God, Government and Elections

Is God interested and involved in our elections?

In this piece I will bring together the reality of modern-day political elections with some basic truths as found in the Old Testament. I do this for two reasons: 1) today Australians are voting in a national election; and 2) I have just been reading again in the Old Testament historical books about God’s great concern about, and involvement with, Israel and the nations, and who is governing the nations.

Of course popular sovereignty and democratic elections were not exactly found back then. Leadership changes and the like were mainly brought about by political machinations and military conquest. But the point to be observed here is that God WAS working out his purposes, even with pagan kings and rulers, and not just the leaders of Israel.

Of real interest is the biblical truth that God’s sovereignty also somehow goes along with the decisions of people. Humans are responsible for their actions – including how leaders come and go – while God is nonetheless still in charge of the bigger picture.

Thus the millennia-old question of how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility cohere. It is a mystery how they do, but Scripture fully and decisively affirms both truths. God IS on the throne, but the choices we make are genuine choices that we are responsible for as moral agents.

And we sure see this in the Old Testament. Consider the final verses found in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:22-23):

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”

Compare that with what immediately follows in the book of Ezra (Ezra 1:1-4):

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

Notice not just the duplication and continuity here, but the amazing truth that a pagan king was favourably disposed towards ancient Israel. How do we explain this? Both passages clearly tell us: “the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia.” Wow. This of course does not mean Cyrus was a robot. This was his choice as well. But his choice and God’s choice – at least in this case – were as one.

But we find this sort of thing throughout the Old Testament, especially in the historical books. Consider some more amazing examples of this. Here I offer just some of the many examples as found in 2 Chronicles.

2 Chron 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 Chron 11:4 This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not go up to fight against your fellow Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’ So they obeyed the words of the Lord and turned back from marching against Jeroboam.

2 Chron 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 Chron 12:5-7 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and to the princes of Judah, who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.’” Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is righteous.” When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.

2 Chron 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 Chron 17:10 The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat.

2 Chron 21:16-17 And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and of the Arabians who are near the Ethiopians. And they came up against Judah and invaded it…

2 Chron 22:7 But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram. ESV

2 Chron 22:7 Through Ahaziah’s visit to Joram, God brought about Ahaziah’s downfall. NIV

2 Chron 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. ESV

2 Chron 25:20 Amaziah, however, would not listen, for God so worked that he might deliver them into the hands of Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom. NIV

2 Chron 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 Chron 28:1, 5 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done… 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 Chron 30:12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.

2 Chron 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.

2 Chron 35:20-23 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah.

2 Chron 36:11-13, 17 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. . . . Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand.

You get the point. So often we find that the fortunes of various nations, and of the kings of Israel or Judah or pagan nations, were determined by the choices that the people and/or the rulers had made. But we also see God carrying out his purposes as well.

As Proverbs 19:21 states: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Or as the Living Bible puts it: “Man proposes, but God disposes.” So humans can act, make decisions, and carry out the desires of their hearts. And they will be held accountable for all of this.

Yet somehow – and in some mysterious way – God is also acting and carrying out his plans. We will never know this side of heaven exactly how all this comes about, but it does. And because we are fully held to account for what we do, the twin truth of God’s sovereignty does not render us mere robots, nor consign us to a fatalistic despair. We choose and act, and those choices are real – but God is also at work at the same time.

The Australian federal election

So what does all this have to do with today’s election? Well, we can take a few general points away from the above biblical data. On the one hand, our votes matter, and politics is very important. Who rules over us can be for the better or the worse. So we need to choose wisely. We must vote carefully and prayerfully.

While we do our part, God will be doing his. Whatever the election outcome is tonight – or whenever it is finally determined – it will not be something that catches God by surprise. Yes, theological pugilists can discuss – or argue about! – whether God simply allows an election result, or in fact causes it, and so on.

But we do know that whatever the outcome, God is still on the throne and God is still working out his plans and purposes. The fact that this is fully true does not negate nor minimise for a moment another truth: politics matters. Our votes and our choices are important, and there will be consequences as to whatever politicians and parties that we help to vote in – or out.

Our choices are significant and they do have very real consequences. But God is at work, and his ultimate purposes will stand, regardless of which human leaders come and go. So even at this late stage – with a few hours left in which to vote – please consider carefully your options, and please pray and seek God about these very important decisions.

[2022 words]

3 Replies to “God, Government and Elections”

  1. This is something people should consider in the church too with revival. I hear so many, for 40 years, say it is around the corner and so many talking about the need of it and desire for it among the true faithful but the ONE part of the equation people always leave out is what is GOD’S will about the west and specifically America??? (I have ACTUALLY heard Christians say God’s will is whatever our will is) I know God’s want all to come to repentance so none are lost. But we HAVE seen judgment in the Bible time where HIS will was not to just give people more time but to JUDGE them. Sometimes judgment of some bring others to repentance. He wants none lost but knows people will be lost. I think too often we substitute our will for God’s using a bible verse to try and put this thing on God.

    There is a point a nation is drowning in sin and blood and judgement is the only thing God has for that nation. How many before the northern Kingdom fell knew it was going to fall??? Most probably had no idea. Same for Judah each time how many knew what was about to happen?? A few yes but most were expecting some miraculous intervention. Throughout history we see the same expecting a great move of God to intervene and change thing and it doesn’t come. We forget God not only wills the rise of nations and empires but ALSO there fall. As with ancient Israel God is with us when we are about his business and faithful but when we leave him in our faith, even if we are in church our faith as a nation is dead, then like with Israel God first tries to draw us back and finally after we REPEATEDLY refuse he leave us and eventually destruction comes. God has left the building and it is only a matter of time for America and perhaps the West too. But the South and East has great faith God will have his witnesses.

    We must look about sometimes and keep God’s sovereignty in mind. We still do our part God hasn’t dismissed us or told us to retreat from the battlefield but we should be very aware of the possibility God’s sovereign plan is NOT the glowing happy revivalist plan WE want. If we aren’t prepared for judgment and life afterwards because of our blind delusion then God will hold us accountable for THAT too.

    One thing Jesus had against the Pharisees was they could discern the weather by the signs they see but we unable to discern the time of their visitation. “We are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our backs”! Don’t ignore or misread what is surrounding you. CONTINUE to fight the good fight but PREPARE for what is coming. BOTH things can be done simultaneously. As you point out TWO things can be true at the same time.

  2. Previous examples as told by inspired biblical writers, in the above Scriptures, enumerate our choices when considering national leadership as well as within the family of Yahweh/Christ Jesus, eventually outcome for good or evil. This we’re seeing play out in 2022 and onward, not good but evil. No matter Yahweh is in control. Scripture readings parallel our own off kilter plight. To persist in our personal and national transgressions shall bring about judgment. Let’s fast, pray and repent.

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