No Confidence in Princes
"Put no confidence in princes,
nor for help on man depend."
So we sang in our worship this past Sunday, using the language of Psalm 146. The original version of Psalm 146:3 runs like this: "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation." I encourage you to take a moment and read Psalm 146 in its entirety. Go ahead - it's only 10 verses. It won't take but half a minute...
Those lines of the song have been running through my head a lot this week, most likely because of all the talk and news surrounding next month's election. As citizens of God's eternal kingdom who presently and temporarily reside in this earthly nation, what should our attitude be towards the election? Judging by what I see in the news and on social media and by how I overhear people talking, the answer would seem to be, "Panic like the world is about to end."
Maybe that's an exaggeration, but if it is, it's not much of one. I hear a lot of talk (from all directions, not just one viewpoint) about how this is the most important election of our lifetime. Everything hangs in the balance - our freedoms, our culture, our future, our faith!
Pardon me for not joining the general panic, but God's Word guides me on this matter, and I hope it guides you as well. A few "big picture" ideas set the stage for our relationship to government:
-God himself causes the rise and fall of nations and determines who is in power (Job 12:23; Daniel 2:20-21; John 19:10-11; Romans 10:17; Romans 13:1). This is true when we like the people in power and when we don't like the people in power. They were put there by the hand of God. Consider who is being spoken of in the verses just listed: Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Pilate, Pharaoh, the emperors of Rome! God does not only put the people we like in power - he is the one who establishes all leaders.
-God can move the heart of leaders however he wishes. No individual or group has the power or ability to work against the plan of God (Proverbs 21:1; Acts 4:27-28). So our hope is not in the people elected but in God's wise and sovereign control of all things - even our leaders.
Now a few thoughts on what Scripture says is our responsibility towards our leaders:
-We pray for them -all of them - that they would lead well and with wisdom that leads to peace (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
-We obey them except when their commands go contrary to God's expressed commands for us (1 Peter 2:13-14; Titus 3:1; Acts 5:27-29).
-We honor them, even the ones we don't like. We honor them with our speech and our behavior and even our attitude (1 Peter 2:17; Acts 23:5; Exodus 22:28; Titus 3:2).
I speak as one who needs to be reminded of these things and even at times rebuked by these words. Too often, I find that we have taken a worldly approach to speaking and acting when it comes to politics. The Bible establishes a radically different, counter-cultural approach to these things. Why?
Because they do not embody our hopes. No matter who is elected to whatever position, they are not to be an object of our hope and trust. The main reason, I believe, for much of the fanaticism and extreme language used in our public dialogue lately is because people truly believe that the outcome of these elections has more power than it really does. How many of our neighbors and loved ones have invested their hopes in the victory of a certain party, a certain individual, or a certain ideology? To what degree have we likewise invested our hopes? This can be true when we despair at our candidate or party's defeat. It can also be true when we rejoice in their victory.
For the child of God, our hope is never in those things. "Put not your trust in princes... in whom there is no salvation." This is incredibly freeing. We can vote, we can advocate, we can legistlate, we can support good and godly laws. But when things do not go the way we want, we are not undone. Our hope is not in those things. God is in control. In him is salvation and justice. So our joy, our confidence, our trust, our hope is not in anything that happens in the nations of this world, but is instead founded on the unshakable kingdom of God that will not fail.