God rules in the kingdoms of men. Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way. When he did finally get it, after being humbled, we read this:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4:34-35)
God ruling in the kingdoms of men is a continual theme of Scripture through the end of Revelation. Some may have the idea that God stopped doing this when Christ came to fulfill His work on the cross, that God’s work in the kingdoms of men was only to bring about Christ. However, Scripture shows that God rules not only in redemption history, but in all of history. God’s work in earthly kingdoms was not only to bring about Christ the first time, but also to bring about redemption and reconciliation of all things to Himself (Col 1:20). While peace is made through the blood of the cross, there is yet the culmination of the new heavens and new earth — and this means God is still working in the affairs of men to bring about His plans even after the cross. God has not given up His position as the Ruler of all.
Deism is the idea that God started everything but then quit working and now has no practical effect in the world. God did not suddenly become deistic after Jesus rose from the dead. We believe He answers prayers, and one of things we are told to do is pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2). If God did nothing with kings and those in high positions, why are we praying for them? We pray because we believe God works. We pray not just because it makes us feel better, but because we have faith that prayer, because of who hears us, “has great power as it is working” (Jas 5:16). Prayer without faith that God hears and acts is empty.
Does this mean we understand exactly how God does what He does? Not at all. God need not explain Himself to us as though He needs our permission to act in ways we will not fully grasp. We need to trust Him to do what He does and be content with our place. God knows what He is doing.
It is true that God can use evil people to accomplish His purposes. He used Nebuchadnezzar to judge Judah. He used Cyrus to have His people released from captivity. He has done this multiple times throughout the centuries. Our problem is that we do not know who God might use, however good or evil that one might be. In our wisdom, we sometimes think that God cannot use a particular person or nation because we deem them to be evil. They may be evil. Then another might even be more evil. Yet God can use any or all (or neither) to accomplish His ends. If God can use a Cyrus (e.g, Isa 44:24-45:7), he can use anyone, including the person(s) that I would rather not see in office. Think about Habakkuk asking God how He could use the Babylonians to carry out judgment on Judah when clearly Babylon was worse than Judah. In God’s wisdom, He knows how to work things out. He won’t let evil have the last word, and we need to trust that He will act in His time.
We are not in a position to dictate to God how He is to go about His business. We do the best we can with what we have, and we need to act as good citizens in good conscience, but we cannot tell God that He needs to do things the way we think is best. We simply do not have the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that He does. Our humility is always in order.
We ought to remember that the kingdom of God is far bigger than any earthly kingdom. If we really believe God is in control, then we must not act as though the world will crumble around us if things don’t happen the way we thought would have been best. Earthly powers and leaders will come and go. If we are fretting and discontent over what we see happening, we have to wonder if we are really putting our trust in the One who still, no matter what, rules in the kingdoms of men.
“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” (Isa 26:4)