As New Zealand once again enters into an election period, referenda on drugs and death, education policy changes, and the value of family are all on the agenda. Jonathan Ayling explains why he believes the church must boldly embrace its call to “enlighten the darkness”.
Psalm 46 concludes with an often difficult commandment, and also a sustaining promise:
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:10‑11, ESV).
There is divine comfort in rest of this kind: that the name of the Lord will be exalted in our nation, for the Lord is our fortress. A great passion consumes my life for the name of our Lord in our country, and this is a precious thing. Yet if I allow this to lead me into a place of struggling, striving and stressing in my own strength, I insert a crippling dose of self into my desire to see God made great.
A trust in the sovereignty of God, which will always exalt the name of the Lord, gives us a heavenly hope that nourishes our souls, even when our circumstances defy this faith. This rest is not a passive thing; this hope-filled rest is a spirit-enabled place of active trust that accepts God’s invitation for us to work with our heavenly Father, but not be crushed by its unbearable weight. His call is for the weak and weary-laden, promising rest; his yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:28, 30).
Joshua the high priest
This hope is particularly dear as we look at the state and direction of our country. Is it possible that even in such a place and time as this, God will be exalted in our nation? As brick after brick is wrenched from the foundation of our society in the name of individual sovereignty, freedom of choice and endless self-promotion, some begin to ask whether Christians should even associate with politics anymore.
I find encouragement in one of the lesser known biblical characters who would heartily respond, yes, even in our day and age, the Lord will use us to exalt his name. Even through the brokenness of politics, godless policies and self-interested power, the name of the Lord will resound.
Joshua the high priest is not a particularly well-known biblical character, yet this priest, graced with the crown of the king, provides for us an example of planting our feet on the Rock as we seek to straddle the line between the Kingdom of heaven and the kingdoms of earth.
Returning from Babylonian exile, the people of Israel didn’t feel that they had much of a moral high ground to stand upon. The land of Israel had been a symbol of the chosen nature of the Jewish people, yet they had been torn from it. The high priest was supposed to serve in the glory of God’s temple, but it had been destroyed. Surely, in this place, at this time, the name of the Lord was not exalted.
In a vision from the Lord, the prophet Zechariah said the following:
Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said…“Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments…Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts…” (Zechariah 3:3,4,7, ESV).
Frederick Brotherton Meyer, the British preacher and friend of D L Moody, writes concerning the filthy garments Joshua is clothed in, that our “sense of shame becomes more acute when we stand before the Angel of the Lord…The more we know of God, the more we loathe ourselves and repent. What is to be done under such circumstances? Renounce our priesthood? Disclaim its God-given functions? No: remain standing before the Angel…He has power to make our iniquity pass from us, and clothe us with change of raiment—that white linen which is the righteousness of saints.”1
Joshua stood clothed symbolically in the sins of his people, and through grace he was clothed anew. As politics is a human enterprise, it is infused with the sinfulness of man. For those of us who work in it, we acutely feel the corruption that surrounds us. Like many Christians, at times I wonder whether we should just wash our hands of the whole thing. Yet, rather than distancing ourselves from the impurity of self-advancing power, Christ would have us shine a light, to walk differently, to be cleansed and clothed anew in white linen: his righteousness.
Enlightening the darkness
Zechariah went on to prophesy over Joshua:
“Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD…It is he who shall…bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (Zechariah 6:12-13, ESV).
The calling of Joshua, the high priest, upon returning from exile in humiliation and brokenness was not to shirk back from the impurity of his condition and hide. Rather, he was to allow the presence of God to cleanse him, and from there he was called to sit as a priest on the throne, governing in his God‑given clothes of righteousness, and allowing God to exalt his name in power.
This scripture is prophetic. Another priest-king would one day come and become the Temple of God, itself, then ascend to heaven where he will rule the cosmos in the fullness of time. The name Joshua was common among the Hebrews, right up to the time of Roman occupation, when another Joshua was born, named according to the Greek form of the name: Jesus. While our perfect High Priest is already seated in the heavenly places, a day is coming when his kingship will be fully realised, and he shall rule and reign with justice and peace, cleansing politics for all time and establishing a Kingdom that will have no end. Until then, let us not grow weary in the work of the Lord.
As with Joshua the high priest, we too must embody Christ. The iniquity and darkness is not a reason to renounce the call of God to enlighten the darkness. As New Zealand returns to the polls this year, we will be deciding not only on who will represent us and lead our country for the next parliamentary term, but also on important social questions: whether we should legalise euthanasia, and whether recreational cannabis should be allowed.
The church must not abdicate its responsibility to be a voice in these times, but must stand, resting actively in the power of God, to bless our nation with the light of Christ. The politics of heaven must come and transform the kingdoms of earth, as we serve as royal (kingly) priests (1 Peter 2:9). As we rest in the promise of God to exalt his name in our nation, let us allow him to cleanse us and anoint us again to influence our country, that it might be led in righteousness and the fear of God.
Contributor: Jonathan Ayling
Jonathan Ayling works as an advisor in Parliament, and has been particularly involved in work opposing legislation regarding euthanasia, drug reform and abortion. He has postgraduate degrees in politics and theology, and travels widely speaking in churches on the conversation between politics and faith.
- F B Meyer, The Prophet of Hope: Studies in Zechariah (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2004), 43-44.
Scripture: Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”