Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble. (ESV)
For his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (ESV)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will. (ESV)
The democratic freedom we have here in our country is an amazing exercise and trust. For thousands of years in human history people have been ruled by autocratic rulers who ascended to power either by sheer might or as the result of a familial dynasty. If the ruler came to power by might, the person was probably ruthless and lacked care for any subjects, or even valuing any life. On the other hand, ascending to power based on birth order is no guarantee that a ruler will be a capable leader. Either way, the people had no say on how they would be governed or to the compassion and care their leader would have for them. In a way the American experiment placed the crown on the people, as representative democracy was a system where the people chose their leaders, and after a period of time were given the opportunity to express contentment or disgust by either re-electing or removing their leaders. This level of accountability gives great incentive for leaders to care for the needs or the people and to lead the nation in ways that benefit more than himself and a few wealthy people. Yet, it also means that every four years we go through our process of electing our leaders, creating a national rhythm of being inundated with continuous advertising and the subsequent fear people have because of what might happen if the country goes one direction or another. I will start this post by telling us as followers of Jesus that no matter what happens on the first Tuesday of November, whomever is elected as President and to our other elected positions, they too will answer to the people in a few years and will only be in power for a short time historically. None of our candidates have the ruthlessness of Julius Caesar, Nero, Hitler, or Stalin, and in the American system, can’t be. Yet, there is a clear truth revealed in all of Scripture as it relates to those in power and the kingdoms they rule, and it is that God is sovereign over all kings, nations, and kingdoms. The reason I begin here is because the basic truth I want to point out in this post is that the inspired Scriptures about God’s sovereignty over the nations and rulers were written to God’s people who were often governed by the existing world empire (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) and their autocratic rulers. You may have heard the phrase, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So often this truth is put on display in the storyline of God’s people as revealed in Scripture. And yet, the Scriptures both state and illustrate the central truth that God is in absolute control of all of history, and this includes who governs, and what takes place under their rule.
I could now write pages upon pages pointing to texts and examples. This truth is one of the underlying themes woven into the Biblical story. God has orchestrated the events of history and our lives as a display of His glory and for the advance of His Kingdom. Puny human leaders believe they are all important, yet they are nothing more than pawns in God’s hands as He moves HIS STORY in purposeful ways. Every leader derives their authority from God and will one day stand before Him to give an account for how they ruled. God raised up Egypt and the Pharaoh in the Exodus story who enslaved the Hebrews. Get this, the people were slaves under an awful dictator who abused them, and God was in sovereign control accomplishing His eternal purpose both for them and through their story. Pharaoh was literally raised up for this purpose (Romans 9:17) and God hardened this rulers heart so that Yahweh was able to put the full glory of His power and display of His wrath toward the Egyptians on display in the rescue of Israel. This theme is repeated in the book of Judges as God raises up nations around Israel to conquer them so that the Hebrews would cry out for rescue. The prophets speaking the Words of God write well before certain rulers and empires exist, predicting their rise and importance, and declaring that these kingdoms have been raised up by the One True God revealed in Scriptures. More importantly, they declare the reason God raises them up is so that they will be the vehicle for His discipline and judgment on Israel. Yet, God also pronounces clear prophetic promises of judgment on these nations for the unjust and wicked way that they used their power, even though He raised them up for this purpose. In Isaiah 55 the prophet predicts the rise of a specific world ruler, Cyrus the Persian, and describes the nature of his conquest and rule, and his future relationship with the Jewish people. This text is written 150-200 years before Cyrus the Persian was born. In the text God states that God raised up Cyrus as leader and also called him by name in the prophecy so that both Cyrus and God’s people would know that He alone is God and there is none like Him. In fact, the entire section of Isaiah 40-55 is written prophetically by the prophet Isaiah to give hope to God’s people as they live in exile in Babylon. Yet Isaiah wrote a century before these events happened, so he supernaturally gives hope to a people who are living in an awful political moment full of suffering. Read this section sometime and see all the references to God’s goodness and sovereign control over the nations and rulers who govern. Or we could look to Daniel. In chapter 2 King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream sent by God and interpreted by Daniel. The dream prophetically predicts with unbelievable accuracy the rise and full of five successive empires that will span nearly 9 centuries of history. In Daniel’s interpretation he tells King Neb, ” He (God) changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”(Daniel 2:21) These themes run throughout prophetic books like Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel who are speaking of the ruthless rule and the deportation of the entire nation under the Babylonians. We see similar predictions and words about the Roman government and rulers in the New Testament.
Here’s the key. In all of these, it is God’s sovereignty over nations and rulers that is the source of hope (often lone source of hope) for people living under great oppression, marginalization, and hardship. They are being reminded of a few things. First, that the current regime was empowered by God’s sovereign control and purpose, they will accomplish His will and also face His wrath for their injustice and unrighteousness. Sometimes these regimes are raised up by God representing His justice and the discipline for Israel as a result of their sinful rejection of the One True God. This is what Babylon represented. Other times God raises up nations to be a bless His people and demonstrate His faithfulness to them. The rise of Cyrus and the Persian Empire represents this purpose, as this king sends them home from exile with the commission and resources to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezra 1). Second, these kingdoms are temporary, in time. In some cases the rule may last entire lifetimes of people under their power. Yet, God’s rule is eternal and our hope is in the eternal, not the temporal. Third, God’s sovereign purpose is tied to His glory and the Gospel to the nations. Believers who live under horrible regimes whose leaders and people have hatred of Christ and His Gospel cannot thwart this purpose. They may take the temporal lives of those who follow Jesus, they may torture, behead, crucify, burn at the stake, or feed them to wild animals, but the more they seek to stamp out and stop the advance of God’s Kingdom and purpose the more we can see that God is still sovereign over the very rulers and nations responsible for the persecution.
