I’m writing the morning after supporters of Donald Trump heeded his call to march on Capitol Hill, in Washington DC, resulting in the death of four people, and shameful scenes of American citizens trying to halt the democratic process. The world’s largest democracy was imploding on itself because of one man’s unwillingness to relinquish power. Trump isn’t the first man to display signs of megalomania, that obsessive desire for power. History is replete with them unfortunately. Even within the Bible you see men who loved power and would aim to achieve it at all costs.
One of the most famous is a man called Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian empire, whose army subdued all before it. He first met the God of gods and Lord of kings when a Jewish exile called Daniel interpreted a dream for him, but he didn’t honour God. Instead, shortly after he had a golden image of himself erected, over 27 metres tall (90ft), and demanded that everyone worship his image or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Is this not the action of a megalomaniac, a man obsessed with power and his own self worth?
There came a point in time where his pride got the better of him and he was humbled by God. For a while, it appears that Nebuchadnezzar suffered a breakdown, abandoning his palace and living in fields. Eventually his mind was restored and he came to his senses. He understood that he is not the one with all power, such a responsibility lies with God alone. He said, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (1) Fascinatingly, a Babylonian poem says that Nebuchadnezzar began behaving irrationally in his final years, perhaps hinting at this event recorded in the Bible.
Another man who comes to mind is Manasseh, a former king of Judah. His father Hezekiah was a good man, but not Manasseh. He worshipped false gods and even sacrificed some of his sons as an offering. It’s said that, “Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (2) Manasseh was a proud man who would not listen to God until he was taken as a captive to Babylon, bound in chains and humiliated. There, in his distress, he called out to the Lord who restored him to his kingdom. Manasseh was a different man. He now knew that the Lord was God and spent the remaining years of his reign undoing all the wrong he had done.
There is a saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is true when men wield power, but it’s not true when the one who has absolute power is Almighty God. One day that power will be displayed on earth when Jesus returns to reign as its king. He will bring unity, not division. He will bring peace not war, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (3)
If we put our trust in men they will ultimately fail. A brief look at history reveals that, even recent history. Consider Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong. If we put our trust in Jesus we trust someone who is able to exercise power with love, wisdom and mercy. He will always make right decisions and do what is just. You don’t have to wait for his return to follow him. You can do that now. Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago and died on a cross. In doing so he was being punished for sin, not his but ours. If we accept the truth of this and commit ourselves to Jesus we are forgiven, given new life and we follow the one who truly has all power.
- Daniel 4:37
- 2 Kings 21:16
- Isaiah 2:4