God’s Hand in History: Praying for the Middle East

I remember hearing a sermon in college by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias called “Convictions that Conquered the World.”  The sermon is an exposition of the core beliefs held by the early Christian church that drove and sustained the growth of the Christian faith.  One of these beliefs is that “they saw the finger of God throughout history and Christ as its central figure.”  Indeed, the Bible teaches that history is not a mere sequences of random events, one after an other without any purpose or direction.  Rather, history is an unfolding story in which God is the Author.  The mighty Persian king Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps the most powerful man in the world in his day, confessed this truth:

“His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.               He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:34-35)

This concept of the rule of God over human affairs is what theologians call providence. Elsewhere in Scripture we read that God “makes the nations great, and he destroys them:  he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23); and that He has determined the time and place of all the nations of men: “He made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

This perspective on history is needed especially when the world faces moments of great political upheaval and unrest as is currently happening in the Middle East.  As we look upon the dramatic protests in Egypt and the changes this revolution may bring about to this country and perhaps other Arab lands, though God’s specific purpose in these events is not known to us, we do know that his hand directs the affairs of nations and thus these events are part of His unfolding story.

As the central figure in God’s story, Christ himself proclaims for us the end or conclusion towards which the plot is moving:  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).  As in any story, the events of history are best understood in light of the end of the story, and here Jesus tells us the condition that must be fulfilled for history to end:  the good news that the King of the Universe has come, made reconciliation between man and God by his death, and defeated death once and for all that we might have eternal life must be made known to all nations.

The Middle East remains one of the most unreached regions of the world in terms people’s’ access to the gospel and number of Christ followers.  We cannot know what destiny awaits the people of Egypt – whether this upheaval will result in a more free, democratic society or a more repressive religious autocracy.  But as we watch ebullient crowds in Egypt and elsewhere on our TV screen decrying the injustices of their rules and asserting their rights to choose their leaders freely and to self-govern, we should see by faith God’s hand in these affairs and pray fervently “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

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