Another national election – this time in Australia. Plenty of political machinations and moves were involved by all sides. People did all they could to get their desired candidates or parties elected. Millions of dollars and man hours were spent on getting the desired outcomes.
Yet for those who adhere to the Judeo-Christian worldview, we know that much more is involved than mere human plans and activities. There is a God who exists – one who rules over the nations and is working out his plans. Thus even leaders and the nations come under his overall purposes.
There are of course plenty of biblical passages which speak in a rather generic sense about God’s reign and rule over the nations, over rulers, over leaders, and the affairs of men. Let me offer just a few of them here:
Psalm 33:10-12 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
Psalm 47:3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
Psalm 47:9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
Proverbs 8:15-16 By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth.
Proverbs 21:1 In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.
Isaiah 40:23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel 4:17 the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.
But let me look at some specific passages which speak about the connection between our choices, our actions, and our morality, and how God sets up nations or takes them down; how God establishes rulers or disposes them. Briefly put, it can be said that we can simply get the government we deserve.
A sinful people will often suffer in terms of government and leadership. A godly and righteous people will do better. And the sort of leadership a nation has is also a part of the overall equation. Some general verses that speak to this include the following, mostly from the book of Proverbs:
Proverbs 11:10 When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
Proverbs 11:14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls.
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
Proverbs 28:2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
Proverbs 28:12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
Proverbs 28:28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.
Proverbs 29:4 By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.
Proverbs 29:12 If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.
Proverbs 29:14 If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.
Jeremiah 18:7-8 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be destroyed; If that nation I warned turns from its evil, I will relent of the evil that I planned to do to them.
A spiritually lame or a sinful people often will get a lousy government which will tear things down even more – morally and spiritually speaking. Things will simply go from bad to worse. I have elsewhere discussed this notion of getting the rulers we deserve: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/02/23/on-getting-the-government-we-deserve/
But we have further biblical material to appeal to here. Having been reading in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles again lately, it was interesting to see how often the fate of a nation was tied up with its moral and spiritual condition. Repeatedly we see rulers and nations meeting a nasty outcome because of sin and disobedience.
When the people and their rulers are displeasing to God, judgment usually follows, either in the form of pagan nations and rulers, or in some other manner. Plenty of passages can be appealed to here. Here are some of them:
1 Kings 11:14 Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.
1 Kings 11:23 And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada.
1 Kings 12:15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijahthe Shilonite.
1 Kings 14:7-8 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David.
2 Kings 5:1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
2 Kings 13:3 So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.
2 Kings 18:11-12 The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in towns of the Medes. This happened because they had not obeyed the LORD their God, but had violated his covenant—all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.
1 Chronicles 5:26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day.
1 Chronicles 10:13-14 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
1 Chronicles 16:21 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
2 Chronicles 10:15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
2 Chronicles 12:1-2 After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam.
2 Chronicles 14:12-14 The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar.Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the Lord had fallen on them. They looted all these villages, since there was much plunder there.
2 Chronicles 15:5-6 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.
2 Chronicles 22:7 But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram.
2 Chronicles 25:20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.
2 Chronicles 26:16 But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”
2 Chronicles 28:4-5 And [Ahaz] sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree. Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force.
2 Chronicles 28:18-20 And the Philistines had made raids on the cities in the Shephelah and the Negeb of Judah, and had taken Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages. And they settled there. For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord. So Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.
2 Chronicles 33:9-11 But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.
Yes, these were Old Testament realities, but I am sure the principles remain the same. God certainly remains the same, and when the nations – including God’s own people – are out of line when it comes to godly living and godly values, then divine judgment is the normal consequence.
But God is also able to show mercy – often when it seems not to be deserved. As I have said a number of times now concerning the recent Australian election, this certainly was an act of grace. We did not deserve this reprieve, but we got it. We can all be grateful for that.
So do we have the same cases of God disposing one leader and government and setting up others today? It certainly seems that way to me. At the end of the day it is not mankind that is in control – not even powerful, mighty leaders – but God alone.
He raises up nations and rulers and he takes them down. The realisation of these biblical truths should keep us all humble and on our knees.