A Sermon before the 2016 Presidential Election
Oct 30, 2016 The Election, Our Nation, and God’s Sovereignty
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
As Christians in America, most of us are deeply troubled and conflicted about the presidential election that we are facing in nine days. What should we do in the polling booth, when we are faced with two major candidates who both lack basic decency, honesty, and integrity?
Let me give you four Biblical principles:
- Our Lord Rules Supreme over All Rulers
Consider what we can learn from Daniel chapter four. [I preached on this passage last March, but a few points are worth repeating for this upcoming election.]
Daniel four opens (vv. 1-3) and closes (vv. 34-37) with a universal declaration of God’s sovereign power over all nations and all rulers. Democrats, Republican, Libertarians, the Green Party and the Tea Party all want their candidates to be in charge, but three times God’s Word tells us (vv. 17, 25, and 32): “The most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to anyone He wishes.”
The title, “The most High (God),” occurs six times in this chapter, and it emphasizes the Lord’s complete sovereignty over all the earth and all its leaders. This reassuring truth is driven home in Isaiah 40: “Before Him all the nations are nothing” (v. 17) and “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of the world to nothing.” (v. 23). Rev. 19:15-16 tells us that “He will ruler (the nations) with an iron scepter, and that Jesus Christ is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
What that means for us on Nov. 8th is that no matter who our new president is, our God will continue to rule over that person. The Lord’s total sovereignty over the nations of the world is not in the least bit threatened or challenged by either a president Trump or a president Clinton.
And that alone should relieve us of much of our anxiety! That alone should cause us to rejoice in our great and awesome God! That alone should allow us to trust and rest in the Lord. Amen?
2. Our Lord Can Humble the Most Egotistical Ruler
Going back to Daniel chapter four, did you notice who declares the great truth that “The most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to anyone He wishes”? It is none other than the big-headed and egotistical ruler, Nebuchadnezzar! How did that happen? Perhaps you remember the story, that after all his arrogant and prideful boasting, the Lord humbled Nebuchadnezzar, so that he behaved like a wild animal. But after that, the Lord had mercy on him and restored him. (v. 34). At that point, after a time of low degradation, Nebuchadnezzar finally understood that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; 1 Peter 5:6). This is the essence of true humility, for all of us, isn’t it: to know that you and I are nothing, and that God is everything.
And the result was that the king was exalted (36), as he confessed that “The most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to anyone He wishes”
Now think about that: What an awesome God we worship, that even the most egotistical ruler was transformed into a humble person, who declared God’s glory and power!
Therefore, if someone as prideful and self-centered as Nebuchadnezzar can be humbled, restored, and transformed by God’s power, then no one is too hard for the Lord to reach! Not you, not me, not the loved ones you are praying for, and not politicians with big egos.
God could do the same thing in 2016, with Donald Trump, with Hillary Clinton, or with anyone else! Trump may boast that he alone can “make America great again”, and Clinton may believe that with her as president, we are “stronger together,” but the Lord will get the last word. The Lord alone will be exalted! He can take the worst of sinners and make them into objects of His glory! So let’s pray that God gets the glory in our next president’s life! Amen?
3. Our Lord Controls the Elections
There’s talk of the upcoming elections being rigged, and worries about interference by Russia, but mostly we are just anxious about the results of the election. But if we remind ourselves that the Lord is in control over the people who rule nations, then by logical implication, we believe that the Lord is also in control over the process by which those people are put into power, including the elections that will take place here in nine days.
What is the Biblical support for this claim?
Daniel 2:21 “The Lord sets up kings and deposes them” Think about that. The Aramaic word “sets up” means to appoint, to establish, to raise up. It’s the word used in Dan. 6:1 where it says that Darius appointed 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom. So God is reminding us in Dan. 2:21 that He alone is the One who sovereignly directs how people get appointed or elected to positions of authority.
This is what our Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said to Pilate, “You would not have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
The Apostle Paul confirms this truth in Romans 13:1 “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Therefore we can hold firmly to the following truths:
- Our Lord is sovereign over all rulers.
- Our Lord is sovereign over how people become rulers.
- Our Lord is sovereign over how long people remain in power.
