I was not neutral in the last election, but for the purpose of this article I will assume that position. What we will see in the Bible is not the unique possession of one political side. We have progressed through a tumultuous political campaign and even past the inauguration. The deed has been done. So, regardless of political persuasion, what now?
A biblical truth and a biblical instruction need to be placed before us. The biblical truth is this: God is ultimately responsible for setting up rulers and taking them down.
In Daniel 2 the great King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and made the impossible demand that his wise men reproduce the dream and provide its true interpretation. While Daniel and his three Hebrew friends prayed, God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. In Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise he said in verse 21, “He removes kings and sets up kings” (ESV).
The dream revealed a sequence of empires that would have significance until God would finally establish His kingdom on earth. God is in charge.
We skip to the New Testament, to the time of the apostle Paul, who lived during the Roman Empire, the fourth empire described in the above dream, in the first century after Christ. Paul was writing the full explanation of God’s plan of salvation to the church at Rome. In Romans 13 the subject is the believer’s relationship to government.
In verse 1 is written: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (ESV). This truth was probably not popularly believed in Daniel’s day nor in Paul’s, but the fact of God’s sovereignty continues. We assume that it is so today, and we give praise to God. We look forward to being with the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, but His kingdom on earth has not yet come.
Our biblical truth is that God superintends rulers. And as Psalm 2 points out, the ruler is in a precarious position. God has His own Ruler, the Messiah, and other rulers must take care how they relate to Him. Verses 11-12 say to rulers, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (ESV).
That is the biblical truth about rulers, and here is the biblical instruction that is about the rest of us. It is that we might pray for the ruler.
In 1 Samuel 12 the prophet/judge Samuel was grieving. The people were clamoring for a king. Perhaps what seemed the biggest surprise was that God would give them one. God had led and protected them by way of judges over a period of centuries, but the people wanted to be like the nations around them.
They really did not want to be led by God’s direct representative. So Samuel saw this as a rejection of God. Yet he said to the nation in verse 23, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way” (ESV).
Even though his faithful leadership had been rejected, he would continue to pray for the nation. He had been their teacher, and he would continue to teach as long as he could.
Again we transfer to the New Testament. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy; the first was especially that the church might know how to function. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 he instructs that we pray for all but especially for our rulers:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (ESV). A life of peace and godliness is to be the outcome of such praying.
But the text continues to relate God’s desire that all should be saved and that there is only one mediator between God and man; this mediator is named “Christ Jesus.” We might wonder why this is mentioned as we pray for rulers. They also need to be saved from eternal condemnation, so we should pray to that end. None of these rulers is God himself, and each needs to recognize God’s Messiah not only as the ultimate Ruler but as the only Savior.
So we should pray for the salvation of the President of the United States. We should pray that he recognizes the role of national government–God has also separated nations as reported in Genesis 10. And we should pray that in his policies he blesses the nation of Israel (Gen. 12:3).
Without even planning it so, I just recognized that we have presented both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of Man in this short article. The sovereignty of God appears in His setting up and taking down rulers. The responsibility of man appears in the king’s response to the Messiah/Mediator, but also in the obedience of believers in praying for the President. Let us be faithful in our responsibility.