Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 2 Kings 18:21 (ESV)
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Psalm 146:3-4 (ESV)
Trusting in Egypt. The invitation for King Hezekiah to consider the "pain points" of depending upon Egypt is not spoken by a prophet or other trusted source. Rather, this is high-pressure rhetoric from a conniving Assyrian official. He is deeming it folly for Judah’s king to find security anywhere else save under Assyria’s wings. He’s saying, “wise up and pay the 'protection fee' to a government power who can truly deliver you!"
The pain of Israel’s plight really began 300 years earlier when they rejected God’s direct headship over them so that they might “be like the other nations” and have a king. For God’s chosen people, God Himself was supposed to be the one to lead, shepherd, protect, defend, guide and save them. The kings that would lead Israel in the years to come were only temporary and (sometimes very) imperfect approximations of God’s perfect and forever rule. As Israel's kings continually trusted idols instead of the living God for protection and provision, Israel also began to lean on other foreign powers (like Assyria) for deliverance and salvation. But Psalm 146 reminds us that salvation doesn’t come through earthly princes and their temporary plans.
Government has a duty to its people to provide and protect. While its provisions should honor God (the one who institutes governments), even the sum of its best endeavors can't offer salvation. Salvation, both in the sense that we’re made right with God and that we’re finally delivered from all our trouble belongs only to the King of Kings. Today, the way forward is apparently forged by more ardent leaning to the left or to the right. Amidst the ensuing struggle, have we neglected to “lean up” and locate our ultimate trust in the only King who can truly save us?
While leaning on “Egypt” or any other government will inevitably pierce our hands, our Savior’s own hands were pierced so we could lean on Him both in this age and in the age to come.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for leaning more on the government and power of this age than I lean on You. You have seen the rise and fall of many, many earthly rulers and kingdoms, but Yours is the only everlasting kingdom. Like Daniel, may I faithfully serve in the king’s court, but may I remain set apart to serve You and Your purposes above all. Amen.
Ministry Director, Christian Union at Yale
Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Government
ARTICLE (2 pages): The Role of Government—and Christian Citizens by John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet, president of The Chuck Colson Center and BreakPoint Radio Co-Host, writes a succinct and salient article related to the questions many American Christians ask today. What is the role of the government and how should Christians live today and interact with their governing officials?
AUDIO (1:04:26): Christian Leadership in Government and Politics
Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and editor of IRD's foreign policy and national security journal, Providence gave this seminar at the Christian Union Nexus Conference 2017. Nexus is an annual conference that equips students and professionals to seek God and to live out their faith and change culture.
AUDIO (1:31:41): Vocational Panel on Government
This panel discussion was recorded at the Christian Union Conference, 2014. The panelists were Fernando Cabrera, New York City Councilman and Senior Pastor of New Life Outreach International in the Bronx, Marlise Streitmatter, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and previously worked at The World Bank and the U.S. Department of Defense, and Scott Turner, businessman, motivational speaker and former Texas state representative.