4. Our Lord May Give Us the Ruler We Deserve, as Part of His Merciful Judgment
The main focus of the Bible is the redemptive history which focuses on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to the glory of God. At the same time, there are a number of books in the Bible that deal specifically with pagan nations, with secular rulers, and with God’s mercy and/or judgment upon them. We read about God’s judgment of secular nations and pagan rulers in Isaiah chapters 13-23, in Jeremiah chapters 46-51, in Daniel, and in Amos chapters 1-2. Obadiah speaks of God’s judgment on Edom, and Nahum contains God’s condemnation of Nineveh. Much of the book of Revelation is about God’s glory in salvation through His judgement of the nations.
And one of the truths we see over and over again in these and other sections of Scripture is that
God often gives people the rulers they deserve, as part of His merciful judgment. And this may very well be what God is doing to us in America through these elections.
I am indebted to an article by Minneapolis Pastor and seminary professor Joe Rigney, “The Gift of God’s Judgment” which appeared recently on the Desiring God website. Allow me to quate and paraphrase liberally from Pastor Rigney’s article:
“Christians who support Trump will argue that Clinton’s election would push this country over the cliff, with liberal activists appointed to the Supreme Court, and with abortion further enshrined in our national culture.”
“Christian supporters of Clinton feel the same, in the other direction. If Trump is elected, they argue, then we’re giving control of our nuclear codes to a man with little self-control, and we’d be endorsing a man who degrades women, minorities, and others. In both cases, supporters of one candidate see the election of the other as pushing us over the cliff.”
“Other believers see both candidates as representing a colossal failure on the part of this nation; that the election of either one of them is evidence of God’s judgment on America. But that’s not the whole story.”
“The reality is that even the fact that we’re faced with this horrible choice is divine judgment. It’s as though God is saying to us, as he did to the Israelites in the book of Amos, “I sent you two grossly unfit candidates, and still you would not return to me. I sent vileness from one party and corruption from the other, and still you would not return to me.” (Amos 4:6-11).
God is holding a mirror up to America. He is showing us who we are as a nation. We may not like what we see, but the two major party candidates represent us. Lies, corruption, selfishness, unbridled ambition, shameless sexual immorality… all committed with a high hand. That’s our nation. God is giving us the leaders that we deserve (as part of His judgment.)
Rigney goes on to say that we should not try to minimize the judgement or make either candidate seem better than they are. Let’s not be like OT Israel, when she tried to embrace Assyria, in order to ward off Egypt, or when she embraced Egypt, in order to ward off Assyria. Relying on either Egypt or on Assyria was reproachable, just as relying on one bad candidate to shield us from another bad candidate is also poor thinking and bad theology.
“When we attempt to manage God’s judgments, we become reactive. Out of our fear of one evil, we embrace another. Instead of acting from a confident trust in God’s goodness in the midst of a national crisis, we panic and slide to one extreme or another. Instead, as Christians, we ought to embrace the judgments of God.”
Now embracing God’s judgments sounds odd to our ears. How could we embrace something as painful and awful as divine judgment? But this is because we misunderstand God’s judgments. God’s judgments are not just when things go wrong; they are when God starts to put things right.
What does it mean to embrace the judgment of God for these elections? It means that we repent of our sins. Judgment always begins with the household of God. God uses the judgment that nations deserve to also refine and purify His people, in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 4:12-19). The sins that are celebrated without shame in the wider culture – an in our candidates – are almost always present in the church, even when they are hidden. Heartfelt repentance for our sins is where we must start.
None of the above points dictates how you should vote. Some believer will hold their nose and vote for the candidate who is the lesser of two evils, believing that the other candidate will lead us on the expressway to hell on earth. Other Christians may find wisdom and prudence leading them to an independent or third-party candidate, because of their conscience. They don’t think they could look themselves in the mirror if they voted for candidates that are as morally unfit as the two major party candidates are.
Finally, please remember this: presidents, senators, and Supreme Court justices cannot save our nation or change people’s hearts; only the Lord can do that. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the primary need of every person and of every nation… and that Good News must be proclaimed and lived out by you, me, and the other believers around us… even in how we respond to the election results.
Rest in the Lord’s Sovereignty over these elections. Believe that He can bring glory to Himself through the worst leader. And know that even if God is judging our country and the churches in America through our next president, He is doing so for our good – to humble and purify us – and for His glory, that all might see His mighty power and His transforming gospel at work.