Posted May 15, 2008
Does God involve Himself in the selection of national leaders?
Some pertinent examples can be helpful.
The Bible records that Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful ruler over the Babylonian Empire 500 years before Christ, received a vision from God. The prophet Daniel interpreted this dream. Daniel explained that God gave Nebuchadnezzar this vision "... in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel:4:17).
As implied in Daniel's words, Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man. He threw people alive into hot furnaces if they didn't bow to his idol. He threatened all of his advisors with mass murder if they didn't interpret his dream.
America has never experienced such a violent ruler. Yet, the Bible clearly shows that at times God will place really bad leaders in positions of great power for the explicit purpose of fulfilling His plans.
This was certainly true of the Pharaoh of the Exodus whose heart God hardened time after time until Egypt was humbled for its evil treatment of God's people, Israel. God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh: "…indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth" (Exodus:9:16).
God has also been directly involved in elevating individuals to very prominent positions on other occasions. He inspired the prophet Isaiah to announce far in advance the rise to power of Cyrus the Great to fulfill His purpose (Isaiah:45:1). It was a century and half later when God gave Cyrus power over the Persian Empire.
Cyrus acknowledged God's purpose for his life by sending a royal proclamation throughout his empire: "All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!" (2 Chronicles:36:23).
Students of Bible prophecy also know that in the last days God will even allow a religious figure called "the man of sin" to be empowered by Satan. Through skillful deception this man will pretend to be God and deceive many into worshipping him (2 Thessalonians:2:1-12).
Prayers concerning national leaders
Since the founding of America's colonies over three centuries ago, Americans have appealed to God in their selection of leaders. Pilgrims believed that their civic leaders were servants of God and appealed to Christ to guide them. They looked for biblical standards of leadership in their civic and political leaders. They applied Old Testament principles directly to much of colonial law, even quoting Scripture in their legislation.
There is much evidence in the Scriptures that God can and sometimes does decide who will be the leading official of a nation. But He also allows people to pick national leaders whose values are not those taught in the Holy Scriptures, even to their detriment. He once criticized His own anciently chosen people with these words, "Israel has rejected the good ... They set up kings, but not by Me …" (Hosea:8:4). The lesson is plain. God only approves of those rulers who have not "rejected the good" as He defines it.
How should those who today respect God and the "good" that He teaches pray? The apostle Paul gives us this superb advice: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy:2:1-2, emphasis added).
Praying that God will give us leaders who will work to make it possible for us to live "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" is commendable and proper in God's eyes. But first we must begin learning and practicing His will if we expect Him to hear our prayers. Even Jesus, having complete faith in God's decisions, prayed "not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke:22:42). We learn God's will by reading and understanding His Word, the Bible.