Many American Christians believe the key to spiritual revival and national success is electing the right man to be President. As an idea it sounds good but there is less Biblical evidence in support of this notion than some Christians imagine. Although we do see instances of Biblical kings imposing institutional religious reforms and movements (good and bad!) upon Judah and Israel, the good reforms were at best temporary hindrances to the peoples’ drift further and further away from the God who had led them out of Egypt. Righteous remnant aside, the righteousness of individual kings accomplished little more than a temporary delay of God’s judgement of His rebellious people.
Regarding the institution and position of kings, Scripture informs us it was not God’s perfect will for Israel to have a king. Israel was established to be a peculiar people called into a personal relationship with the LORD who would be their king and rule through priests, circuit judges and the occasional prophet bringing a direct communication. It was this way for hundreds of years till a change in the thinking of the people caused them to demand from the LORD a king “like all the other nations.” 2nd Samuel 8:7 tells us the prophet Samuel was disturbed by their demand and prayed to the LORD regarding it. The LORD replied “Don’t take it personally. They have not rejected you – they have rejected me from being their king. Let’s give them what they want.” It was not a victory for the people; in giving the nation what they wanted the LORD was merely permitting them to do what they wanted to do; most kings promoted the downward spiral to national division and eventual destruction.
Israel’s first and second kings were specially chosen by God. Saul was the first one. Outwardly he fit people’s notion of what a king should be. Tall, good looking and busy about the business of making Israel great. Inwardly though he was spiritually and emotionally unstable. Unable to seek God for himself or obey God’s commands when he received them, he just did what he thought best. Eventually God instructed Samuel to anoint a different man, one who was not even considered by his family to be a grown adult. That second man was David. Although much better than Saul at seeking the Lord, he was by no means perfect in all his actions. But he and his son Solomon did make Israel into a great nation – for a time. Unfortunately Solomon’s son Rehoboam oversaw Israel’s division into two separate kingdoms and religions systems. The greatness that was Israel’s under David and Solomon was a momentary break in a steady downward slide to national disgrace and destruction.
Even the most righteous kings could not halt the slide to destruction. I call as witnesses three kings said to have sought the LORD and walk in His ways: Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah of Judah. Good and effective rulers though they were, these men did not seriously impact for the better the spiritual climate of the people. The writer of 2nd Chronicles 20:33 summarized the general spiritual condition of Judah after Jehoshaphat’s death by writing “the people had not yet directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.” King Hezekiah was a good king, led revivals and the like. His big mistake was pride in his national wealth, revealing all to Judah’s future destroyer by giving the Babylonian ambassador a tour of his treasury.
Some years after Hezekiah died King Josiah came upon the scene. The text tells us Josiah “made” the people go back to the LORD. He reformed the religious system so as to correctly worship the LORD. The people conformed outwardly but the reforms did not change things their hearts. The prophetess Huldah (2nd Chronicles 34:28) expressed the LORD’s take on the situation with the words “I (the LORD) will gather you (Josiah) to your grave in peace so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place (Jerusalem) and it’s inhabitants…” Grace short lived: Without first seeking the LORD regarding what he was about to do Josiah died in a needless battle against an Egyptian army headed against Babylon. How ironic that two of Judah’s best and most godly kings helped pave the way for Babylon’s success!
What use to us are these ancient stories from ancient Israel?
Firstly, they serve as a correction to the tendency American Christians have have to mix politics with religion and view Presidents as either messianic or the incarnation of evil. This tendency paves the way to spiritual delusion, paranoia and even idolatry. What foolishness! For citizens of the Kingdom of God there is only one Messiah; His name is Jesus. His is a spiritual kingdom not an earthly political party. The Kingdom of God does not align it’s values to human political parties!
Secondly, there are many Americans who identify vicariously with a political figure or party. So close is their emotional identification with their chosen President that they become spiritually, emotionally and socially enmeshed with that person or party – and incapable of discerning what is and is not right about specific issues. In essence they become willing slaves of the man or their party. This is wrong. No follower of Jesus should ever let this happen. We are to serve the LORD and only the LORD!
Thirdly, and this my main point: America is not nearly as unique as we wish to think. Presidents are mere men and our nation-empire is merely one of many of similar political groupings that have come and gone in this world; how many we do not know because so many have been lost to history. Our elected Presidents do not stand before God as our representatives. They, like us are mere flesh and sentenced to die after which they will be judged according to their faith and deeds. The kingdoms of this world – ALL OF THEM – America included – are sentenced by God to destruction. Having these things in mind we who are citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom should not elevate any but Jesus rule over our hearts. We should rise above petty nationalism and partisanship and live as citizens of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. I repeat: In this life we should honor no person, no party and no nation as equal to or greater than the LORD our God.
“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone or anything else…” Isaiah 42:8