The Bible records that Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful ruler over the Babylonian Empire 600 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 Daniel 4:17This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men.
American King James Version×).
“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”
Few developed countries have experienced such a violent ruler in recent times. Yet, the Bible clearly shows that at times God will place terrible leaders in positions of great power for the explicit purpose of fulfilling His plans. 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.
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 Exodus 9:16And in very deed for this cause have I raised you up, for to show in you my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
American King James Version×).
God at times has been directly involved in elevating individuals to very prominent positions. 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 Isaiah 45:1Thus said the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
American King James Version×). It was a century and half later when God gave Cyrus power over the Persian Empire.
At another time, Daniel stated, “Praise the name of God forever and ever … He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings” (Daniel 2:20-21 Daniel 2:20-21 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21 And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
American King James Version×, New Living Translation 2013). The apostle Paul, writing to Christians living in the capital city of the Roman Empire, wrote, “All authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13:1 Romans 13:1Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
American King James Version×, NLT 2013; see also Psalms 75:6-7 Psalms 75:6-7 6 For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7 But God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.
American King James Version×; John 19:10-11 John 19:10-11 10 Then said Pilate to him, Speak you not to me? know you not that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you? 11 Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.
American King James Version×).
So does this mean that God somehow “endorses” America’s new president or any other leader with all of his or her flaws and foibles? No. What it does mean is that God has a purpose for humanity, a purpose for current events, and He will accomplish that purpose through the leadership that He either puts in place or allows.
The Scriptures show that while God sometimes does indeed decide who will be the leading official of a nation, 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 Hosea 8:4They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.
American King James Version×). The lesson is plain: God only approves of those rulers who have not “rejected the good” as He defines it.
The apostle Paul gives this superb advice for Christians who wonder what to think of the governments they find themselves living under: “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 1 Timothy 2:1-2 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
Praying that God will provide leaders who will work to make it possible for believers to live “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” is commendable and proper in God’s eyes. But first it is critical to learn and practice His will before expecting Him to hear those prayers (see 1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
American King James Version×). Even Jesus, having complete faith in God’s decisions, prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
American King James Version×). And it is in God’s Word, the Bible, where we can find His will revealed.