The result of the General Election is in, and what an event it has been! Some political parties have been wiped out, and others have exceeded expectations. As ever with these things, almost every party leader is claiming victory, while members within their own parties are either openly criticizing or quietly sucking up in the hope of preferment.
One wonders what Mrs May—who is still Prime Minister today—is thinking. Does she regret her decision to call the election? Does she regret having said she would not call an early election, before going back on her promise? Does she regret the content of her party’s manifesto, key areas of which she had to turn from so soon after it was published? One wonders.
The election result has been called variously ‘chaos’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘messy’. When Mrs May called the election she commanded a large lead in the polls, but during the course of the campaign she saw that lead melt away. Whether the Prime Minister will survive remains to be seen, but one is reminded of the comment of Winston Churchill, that politics is far more exciting than war; for in war one can only be killed once, but in politics one can be killed many times.
Whatever the result means for political parties and for individual politicians, one notes the likelihood of an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP has the distinction of being the most Christian of the parties represented at Westminster. Their stand on same-sex marriage and abortion, for instance, is at odds with that of the modern Conservative party—and that of much of society. If they do indeed form a coalition, will they be able to be an influence for good on these matters? It remains to be seen.
This does remind us that even politicians are under the authority of God. ‘Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God’ (Romans 13:1). For this reason the Apostle declares in another place, ‘I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty’ (1 Timothy 2:1).
There is great comfort to be had in Psalm 146. The psalmist issues the call to praise, both generally and personally to himself, v.1. The giving of praise to the Lord is a lifelong work, v.2, for it is the purpose of life.
In comparison with our heavenly Father, no human being is worthy of our trust. ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help’ (v.3). The reason, v.4, is that man is mortal; if we cannot truly help ourselves, how can we hope to help others? No human intentions can outlast the breath of our life, and they perish when we do. Many years ago a government minister famously walked out of an interview when the interviewer made reference to ‘here-today-and-gone-tomorrow politicians’, and yet that is exactly what they, and we, are. This much is declared in Psalm 90, one of the psalms set for the Burial of the Dead in the Book of Common Prayer. In vv.6–7 man is likened to the grass of the field; ‘In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.’
It was a failing of the Israelites that they trusted in foreign nations to save them. When the Lord, in his righteous anger, raised up a nation such as the Syrians or the Babylonians to punish his wayward people, they cast about for a defence. That defence was never repentance and submission to the Lord and his laws, but the seeking of alliances, with the Egyptians or some other nation. All such efforts to escape the wrath of God failed. They must, for as David declared in another place, ‘If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me’ (Psalm 139:6–7). As Jonah could testify, there is nowhere we can flee on earth where the Lord will not find us. Whether we take ship and go in the opposite direction from the one he has commanded, or whether we are cast into the pit, God sees us, and can deal with us for good or ill. There is, therefore, no wisdom in trying to escape the Lord or his authority. No man can do this, and no man can enable another to do it, for all are subject to the sovereign rule of heaven.
What is the alternative? Psalm 146 continues, ‘Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.’ This happiness arises from the fact that God is the Creator of the world, who keeps truth for ever, who executes judgment for the oppressed, who feeds the hungry, and delivers the prisoner. He gives sight to the blind, he raises up those who are bowed under a load, he loves the righteous, and keeps the way of the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. He overturns the way of the wicked. The Psalm concludes with the declaration of God’s eternal reign.
Such a God is no mere fancy of human invention, no idol of man’s imagination. This is the God of power and might, whose deeds are declared in the heavens. This Lord is worthy of all worship, for he is able and willing to save his people, and to glorify his great name among us.
In so doing our heavenly Father uses means. When he would save the Israelites from Egypt, they must kill the passover lamb, and mark the doorways of their houses with the blood. They must cook and eat the lamb, in readiness for a sudden journey. Having come out the land, they must cross the Red Sea. The Lord did not pick them up and carry them; they must walk, with the walls of water reared up on both sides. When they came to Jericho, they must take the city; not by force of arms, but by a full and ready obedience to the word of the Lord through his servant Joshua. When David would challenge Goliath he must take his five smooth stones and his sling, and cast a stone at the giant, before drawing the man’s sword and removing his head from his shoulders. Time and again we see that the Lord uses means.
Those means may not always be obvious. Who would have imagined that a little Israelite slave girl in Syria would be one to teach a general that there is a God whose power exceeds all we can think or ask? Who would have considered that the tyrant Cyrus would be God’s instrument to restore the Jews to Jerusalem? Who would have considered that a violent persecutor of Christ’s people would be the chosen instrument to bear Christ’s name before rulers and kings, and be the means by which the gospel would be preached to very many people?
Who knows what our politicians might yet be moved by the Lord to do for his glory and honour? It is improbable that anyone, looking at the young Henry VIII, would have taken him for a king strong enough to resist the power of the Pope, a resistance in which most of his predecessors had engaged almost back to the Conquest, but had failed. Who would have thought that the mild scholar from Jesus College, Cambridge, would rise to such a position that he would shape the English reformation? Who would have imagined that the miner’s son from the town of Mansfeld in Upper Saxony would strike such a blow that the whole edifice of papal power would crack from foundation to roof?
And yet our confidence is not in men. We do not trust in leaders. We are to be loyal to those in positions of authority, and we must pray for those who govern us. We must do so in the recognition that they, like us, are but frail creatures, and entirely dependent on the Lord’s gracious aid. But our help cometh from the Lord, which hath made heaven and earth. He neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Let us pray that our politicians, and our church leaders, would be brought to the knowledge of the truth, confessing Jesus Christ to be Lord and God, and giving him all the glory. Only God rules in equity, but he can and does turn the hearts of kings to do his bidding. Prime ministers, and government officials, are all under him. Let us pray that they will be led to govern wisely and well, in these needy days.