Punching Holes in the Darkness
by Rev. Eu Hong Seng - NECF Malaysia Chairman
IT is timely in this post-election period to look at the Bible's models of people who served under authority. Like some of these Bible characters, some of us today are called to be in the market place, while others to the public square.
Some are called to be a "quiet guest" like the spider in the king's palaces1, while others are emboldened to speak up - like John the Baptist, at the cost of losing his head.
We also have the likes of Nehemiah - who was destined to navigate the Putrajaya of his days. He had his share of Ibrahim Alis - who were then called Sanballat and Tobiah.
Moses was undoubtedly an outstanding model - he went to the courts and spoke to Pharaoh. Oftentimes we forget he and his people encountered many "restrictions" - for instance, the condition to worship "not afar off"2 and on another occasion, "without the children"3. Then again another prohibition - this time without the herds and flocks, a ploy to ensure that they do not worship properly without animal sacrifices as was prescribed in the early Abrahamic days.4 The modern day Malaysian Church is not without similar examples as we face numerous restrictions being promulgated time and time again.
But Moses did not shy away from meeting the Pharaoh to protest. Being in the Pharaoh's court is no indication of acquiescence with the ruling party.
Then we have Daniel - our model for civil disobedience. In his day, there were laws to prevent him from praying. Yet, he unashamedly opened his windows and prayed and everybody could see he was not bowing to the powers in his day.
Daniel, Esther and Joseph and others in the Bible - they all lived out and modeled for us their challenges in different ways.
When Daniel heard of the dream the wicked Nebuchadnezzar had of the great tree being chopped down, he lamented, "let it be true of your enemies" (paraphrase mine) 5. Such response or kindness shown by any modern day Daniel to any wicked leader, politician or ruler today would likely be castigated as ungodly, misguided and naïve. No man of God today would be able to escape such caustic denunciation by the modern day Church.
Joseph shared the secrets of his dream (the equivalent of the Old Testament 'ETP') and turned Egypt's potential financial crisis around for a wicked Pharoah. Such a man would have been considered a traitor of the Church today.
They all had the opportunity to bring honour and glory to God under heathen rulers. They sought the good of their nation even as they served under the ungodly kings of their times. God used them to change the system and society regardless the ruler or the government of the day. These men of God were content to leave regime change to God to do so in His time.
Regardless of whether we approve of the character and deeds of those whom God has placed in authority over us, we must be agents of change in our nation for the better. Regardless of whether they respect our Bible or restrict our worship, we are to remain salt and light.
As a boy, Robert Louis Stevenson, was intrigued by the work of an old-fashioned lamplighter who went about with a ladder and a torch, lighting the street lights for the night. One evening, as Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him "Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?" With great excitement he exclaimed: "Look at that man! He's punching holes in the darkness!"
Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, lived in 19th century Scotland and came from a long line of prominent lighthouse engineers. With that one statement, he summed up Jesus' miracle and teaching on spiritual blindness. While Jesus accomplished many great and miraculous wonders, his primary purpose was to punch great, gaping holes in the darkness that shrouds us.
We, too, are in the business of lighting up the dark as the different Bible characters serving under authority did in their time. Let us learn to respect the different models of service, being careful not to denounce a different style as an ungodly approach.
Together, we can punch more holes in the darkness.
NECF Chairman, Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng, was elected Chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia at the CFM Biennial General Conference on 22 April 2013.
1 Proverbs 30: 28 (NKJV) The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, And it is in kings' palaces.
2 The 4th plague - Exodus 8: 28. So Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Intercede for me.
3 Exodus 10: 11 - only the men were allowed to go.
4 Exodus 10: 24 - this time without the flocks and herds. Incident of the 9th plague
5 Daniel 4: 19 (NKJV) Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you." Belteshazzar answered and said, "My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies!