July 12

Today's Bible Reading
     Joshua 16-17
     Psalms 148
     Jeremiah 8
     Matthew 22
''. . .Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21)
            Is a believer to blindly obey the edicts of government? What are our responsibilities to the civil authorities over us? Our memory verse today is the classic Scriptural statement that relates a believer with his government. As a believer, we become citizens of a new Kingdom. We are servants first and foremost to the Living God. Those of us who are privileged to live in a nation which is a democracy based upon a system of laws rooted in the Ten Commandments are indeed blessed. This verse does not present us a great problem, and we gladly pay taxes to such a government. We enjoy its protection and benefits. The government becomes a sword, punishing evildoers and protecting law-abiding citizens. In most cases, we are able to be loyal and obedient to such a government because we have lawful ways to bring about change when it is necessary.
            This exhortation of our Lord presented a problem, however, to the First Century believers. They lived under the political tyranny of Rome, and the religious tyranny of Judaism. The sensitivity of knowing where to draw the line between obedience to government and civil disobedience that could bring severe punishment, and even martyrdom, was a great dilemma to the early believers and to many believers throughout the world today.
            What about those living under the slavery of Communism where public worship and dissemination of truth could bring prison and even death?  What about those in Islamic controlled countries where they are legally bound to follow the teachings of Islam, and forbidden to share the Christian Gospel?
            So we must conclude that this becomes a difficult admonition to follow. Every believer must be very sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to know when we must be submissive to the government, and when we must say, as did the early Apostles, ''We must obey God and not man." (Acts 4:19-20)
            This presented a tremendous problem for DietrichBonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor in Germanyduring the Third Reich. He dared not only to publicly speak against the evil regime of Adolph Hitler, but also to teach other young pastors how to practice civil disobedience, and to expect to pay a great price for doing so. Bonhoefferwas put in prison and suffered greatly. Near the end of the Third Reich, Hitler made him an offer. He could be released from prison if he promised never to speak publicly against the regime again. Otherwise, he would be executed. He made this classic statement to Adolph Hitler: ''Hitler, your job is to hate enough to kill. My job is to love enough to die. Let's both get on about our business." Bonhoefferwas executed five days before the Liberation, but his memory lives on and his inspiration lives on through each of us. There is indeed a time when we must obey God and not man. You must have great wisdom received from God to determine when that time comes.
The African nation of Somaliahas approximately 12 million people. Somaliais the most lawless country in the world. After 10 years of violence and anarchy, Somalis are desperate for peace and restoration of civil order. The people have been failed by religion. Islam has been a disaster. Some of the people are seeking solutions in radical Islam. Pray that the radical  Islamists plan may be thwarted and a new religious tyranny prevented. The atmosphere here is typical of a nation that is almost 100% Muslim.  Today we must pray for the small group of Christians who are under severe persecution and yet have the responsibility of being salt in the earth for their country of Somalia.
''All earthly things with earth will fade away, Prayer grasps eternity, Then pray, always pray! '''
E. H. Bickersteth