Who is Timoleon and what does he have to do with God’s sovereignty? I’ll tell you, but first I’ll tell you why I mention him. It’s because seeing God’s hand in everything is a glorious and wonderful experience. It is a blessing that uplifts us, that draws us closer to Him, and is, in fact, a revelation of His majesty and glory which is an encouragement both to worship our great King and also to rest as citizens of his eternal Kingdom.
This reflection seems particularly appropriate as we adjust to quite different circumstances, routines, expectations, and challenges. And yet through it all, we Christians, can sail a straight course. We navigate by the immutable, unchangeable North Star: what Revelation 22:16 calls the bright morning star, Jesus Christ. We are confident that God has planned all things and that they work together for the good of his people and for His glory. Everything. There is not a bird that falls from the sky whose hour was not appointed from before the foundation of the world. And all of it works to God’s glory: to the consummation of Christ’s Kingdom –already inaugurated– but which will be made manifest in the fulness of glory in the new creation. Which brings me to Timoleon.
He was a Greek general and statesman born around 411 BC in Corinth. As a young man, Timoleon saved the life of his brother, Timophanes, in battle. Not long after, though, Timophanes seized control of acropolis of Corinth and became a tyrant. Timoleon unsuccessfully remonstrated with his brother and then became part of the cabal that assassinated him. Though the citizens of Corinth were generally happy to be rid of Timophanes, Timoleon was in the conflicted position of being both the man who help depose a tyrant and a brother killer – a fratricide. As a result he went into an extended exile but was recalled many years later when Corinth needed a general to lead an expedition to save the citizens of Syracuse from their own tyrant who was backed by Carthage which controlled much of Sicily. What did he have to lose? If successful, he’d be a hero who could return from exile in honor. Syracuse is a city in southeast Sicily that was founded by Corinth which is why the citizens called on Corinth for help.
Timoleon was successful and effectively became known as the father of Syracuse. After that campaign he led successive campaigns against the Carthaginians who controlled much of Sicily. Timoleon broke Carthaginian power in Sicily. So what does this have to do with God’s sovereignty or the Gospel?
During Timoleon’s time Rome was still a fledgling republic working to bring Italy under it’s control. It was strong, but not as strong as the expansionist Carthaginians who were threatening their southern border nor yet as strong as the Greeks. But Timoleon ended the Carthaginian threat to Rome and to Italy for a few generations. It would return about one hundred years later, but by that time Rome had grown much stronger and would then engage in a series of wars known as the Punic Wars to destroy Carthage. Still, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the Gospel. Unless you zoom out a bit. It was on Rome’s roads that the Gospel spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world. It was because of the peace established by Rome that Christians could move freely and could establish churches. And eventually, Christianity became the official religion of the empire.
Of course, God could have spread the Gospel in others ways at that time. But he chose this particular way to do it. The actions of Timoleon didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Gospel. Far from it! Yet, he played his part, so that Rome could play its part later. And all of it –all of history– works it’s way out for the Church. The actions of Timoleon, whether it be those are in themselves commendable like saving his brother or questionable, like his role in assassinating a tyrant, or heroic, or obviously sinful like worshipping false gods (he was a pagan after all), are all ephemera to the bigger story that God has written and that is progressively revealed to his people. It is the story of the redemption of an elect people for himself to populate the one, eternal, holy, peaceful Kingdom of Jesus Christ. What a great God we serve. Let us recognize his hand in all things for it is truly said that all things works together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.
For I am God and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times things not yet done,
Saying, “My counsel shall stand,
And I will accomplish my purpose.
—Elder Christopher Buskirk