, the slide to a moral abyss. We’re concerned about the heart motives in the corridors of power that seemingly undergird that – what appears to be a wilful rejection of God, an abandonment of His Word and a disregard for the authority of God under which you serve.
Mr Zuma, you claim that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes back. In God’s mysterious providence, that may, or may not be, the case. But the more compelling issue is this – Jesus Christ IS coming back. And you, along with every other person, will get to face Him and give an account for your life. And the Bible is crystal clear – those without Christ, without faith in the glorious Son of God, will be condemned to eternal judgement. Mr President, will you be ready for that day? I pray so, for the good of your eternal soul.
Please heed the call of God to you as a ruler:
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10–12, ESV)