Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, Kim Jong Il and... Rehoboam?

Sometime in the past 48 hours, the political landscape in North Korea—and possibly the world—dramatically shifted. Last night, news reports began to trickle in about the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. My first reaction was the same as when I heard of Christopher Hitchens’ death—neither of them is an atheist any longer.

But after my initial reaction, I began to think about the void that each of those influential atheists will leave behind. Those who will fill the void left by Hitchens’ passing will continue to spew the same venomous blasphemy he did, albeit with less adeptness and aplomb. People who eulogized him by saying there will never be another like him were wrong.

There have been militant atheists since Genesis 6, and there will continue to be militant atheists until the events of Revelation 20 come to pass. Men like like Sartre, Comte, Nietzsche, Mill, Marx, Hitchens and countless others were brilliant polemicists of their atheism—and countless more will fill their shoes. Christopher Hitchens—though brilliant—was not really that special. Historically speaking, you could say that men like him are, and always will be, a dime a dozen.

Although not unique, Hitchens’ intellectual influence was undeniable. On the other hand, Kim Jong Il’s power was more tangible. Unlike Hitchens, Kim Jong Il was a unique man with a unique and powerful role. As the tyrannical leader of nuclear North Korea, he had the sheer power to oppress, starve, intimidate and terrorize the people of his nation. In doing so, he nearly completely suppressed the witness of the Gospel to millions of people. While Hitchens poisoned minds with rhetoric, Kim brutalized people with starvation and force—producing one of the most oppressively atheistic nations in the world.

While countless people will fill Hitchens’ shoes, only one has been chosen to succeed Kim Jong Il. Kim Jong Un has been named as “the great successor” to pick up where his father left off. In the days and weeks ahead, he will be hearing advice from many of his subjects. That advice will likely look like the advice given to Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12 upon the death of his father Solomon.

Rehoboam’s first advice came in verse 7 from those who had the pulse of the nation: “And they said to him, ‘If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.’” Rehoboam was not satisfied with that advice, so he sought another opinion in verses 10-11: “And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, ‘Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, “Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,” thus shall you say to them, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” ’ ” Rehoboam took the advice of his cronies and sent Israel into chaos.

Christopher Hitchens’ successors can do no more damage than he or any of his atheistic predecessors have done, but Kim Jung Il’s successor can slaughter millions and potentially plunge the world into war. Knowing this, we should pray that in the coming days Kim Jung Un will listen to the advice of more moderate voices. Pray that he will be a servant to his people and speak good words to them. Pray specifically that he will allow food to reach his people, and more importantly, pray that he will begin to allow the free spread of the gospel among his people.

In the days and weeks to come, whoever Kim Jung Un listens to, remember that God is always in control. No matter what Hitchens' successors will say or how eloquently they attempt to say it, God was in control in Rehoboam’s day and He still is today: “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.”

Proverbs 21:1


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