Before I get going, can you name the following 12 important world leaders and the countries they represent (answers are at the end)? The significance of which will soon become apparent.
In my Bible readings recently I have been reading a lot about the various kings that were around at the time, especially in regard to Israel, God’s chosen people. A few things have jumped out of the pages, which I would like to share here. Like many, when I survey our world leaders (I include the 12 above as being particularly prominent both because of their ability to do much good or bad, and because they have often cropped up in recent news), I have qualms. As one who believes there are other seen and unseen forces controlling the world, there will other names, some we don’t realize or are even aware of, that are also influential, sometimes more so. I am mindful of the Bible command to pray for those authorities and the reason. None of those appearing in the above picture would be my choices and many world leaders in history have been wicked.
I would like to consider the question with reference to two groups. The first group comprises three rulers: Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), Xerxes (the whole book of Esther) and Cyrus (Isaiah 45). The first ruled over the Babylonian Empire and the other two ruled over the Persian Empire. Tempted as I am to discuss the significance of these empires and where these rulers fitted in, as far as the Bible references are concerned, the focus of attention is how He and they dealt with the nation of Israel, which the Babylonians had taken into captivity, and when the Persia conquered Babylon, they effectively took over that role. Nebuchadnezar was a proud king who very quickly God humbled and after being humbled he came to honour God and no doubt God’s special people too. Xerxes was a fickle and impetuous king who God spoke to and part of his response was to save God’s people from complete annihilation. Cyrus was the only king of the three who was referred to as “anointed” and one God gave victory to over his enemies. History records that he was an enlightened king and he was also one who did much to help Israel.
“Anointed” was precisely what the two kings in my second group were, as unlikely as this might have seemed. My understanding of this word, when used in the Bible, is that the anointed one had been both appointed and equipped by God for a special purpose. At a low ebb in his life, Elijah the prophet encountered God and was told to anoint three people. One was his successor, Elisha, who turned out to have twice the anointing that Elijah had. The other two is less easy to comprehend since words like “good” would not be how we would describe them. Jehu has gone down as a bad king because he disobeyed God, but in one important act he was obedient, being the instrument of judgment on his wicked predecessor, Ahab. Hazael is even more baffling because he became king over Syria, which was an enemy of Israel. Hazael harshly oppressed Israel, but he was used by God to judge his special people, who He loved, to bring them back to Him. It all does to show that God indeed works in mysterious ways!
As I reflect on the above kings, none would be put in the promising category when it comes to kingship and none, at least at the start, were particularly inclined to God or even as doing good for the people, and yet all of them God used and had His hand over. As I reflect on the 12 world leaders mentioned above, none would be my cup of tea when deeming their suitability for the position they find themselves in, although sometimes I stand amazed at what some do when it comes to “Thy will be done” and how God can anoint such to do His will. Those who read this will have various opinions where these stand on the good-bad continuum and how well they fare. Yet all of them we need to pray for, knowing having such power over peoples’ lives is an awesome responsibility and recognising God can use any of them to carry out His purposes. Dare we believe this?
The 12 world leaders are: May – UK; Putin – Russia; Trump – USA; Rouhani – Iran; Assad – Syria; Salman- Saudi; Netanyahu – Israel; Erdogen – Turkey; Macron – France; Merkel – Germany; Kim Jong Un – North Korea; Xi Jinping – China