A couple weeks ago I perused a post by the master blogger, Tim Challies, entitled, “Thankful for God’s Gift of Government.” Tim’s main point was that we Canadians should be thankful for the institution of human government which has been ordained by God for the well-being of society. Governments in Canada are working hard these days to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. And we should be thankful despite the fact that governments on all levels are going to make mistakes and yes, even commit sins. Nonetheless, citizens have a divine obligation to respect the powers that be (Rom. 13:1-7) and Christians are to pray for them (I Tim. 2:1, 2).
But thankfully, we also live in an open, democratic society. That means all citizens are free to express their views and concerns on all topics not only at polling stations with their ‘x’ every three or four years, but every day in conversations and in writing. It is part of what helps to keep a check on things, including government initiatives that at times appear to be more about promoting the party than about the welfare of the people. With that thought in mind, I’d like to share three areas of concern I’ve had over our federal governments, be they Liberal or Conservative.
According to the debt clock of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the federal public debt for Canada today stands at about 743 billion dollars and it’s growing at a rate of 690 million dollars per day. This terrible downward trend has been going on for years. And it’s not good. Every Canadian citizen should be concerned. How can we be so gullible as to keep voting for political parties who promise fiscal responsibility but fail to deliver? And how can we be so naïve as to think that public debt doesn’t matter? Pay day will arrive some day, and it may be very soon. I am not an economist but I like to think I have a bit of common sense. I perceive that all the goodwill of our government in these days of crisis is going to come back and bite us big time. They are “compassionately” giving out tons of government money to help out businesses and workers right now. But they have no money to draw from. Something has to give.
Approximately fifteen hundred years before the time of Christ, the famous Hebrew, Joseph, ruled Egypt as the right-hand man of the pharaoh. God enabled Joseph to perceive that seven years of famine were soon coming to the land and so he advised the king to make suitable preparations. During seven years of plenty, one fifth of the food produced by the country was stockpiled against the seven years of famine yet to come. And it worked. Lives were saved (Gen. 50:20). Oh, how I wish our current leaders would imbibe some of the ancient wisdom. Wouldn’t it be great if we, the affluent, hard-working Canada, would get itself out of debt and save a little for a rainy day?
We Canadians pride ourselves on our supposed high values as we compare ourselves to other nations in the world. We are welcoming. We are peace lovers and peace keepers. We are generous in our giving to other countries. Yet the fact remains that we kill one hundred thousand innocent children in our land every year. Yes, these are preborn children; but human children nonetheless. Something doesn’t jive here.
When the first male human born into the human race rose up and killed his brother Abel thousands of years ago, God took notice. In fact, God confronted Cain and said to him: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). Fellow Canadians, the voices of the slain innocents in our land must be rising as a very loud chorus of screams in the ears of their Maker. And shall we not pay a heavy price for our crimes against humanity in this regard? When will Canadians rise up and say, enough is enough, and vote and demand accordingly?
Leaning on others is a good thing. I don’t think it’s healthy for people to isolate themselves to such a degree that they feel they don’t need anything from anyone. God made us social beings and community is a good thing. My concern here, by using the word “dependency,” is a matter of looking at ourselves in the mirror as citizens and asking: who am I dependent on and to what degree? Are my current dependencies a good or bad thing?
When kids are growing up in their families, they are dependent on their parents to look after them in many ways, physically and emotionally and so forth. But the goal of parents is to see their children grow up and be healthy, independent, contributing members of society. As a Christian, I want to be that. I like to think (though I may be deceiving myself, granted) that my dependencies rank in the following order: God, myself, family, friends, businesses/organizations/institutions, government. (Okay, government sometimes ranks higher, especially when that hernia really aggravates me and the trash is piling up in the back yard.)
God is still alive and owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10). The great Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low,
and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret
of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him [God]
who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)
There is a courageous brand of holy dependence on God in his words combined with a fierce independence: “I can do all things.” A few verses later he tells them: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
I am afraid that a huge swath of our Canadian society has, in hard times and maybe even in good times, imbibed a poor order of dependency. We have replaced God with human governments. They’ve switched places on my list of ranked dependencies. Therefore, we no longer pray to God as Jesus encouraged us to: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mat. 6:11). Instead, we look to the governments to meet our every need. And our governments seem to be happy to play that ever-increasing beneficent role. Sorry, this may sound a little harsh; especially in a time of crisis when people from many walks of life are really suffering and could use some government assistance. I am not wanting to eliminate governments off the list of ranked dependencies. I only want to challenge each and every one of us, including myself, to seriously consider what is and should be the proper ranking of our dependencies.
