God over all the Nations...and Their Rulers - The Election Part I

My election ballot is sitting on my desk staring me in the face. The election is less than a week away and I have to make a decision. How am I supposed to vote as a Christian in this election?

I wanted to write several posts this week to think through what it means to vote as a Christian in this election. Now instead of wading through all the issues, I want to take it to a higher to a higher level thinking about the big pieces of the Gospel that should inform our thinking. I want to think about what the Bible has to say as it talks about God’s sovereignty, our relationship to government, the nature of our dual citizenship, and then draw some conclusions about how we might vote as Christians in this election.

Recently, I recorded a few podcasts on Salty Believer Unscripted entitled “A Gospel Spin” that cover the same issues I will be wading through in these posts. I hope the posts help you think about our relationship to God, our country, and the election. As always I love to hear your feedback.

God as Sovereign over the nations.

As the starting place for systematic theology is often God, I think that is the appropriate place to begin as we think about this election. The Bible is extremely consistent in its witness to the fact that God is sovereign over the nations and the rulers of nations.
Daniel witnesses to this fact in Daniel 2:21 when he says, “[God] changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” Daniel is praising the Lord for his sovereignty over all things and his wisdom. As we stare down the face of an election that might not look the way we would like as believers in Christ, we must acknowledge God’s sovereign hand in it all. The Bible witnesses to the fact that whoever ends up in office was installed by God.

Moreover, Proverbs tells us that Kings are not only installed by God but are under His control. God can move the heart of a king to do whatever he pleases. Proverbs 21:2 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Rulers are raised up by God and can be used of God for his purposes.

Now God has many purposes for raising up kings, rulers, and presidents of nations and it befuddles us to try and discern what God is doing on the grand stage of the nations in any given instance though the ultimate trajectory of the nations is sure; submission to the ultimate rule of Christ. In fact, God has used pagan, ruthless leaders, who he has installed as king to do his bidding for the benefit of his people. We see this particularly well in Cyrus the king of Persia who takes over Babylon in 539BC. Isaiah records God speaking about Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28 saying, “ ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘your foundations shall be laid.’” In Ezra 1:1-4 Ezra records that in 538 BC Cyrus made a decree for the exiles of Israel to return and rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. What is even more amazing about this decree is not only did the exiled Israelites return and rebuild the temple but the pagan king Cyrus paid for much of the endeavor. God used a Pagan king, pagan money, and the selfish political motivation of a pagan king to return the exiles to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

And this is just one example. Isaiah gives us an example of God using a nation to punish his people. In Isaiah 10:1-19 Isaiah recounts God’s use of Assyria to punish Israel. The Assyrian’s do the work arrogantly and with pride and God reveals that he will yet judge them for the way they carried out His plan. Again God is sovereign over the Assyrian nation and its rulers, raising them up for his own purposes, yet holding them accountable for their actions done with sinful hearts.

Let us not be too quick to despair of presidential candidates that are less than desirable, but rather trust that God is a work to sanctify his people through blessing and judgment with a plan to ultimately bring the entire world into submission to Christ. This election is just one step along the way. Zedekiah in Jeremiah 38 is a great example of one who will not accept Nebuchadnezzar’s reign over Israel, though prophesied by Jeremiah and purposed by God, because it was repulsive to him. God is at work in the nations and we must trust his plan even though the characters may be repulsive to us.

Psalm 2 is one of the best pictures of the way the nations interact with God and the way He is sovereign over them all. Psalm 2:1-2 talks about how the kings of the earth are trying to free themselves of God’s reign and yet Psalm 2:4 tells us that God laughs at their efforts. Instead, God reveals in Psalm 2:6-8 that He has installed his Son as king over all the nations in Zion and that the nations are left with a choice to submit themselves to His rule or to face the wrath of God. In Philippians 2:9-11 we see this theme continued in the NT as Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. This is a picture of where the world and all the nations are going. They will all submit to Christ as Lord one day. God is sovereign over the nations and rulers of nations.

So what does this mean for the upcoming election? It means you can rest that God is in control and has bigger purposes at play than what we see on the nightly news. Whether the next president of the USA is good or bad you can guarantee that God has put them in place and He is using them to sanctify his people both through blessing and sometimes judgment, and ultimately his purpose is to bring the entire world into submission to Christ. This election is just one small step in God’s purposes. This frees us up as Christian voters to trust God’s plan no matter what the outcome, it means we can have peace knowing our God is in control and has a bigger plan for the world, and it means we should be looking for and preparing ourselves for the coming reign of Christ.

Today, rest in God’s sovereignty over the nations. He has already installed his Son as King and he is ushering in his kingdom. Pray today for this election as the Lord taught us in the Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Below you will find the podcasts mentioned above on the government and the election:

A Gospel Spin
An Introduction - audio
How to Think About Government (Part 1) - audio
How to Think About Government (Part 2) - audio
Christian in the Voting Booth - audio

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