And suddenly, just like that, he is gone forever.

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By Bill Horner

  And suddenly, just like that, he is gone forever


            “Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt” (Matthew 2:19).

Kim Jong-Il is dead. Just like that. No bloody coup in North Korea, no lingering illness with medical centers valiantly trying to save his life, no tragic car wreck or airplane crash. He’s just dead. He died of a heart attack while traveling by train.

North Korea is ruled by one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Its people are poverty-stricken and many in the throes of starvation, while this dictator has been bankrupting the nation with his massive military buildup. 

Suddenly, he’s gone. 

His son will take his place. No one really knows how he will rule.

Human rulers and their armies at times seem overwhelming. But the sovereign Lord overturns them in a flash. History is replete with examples. One example from Christmas just over 20 years ago comes to mind.

Our family was spending Christmas Day 1989 with Mom and Dad at their home in North Carolina. That was an exciting season for the people of Eastern Europe. Barely two months earlier, as the world watched via cable news networks, East Germans streamed through gates and over the top of the Berlin wall, the communist guards standing by passively. The winds of freedom were blowing, and the rigid Iron Curtain was falling.

Unfortunately the Romanian regime under its long-time leader Nicolae Ceausescu seemed as intransigent as ever. In order to pay off huge debts to foreign nations, Ceausescu had virtually bankrupted his own people. Food shortages were common, while the dictator participated in propaganda purporting nationwide prosperity. Under his rule the repression of the most basic of human rights was rampant. Many of his political opponents and protestors were executed. And in November of 1989, Ceausescu was handed yet another five-year term in one of those predictable Communist “free elections.”

Then, on Dec. 18, Ceausescu made a crucial mistake. He sought to arrest a Hungarian priest, Lazlo Tokes of Timisoara, in his general crackdown on protests. By that time, however, the Romanian people had had enough and staged a do-or-die vigil around the priest’s apartment.  Many were shot by the military, but an unstoppable revolt was underway.  Even the military abandoned the dictator. Ceausescu, with his wife, attempted without success to flee the country, while still claiming to be Romania’s true leader. Nevertheless military personnel intercepted and arrested them, arranging for a hasty trial. When the dust settled eight days later, that Christmas Day in 1989, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu lay dead from the executioners’ bullets. Romanian citizens literally danced in the streets, waving Romanian flags with the Communist symbol cut out of the center. Over 40 years of oppression had ended. The people were free, their persecutors gone forever.

We watched the TV that Christmas Day with rapt amazement as the reports came out of Romania. God had overruled the powerful Communist overlords.

Another Christmas example of God’s sovereign hand in governmental affairs occurred about 2,000 years ago. As wicked, insanely jealous King Herod sought to have the Christ-child destroyed, God’s angel warned Joseph to take Mary and the baby and flee. That very night an enraged Herod slew dozens of Hebrew babies in and around Bethlehem. 

Did he really think he could thwart the plan and purpose of eternal God? 

Upon his demise God told Joseph it was safe to take the baby Jesus back into Israel. Note that the Bible does not tell us how Herod died. We glean that information from secular historians. It appears to have been an excruciatingly painful death due to parasites and diseased organs. There was no bloody coup, no medical centers valiantly trying to save his life, no tragic accident. He just died, and Jesus was safe.

Kim Jong Il and his partners in crime thought he was a powerful ruler.  But in a moment’s time, God had the final word. 

            “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:10).