So, what about our Canadian government, eh? I am thankful for the institution of government and their efforts when they are wisely working for us. But I have concerns. I want all citizens to contemplate at least these three big areas in which I believe our federal governments are not doing well at all --- debt, death, and dependency. Is this really how we want our country to be?
(Bible verses quoted are from the ESV.)
As a writer, I’ve been musing over the enigmatic verse tagged as the first one of Psalm 45 ---
My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
I’ve been wanting to emphasize to my fellow Christian writers the importance of speaking the gospel of Christ in our writing, of communicating the Word of God, and always having our content be in accordance with the Scriptures. If we don’t do it, who will? But instead of me jumping into this topic directly and writing a personal exhortation, maybe it’s better to simply reflect on the Scriptures as an example of what I am talking about. Thus, Psalm 45:1 seems like a good place to camp out for a few moments.
An overflowing heart
The heart is the place where our real selves exist. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV). If you’ve ever listened to a speaker rattling off dull facts or a politician regurgitating his well-scripted party line ad nauseam, you know how unimpressive it is. But when someone speaks from their heart, we usually know it. They may stutter and stumble, but we are all ears. That’s because we sense they are speaking from a deep place. This is where the writer of this psalm found himself --- in a good contemplation, like the “burning fire” (Jer. 20:9) in the prophet Jeremiah’s heart that could no longer be contained.
A good theme
This psalm is one of many which are said to be messianic. They speak much of the person of the coming king, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself stated dogmatically that the Old Testament Scriptures were about Him, including the Psalms (Luke 24:27, 44). But certain psalms seem to speak of Him more poignantly than others. Psalm 45 is one of them. The writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews quotes this psalm as he begins his letter, seeking to convince his audience that Jesus Christ is all that the Scriptures portray Him to be. He is better than angels and the One they should unabashedly worship and adore:
But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter
of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness
and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil
of gladness more than Your companions” (Heb. 1:8-9; cf. Ps. 45:6-7).
It was the Spirit of Christ within the Old Testament writers who stirred them to write of Him even though they themselves had little comprehension of the full magnitude of what they were writing (see I Peter 1:10-12). The good theme is the person of the great King, King Jesus.
I recite my composition
This good theme naturally became the subject of his writing and his speaking. “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Mat. 12:34). The psalmist felt compelled to recite, to speak verbally, of his “composition concerning the King.” There may have been a more immediate reference to King Solomon and his glorious wedding which was unfolding. But the Bible does not allow us to stop there. This king was “fairer than the sons of men” and God has blessed Him forever (Ps. 45:2). The praise goes far beyond the royal King Solomon for “the people shall praise You forever and ever” (Ps. 45:17). King Jesus was a man, but also more than a man. He was the unique God-man, the only Son of God. Is there a fairer person in the universe for us to speak and write about?
My tongue is the pen
Here lies the strange intermingling of verbal and written communication. Is one method better than the other? I say, no. Both speaking and writing have their advantages and weaknesses. There is a dynamic in oral speech which cannot be fully manifested in written speech. It can be the dynamic of immediate, Spirit-filled, human personality (see I Peter 1:12). The speaker’s entire body is often used to project the meaning intended. Voice intonation can parlay the exact emphasis needed. But even the best oral messages can be lost on us not long after they are received. Our memories are faulty. But with writing, though intonation and use of non-verbal cues are absent, there is nonetheless a certainty and permanence to the communication. The Apostle Peter referred to Scripture as being more stable, firm, reliable than even the audible voice of God from heaven (see II Pet. 1:19). One can mull over written words often and garner benefit from them. And one can spread them to others. Hence, the beauty of the Scriptures themselves as they’ve come to us in such varied form in sixty-six books. But even now, our creative writing can have this power of certainty and permanence. Our writing will not rise to the level of being divinely inspired, of course; but nevertheless, our penned or typed words can have a lasting impact, especially when they are built on the everlasting truth of Scripture.
Of a ready writer
The word, “ready,” here has the meaning of quick, skillful. The psalmist was ready to not only speak words of the king but to write them down for the benefit of others. My fellow Christian writers, I hope you have obtained a sense of how great our calling is. We have the privilege of thinking deeply about our great Lord Jesus and then allowing our hearts to overflow onto our papers and screens. God has given us creative abilities and there is an infinite number of ways we can utilize these skills in our writing. But at the end of the day, may our compositions contain much of the King, the One who is “fairer than the sons of men.”
(Verses quoted are from the NKJV unless indicated otherwise.)