There were approximately 120 million votes cast last Tuesday in the Presidential election; 60 million for each candidate. Although Donald Trump won, it was so close, that it’s possible that if a small percentage of people had voted differently, then Hilary Clinton would have won the election. The point is, no matter who won, half of the country would be unhappy. And these two candidates had so many flaws, that many of those who voted felt they were voting for the lesser of two evils. Therefore, even the winning candidate would have had some of his or her own voters unhappy with the outcome. So if we’re unhappy about the results of the election, or even if we’re not, what advice would the Bible give us in thinking about the outcome of this past week?
First, remember the sovereign God decides who wins elections. We may think citizens cast votes to decide but the Lord is the one who governs the decisions of humanity. That’s the point of Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast in the lap but its every decision is from the Lord.” Daniel 4:17 states: “This is so the living will know that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men. He gives it to anyone He wants and sets over it the lowliest of men.” Since God decides who will actually govern, don’t make the mistake that He does so to put the best person in office for the best political results as any of us would have it. God may very well choose someone to bring about some other purpose. For example, God placed Judah’s most wicked king, Manasseh, on the throne for the longest reign of all Judah’s kings, 52 years. But it was to confirm the coming judgment of that nation. Whatever God’s purposes are for choosing leaders, never forget that He’s in charge, even if we disagree with His choice.
Second, believers are called to respect the office of President, not necessarily the person. Unfortunately, in this past election, both candidates had serious flaws and unseemly qualities. Whoever won, people could use those character flaws as an excuse to be disrespectful. Yet, Romans 13 reminds believers to submit to governing authorities (Rom 13:1). It goes on to say, “Pay . . . respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor” (Rom 13:7). This was written when notorious Nero was Emperor and many corrupt officials held posts in the Roman government. Paul’s point was not that these people were worthy of respect and honor but rather their offices were. We would do well to follow Peter’s exhortation: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor (or the President)” (1 Pet 2:17).
Third, we must pray for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. Paul’s call to prayer is clear: “First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim 2:1-2). I’ve made praying for the President a weekly habit for more than 30 years. I can’t say that I always had voted for the person I was praying for or even that I agreed with him much of the time. But I did pray for God to guide and protect him because I wanted a quiet and peaceful life so the good news could be proclaimed freely. I’ll continue to make this my habit, regardless of who is President.
Finally, we must trust God not human leaders. Every four years, we Americans go through the crisis of an election. And every four years, the people whose candidate won, begin to think “happy days are here again,” only to experience disappointment sooner or later. Here’s the reminder from Jeremiah 17:5-8:
“This is what the Lord says:
Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind,
who makes [human] flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord.
He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;
he cannot see when good comes
but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord.
He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.
Putting our trust in a human political leader to change the world is always a mistake. He may do some good or some bad but in the end, every human ruler brings disappointment. If we trust in men, we’ll be like trees trying to survive in the wilderness of the Dead Sea. Our only hope is to trust in the Lord and look forward to the appearing of the true King, who “will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land” (Isa 11:4). “Righteousness and faithfulness will be a belt around his waist” (Isa 11:5). Then, “the nations will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious” (Isa 11:10). Our hope is not in a flawed human president but only in the King of kings.