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NORTH KOREAN CAPTIVES SET FREE GIVE PSALM TO MIKE PENCE
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, a week ago, it was a special day for the United States and a special day for three men who were being held hostage by the North Koreans. When they got off the plane, one of the three handed Vice President Mike Pence a note.
Mike Pence tweeted, “It was an amazing moment I’ll never forget when three Americans stepped onto the tarmac and gave me a signed personal note with Psalm 126 on the back. To these men of faith and courage, God Bless You and welcome home.”
Psalm 126:1-3 reads:
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of the captives of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
our tongue with songs of joy.
Then they said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.”
DR. REEDER: As we try to look at issues around the world from a Christian World and life view, we try to do this in a commentary fashion and not in a sermonic fashion, but when I hear something like this, I am immediately wanting to go to Psalm 126 and let’s preach the Gospel from the Psalms.
The Bible records that wonderful moment when Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with his disciples and He says to them whose hearts were downcast, “Do you not know that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled?” And, beginning with Moses, with all the prophets in the psalms, He explained Himself in all the Scriptures.
OUR FAITH IS ONE OF FREEING CAPTIVES
And, of course, when you study the psalms, what you’re ultimately seeing is not only the immediate context and fulfillment of these psalms and their historic position, but you’re also seeing them point to Christ. In other words, Christ is the ultimate singer of the psalms — not David, but the great Son of David who is greater than David — and that is Christ, the King of Glory and the Savior of sinners.
When this wonderful psalm that praises God for His delivery of His covenant people and they were restored to the blessings of Zion and, as they are redeemed and delivered from their captivity, while of course that would have great promises as you look at the issue of the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, but it has even greater fulfillment when you look ultimately not to the people of God being restored after being under the disciplining hand of God from various captivities — what you ultimately have is the glorious blessing of the redeeming work of Christ who sets free His people from the captivity of our sin.
Therefore, when Israel is taken out of the bondage of Egypt and then brought to the promised land, in later years, when Israel is restored from a Babylonian captivity, this psalm takes on particular meaning for God’s covenant people who are numbered within the nation of Israel.
CHRIST BROUGHT THAT FREEDOM TO ALL NATIONS
But now God’s covenant people are brought from all the nations and what you’re looking to is not the Lord’s use of fallible instruments by His grace such as Moses, and David, and Daniel, and Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus and all of these who are in positions of leadership that God uses because the Lord can turn the hearts of the king wheresoever He wishes even as turns the rivers to the sea.
You not only see that but what you see is the intentional work of the God of glory in sending His Son, the Redeemer of His people, the Prophet, Priest and King Who is the fulfillment of all the Scriptures and, in Him, we are delivered and brought into the ultimate Zion and we’ll be delivered finally into a new heavens and a new earth for the covenant people of God who are now being brought from all nations into the kingdom of God.
But, having looked at that glorious truth, now you back up to the initiative that is taking place out of this administration out of the basis of God’s common grace and you see a people who take a text of Scripture that refers to the blessings of God’s covenant people when they are delivered, not only historically, but also spiritually God’s people delivered into the people of God, looking at that glorious psalm that is fulfilled in Christ in the kingdom of God.
And they make an application, not an interpretation, that they feel the same way as they were in the desolation, all of the deprivations taking place — being wrongfully imprisoned in Korea — but now, as a “statement of good will” they are freed through the negotiations that have been taking place by this administration. Of course, it’s come out now that there have been some backdoor negotiations.
DO THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?
Now, Tom, all of this begs for you and me to make some kind of comment. This, at best, in terms of accepted statecraft, is very unusual. You have a president who is tweeting out things that are, to say the least, offensive to this leader in Korea and here is Korea, who is in Asia, and this is an honor/shame culture — you just don’t abide by any acts of shame — and so everyone anticipates, when he puts out “rocket man” and all of this, that this is going to send relationships spiraling out of control and yet backdoor meetings taking place.
And then we see this monumental moment of North Korean dictator and the South Korean leadership right at the demilitarized zone, shaking hands, and these declarations, and now these peace accords that are moving forward and now promises of denuclearization taking place. He’s wily as a fox, this president is, because he’s doing these things publicly and these other things are taking place privately. Much of what we think is accepted statecraft actually, in negotiations around issues, ought to be reexamined.
IS AMERICA FIRST A CHRISTIAN MANTRA?
Now, what I don’t think should be reexamined is the call for decorum in relationships. I do not believe that you violate the dignity of human beings in order to maneuver them to a negotiating table to get the best deal that you can. And I do not believe that a commitment “to put America first” which, in its best light is, I’m going to look out for the interest of my nation first and, by the way, I expect you to look out for the interest of your nation first. I believe the best interpretation of that is you are elected to take care of your people so that should guide your negotiations.
Tom, let me share a story: My father was involved in baseball and he was on the periphery of a trade that took place between some major league baseball teams. Dad’s team got clearly the best of the trade — it was a six-player swap and the three players they got went on to have unbelievably productive seasons and the three players they gave up had unproductive seasons.
And I looked at Dad and I said to Dad, “That was a great trade.” He said, “No, son, that was a bad trade. Whenever you make a trade and whenever you do a negotiation, you want to make sure that the person you’re negotiating with gets a win. You need to get the win you need to get, but they need to get a win, too, for two reasons. First, you want to honor the dignity of the person that you’re negotiating with and secondly, if you’re not negotiating in good faith so that they come out with a positive, then they’ll never be back at another negotiating table with you. And, son, very seldom in the affairs of life do you ever settle anything that needs to be settled at one sit-down and at one negotiation.”
WE NEGOTIATE TO WIN OTHERS TO CHRIST
While I will acknowledge that that unorthodoxy is maybe a good thing from time to time, I do want to say and affirm, from a Christian world and life view, people are made in the image of God and nations are made up of people and, therefore, when we deal with people, we need to deal with them with dignity and respect. We always are looking as Christians, wanting to influence our own nation to conduct itself in such a way that, by God’s grace, it might be a bridge-building moment that we can actually create opportunities for us to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the nations.
And we will see not only the blessing of people who are unjustly imprisoned for political reasons delivered and see their joy expressed in that handwritten note with that Psalm 126 that was given to our vice-president, but we can see even more that people give praise to the God of glory because they are delivered from their sins and the negotiations among nations have actually opened the doors for the ambassadors of Christ to bring the Good News.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.