God Looked Down From Heaven and Laughed

The well-known line from Psalm 2 actually reads like this: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs” (v 4). QUES: What would cause God to break out in such laughter? ANS: A political coalition here on earth—one targeting His kingdom (vv 1-3). In this season when the coronavirus and the US political scene are the preoccupations of the media, I know well the axiom: politics is the third rail of polite company—touch it and it is curtains for you. But let me seek to be non-partisan and still touch on it.

For months both national and international news media (themselves aligned politically) have been engrossed in American politics. Given this election year, who’s surprised? But I wonder sometimes if God doesn’t look down from heaven and sadly shake His head, or, as the psalmist suggests, “laughs.” How puny our political alliances and machinations must appear to the Supreme One of the universe! Not that God hasn’t suffered at the hands of those alliances Himself.

The arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus of Nazareth remain a classic demonstration of political alliances between strange bedfellows—Pilate and Herod, Rome and Judea, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, et al. Heaven knows the meaning and pain of political confederacies. The followers of Christ (before and after His incarnation) have been ravaged for millennia by such alliances.

But in this season when political stratagems and intrigue are the parlor game of American households, we do well to remember the psalmist’s sober depiction of God laughing over humanity’s alliances. His followers know that human politics can neither deter nor deflect the divine agenda for this civilization. As the converted king Nebuchadnezzar himself testified of God: “‘His dominion is an eternal dominion . . . He does what He pleases . . . All His ways are just and those who walk in pride He is able to humble’” (Daniel 4:34-37).

I’m reading Jen Pollock Michel’s new book, Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of And in an Either-Or World—“. . . for that matter the kingdom does not grow because of political influence and social clout. In fact, Scripture makes clear, God’s kingdom is frequently in conflict with the pharaohs and caesars of its day. Paradoxically, the kingdom of God seems to have all the vulnerability—and virulence—of a little seed. Even more surprising, the only way this seed is ultimately harvested is through suffering. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, Jesus said. God’s holy hill isn’t Capitol Hill but Golgatha” (93).

How true—but how easily we are captivated by Capitol Hill more than Golgatha.

Pray for Capitol Hill and the White House, we should and we must, Paul is clear (1 Timothy 2:1-4). But to become consumed by politics and feed on its detritus is surely a dangerous mistake for third millennial followers of Jesus. Go ahead and laugh—God does. But beware of the very forces (the strange bedfellows) that one day will unite themselves against God’s endgame community. To silence the voice(s) of the conscience-pricking minority (as at Golgotha) has always been the rebel angel’s stratagem. Which is why now is the time to declare our sole loyalty to the God of heaven, who may be laughing now, but who will be returning soon.