Furthermore, the Biblical narrative leads us to the wonderful reality that all of history is moving toward a clear end. No matter how you read the book of Revelation, this is central to the theme. World empires rise and fall, and the events in the world are filled with chaos and calamity. Yet, there is absolutely no panic in heaven. God rules from His throne and there is a Lamb who is worthy to open all the scrolls ushering in God’s purpose of both wrath and redemption. This unfolds throughout human history. There is always a Babylon the Great, an oppressive empire that persecutes God’s people and rules with ruthless power. In the midst of the human kingdom there are the faithful people of God who represent King Jesus under the regime. They may suffer, but their suffering does not go unnoticed by their God. But the story has an end, which includes the end of all human kingdoms and the utter defeat of all enemies of God. His justice will be on display in the world, and all people will stand before Him and give an account and experience the justice due them. On the other hand, those who know Christ as Savior and Lord and have been given redemptive forgiveness through the cross will see the end of history as ultimate victory. In our current moment we may not understand God’s purpose in the world and may struggle to see His presence. But we are not to figure out our moment, rather we are consistently commanded to keep our eyes on the end, the ultimate victory, the eternal. Believing in sovereignty means that we live in our moment as citizens of a different Kingdom, and with our eyes on the ultimate rule of Christ as described in Revelation 21.
 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
 And he who was seated on the throne (emphasis mine) said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (ESV)
The four year election cycle is such a wonderful thing, yet sadly, it has produced a nasty byproduct that shows up in our country, and way too often in the church. For some reason, rather than enjoying our freedom to elect officials, we often buy in to the lie that all of history is dependent on the outcome of the next election. This creates a posture of incredible fear, as people can believe that if this candidate and party win the election the outcome will be the downfall of our civilization and the wrecking of all that we think is important and right. Furthermore, the rhetoric in almost all of the political ads throw fuel on these fears. If you elect this candidate or this party, says almost any ad, this will be wrecked, this will be taken from you, and this will fall apart and our country will be in ruins.” Add social media and these fears and the subsequent anger magnifies the issue even more. What we end up with is a nation of people who despise this wonderful exercise in constitutional freedom rather than celebrating the reality that we have a say in the process and our leader is not Nero or Nebuchadnezzar.
But for followers of Jesus, this issue represents something infinitely more significant. If we get sucked into this kind of rhetoric, fear, and anger, it is on the most basic level a confession that we no longer truly believe in Jesus as our ultimate and Eternal King. If we truly believe in the sovereignty of our God and King we cannot be shaped by the same fear that grips our world. Here is a Biblical guarantee, God will not go to bed on Tuesday, November 3 wondering who will be our President, and He will not wake up the next morning to find out. God knows this already. But it is more than that. Whomever wins this election (and every one before and after) has been ordained by God, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 – and this verse is about Nero and Rome) Furthermore, it brings us one step closer to heaven and the final victory. History is the platform by which God is telling the glorious story of God, revealing His holiness, character, love, and redemption. History is where the unfolding beauty and glory of the Trinitarian God is put on display. This is a great mystery, but God is authoring His story through the free decisions and actions of men and women, and that includes our votes. But we can know, with absolute certainty that whomever ends up being our leader, it is God’s will and is about His glory and mission. Yes, the raising up of leaders may be an act of divine judgment, or it may be an act of divine blessing (or quite likely a mix of both). But either way, our posture should be to praise our God, trust in His goodness, and sleep well on November 3 holding firmly to our belief in His sovereignty of all nations. We should be involved, because God ordains both the means and the ends, and one of the primary means God uses to display His glory is through the faithful witness, worship, advocacy, and love of His people. We should vote (I’ll be writing another post later on this) and be involved. But our involvement should not be filled with fear. Rather our involvement in the political process should be filled with the hopeful trust in our Sovereign King. Our rhetoric in the political season must be seasoned with our trust in God and love for our neighbor. And, as subjects of King Jesus, we live this day knowing that the final day will come, Christ will reign victoriously, and every evil Kingdom will fall and bow before Him. No matter what happens on Election Day, we can live in bold faith that Christ is the ultimate victor, and this election will give Him glory and will be about the spread of the Gospel to the nations.
Of that we can be sure. Because of that we don’t have to enter into the political fear and anger that has wrought so many around us. We can enjoy our opportunity to exercise our freedom and duty as Americans, and then trust in God’s grace when we are done. And we can always live with incredible hope no matter who wins the election. In doing these things we are being salt and light to our world as people who do not put their hope in any political ruler, rather our hope is in the Lord!