While some of our e-mailers seem to think we here at EFM are Mormons, we are evangelical Christians, which means we think reading the Bible is important. Which is why the other morning I was reading through the book of Ezra, which then was one of the remaining Old Testament books with which I was unfamilar. (My current project is working through those.) But before beginning Ezra, I read the introductory notes in The MacArthur Study Bible, in which I found the following passage to be rather striking:
The decrees, proclamations, letters, lists, genealogies, and memoranda, many of them written by the Persian administration, attest to the sovereign hand of God in Israel’s restoration. The primary message of the book is that God orchestrated the past grim situation (captivity) and would continue to work through a pagan king and his successors to give Judah hope for the future (return). God’s administration overrides that of any of the kings of this world, and thus the book of Ezra is a message of God’s continuing covenant grace to Israel.
Why was this striking? Well, as we discuss Gov. Romney with evangelicals across the country, one frequent refrain is that folks want some sort of example from Scripture that God has worked through unbelieving rulers to the benefit of His people. And as MacArthur brilliantly points out, in Ezra (the book, not the man) we have just such an example. As the book begins:
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel–he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
So God worked through Cyrus–and his successors–to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem. To my mind, this data point thoroughly dispels the idea that our almighty Lord can or will only work through a leader with certain views. If He wants to, He can, because He can do all things–and He has done this particular thing before. Period. The only question is whether He wants to bless his people through the man whose picture can be found at the top of this site–and if we thought the answer to that question were clearly “no,” we wouldn’t be here.
Of course, this whole line of logic is predicated upon the idea that terms like “pagan” or “unbeliever” do indeed apply to Gov. Romney. To be clear, the man has made public professions that his eternal hope lies in Jesus, and I don’t think it’s my place–or that of anyone else on this earth–to judge whether those professions are true. Yes, Mormonism is absolutely not orthodox Christianity. As we have said before, we have profound doctrinal differences with the man we support for president. Do doctrinal deficiencies make any real reliance on the cross impossible? In general, I don’t think so. I disagree in major ways with Roman Catholic doctrine–in fact, I was raised in the Roman church and (obviously) have left it–but I do think there is such thing as a believing Roman Catholic (although I was emphatically not one). Yes, in general they believe some things that are not true, but some have the important part (Jesus) right. As for this specific case, I don’t know, and it’s not really my business either way.
So let’s put that aside, because any way you slice it, examining Ezra shows that the idea that God can only work through an orthodox leader is clearly not biblical. Our Lord worked through Cyrus and his successors; certainly He could work through a President Romney, too. And should there be a President Romney, it will only be because He allowed it to happen. Of both of these we have absolute conviction, and the rest is gravy.