Editorial – “Just a Drop in a Bucket”
Every four years Americans are told, “this is the most important election of our lifetime.” And every four years, it always seems like that is the case. This time around, we face mounting concerns over several nations around the world bent on evil and destruction towards other nations, expecially our own (North Korea, Iran, perhaps also Russia and China). Let’s not forget to include the Muslim terrorist groups which span parts of many nations-such terrorists are not only against America, but they are specifically warring against Christians, wherever we live on the planet. The economic and moral future of our nation has been described as in such a dire condition that we have one presidential candidate who wants to drive America over the cliff at 100 mph, while the other candidate wants to drive us over the cliff at 70 mph. (or maybe 95 mph!)
Does God’s Word have anything to say to the USA? Does God’s Word have anything to say to Christians, living as citizens of this country, who are given the legal authority by the U.S. Constitution to vote for our leaders at many levels of national, state, and local government? Of course we know that God’s Word is sufficient to equip us for instruction in righteousness that the man and woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One place we may not look to as quickly to describe the Christian view on politics is from Isaiah 40.
In that passage, the Lord God, through his prophet, puts the entire realm of nations, nation-building, and living as citizens in a nation, into proper perspective. “ 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before Him are as nothing, And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. 18 To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:15–18, NKJV)
The prophet does not mince words. He does play with words, though. He uses several illustrations (bucket, scales, islands, the forests of Lebanon) to drive home this doctrine. The might and strength of the nations is nothing compared to the might and strength of the One true God. Therefore, Christian citizens of the USA (and Christian citizens of Canada, or China, or Russia, or _______) need to remember that it is possible to make an idol out of our country. Such hoping and depending on our government to bail us out, or to promote our ‘way of life’ as a society is to be weighed in the balance of God’s Word. This is not unique to this passage. The Bible repeatedly points out the vanity of idols and false religions. (see Isaiah 46:1-7; Psalm 115)
Yet I wonder how the average American citizen would respond to God’s Word telling him that America is just a drop in a bucket. How would our politicians or military leaders or educational elite respond? How would the strong men and dictators of various foreign nations or terrorist groups think of Isaiah 40? Like most Scripture passages, this one is also viewed as offensive to our national pride, to our ambitions for the ‘greater good’ of our society. (Let us remember that great and powerful men like Stalin and Hitler also had plans for the greater good of their societies and nations…)
The American citizen who is also a Christian, though, will take into consideration the doctrine that our nation is a drop in bucket. Humility is certainly a Christian virtue necessary in political matters. Humility is exactly what we don’t see much of in most politicians today (of any party). Yet, as we sort through the myriad of views and positions and sponsors and promises, we need humility ourselves. Humility to admit that we might come out a bit differently than another Christian on what should be done in a specific legal matter. Humility to admit that we might even support a candidate at a given point in time who is not the person we prefer, but is the person we must support, in order to play our part to preserve the nation as a place that is most likely to allow Biblical righteousness and justice to exist, and even to flourish, Lord willing.
The humility demanded of us by Isaiah 40 also reminds us that God is bigger than our historical moment. Verses 17-18 prove this by showing that compared to the incomparable power of the Sovereign God, the nations are impotent and powerless. The prophet continues to drive this point home when we read in verse 22 that God sits on His throne above the earth and looks down at all our warriors and countries, and sees us as small as grasshoppers.
How does this fact help us to apply this text to the issue of politics and how Christians can or cannot be involved in the activity of nations? On the one hand, we see a negative application (meaning a ‘thou shalt not’). Politics is meaningless compared to my relationship with God. No nation is or ever shall pretend to be God or godlike. Nations may not do what only God can do. So be wary of politicians who try to supplant God, the Church, the Family, Business, with their own will and agenda, making the government of the State the ultimate and comprehensive power in a nation.
On the other hand, we see a positive application (meaning a ‘thou shalt’). Politics is still a prescribed activity for the Christian. We have the rest of Scripture, such as Jesus’ command to pay taxes to Caesar, or the Apostle Paul’s explanation and authorization of civil government in Romans 13 and its responsibilities as laid out there. So, Christians should vote so long as we live in a society which affords us that option. In God’s providence, we have been given the Christian duty to help shape our little water droplet.
Finally, take all your political choices, all of your political dreams and wishes, and put them where they belong. In a bucket! Our place in the bucket matters, but it is still just one drop of many, one nation of many. Jesus is the King over all kings, the God over all the droplets in the bucket. So, regardless of the results of elections or court cases, remember to worship the one true God, Who is unlike any other. For that, we are truly thankful!
Rev. Kyle A. Sorensen, Manitowoc, Wisconsin