Our Lord said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Me.” The church of Jesus Christ, of course, is the assembly of His followers. That's why we’re here, we follow Him. The message that the Lord has laid upon my heart this morning will be a sobering message, I am quite confident. It certainly has been for me to try to process this over the last week as I thought about it.
There is now in the flag salute of our nation a statement, “One nation under God,” that was added to the flag salute in 1954. The question is, “Is this a nation under God?” We know that’s what the founding fathers intended, and not just any God, but the God of Scripture. Nations are obligated to worship the true God. Did you hear what I just said? They’re obligated to worship the true God, and there are dire circumstances that will come upon them if they fail to do that. I want to show you that.
On the tenth of June in the year 1900, at the age of 84, the Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, went to heaven. He was called the man of granite with the heart of a child. During his long years of leadership in the church of England he was relentlessly faithful to the Bible, to the Word of God. He had been intensely loved and intensely hated because of his fidelity to biblical truth. He was even called the lion for the truth. His legacy still lives globally. His influence is still around because of his writings. And my guess is that most of you have read something by J. C. Ryle.
The scope of his influence is vast. But one of the things that particularly interested Ryle was the relationship between the church and the state. He recognized the foundational truth that all people and all nations are called to worship the true God. That is not an option, that is a divine command. I don’t think people understand that, but I want to help you to understand it.
Let me begin by establishing some foundational truth. Number One: “Man was created by God in the image of God for the glory of God.” Every person is given as a part of being human the divine image and the knowledge of God’s nature and God’s law, so that the law of God is written in every heart, and the truth about God resides in every heart, so that the Bible says if they do not come to God they are without excuse.
Now we know the instinct to worship is strong in every soul. Everybody worships. God has designed the human soul to worship Him, but the fallenness of humanity causes human beings to turn from worshiping the true God to worshiping just about anything and everything else. Mankind rejects the true law of God, and so the apostle Paul says, “There is none who seeks for God. There is no fear of God before their eyes, and every mouth is stopped, that is, without an excuse, and all the world guilty and accountable to the one true God,” Romans 3. So, man is created by God in the image of God for the glory of God, and commanded to worship the true God.
Secondly: “All people are to worship only the true God.” Mankind worships, we get that; but his fallenness directs him away from the true God to false gods. As Jesus said in John 4:22 to the Samaritan woman, “You know not what you worship.” J. C. Ryle, dealing with this very issue, said this: “Any worship is more pleasing to the natural heart than worshiping God in the way our Lord Jesus describes it as worshiping in spirit and truth.”
The natural heart goes in the opposite direction of God, that is why the Scripture constantly commands everyone back from that deviation to worship the true God. God said, “There’s no god besides Me. There is no god besides Me.” That is, there are no other gods. Scripture says, back in Deuteronomy 32, it’s repeated in 1 Corinthians 10, that, “All the gods of the nations are demons.” They are satanic counterfeits, demonic delusions. There’s only one God, all the rest are some form of demon worship.
The first commandment is this: “You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not worship any other god, for the Lord whose name is jealous is a jealous God.” Exodus 34, “You shall not worship them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Worship the true God, and you will be blessed. Worship any other God, and you fall under a curse. You say, “Well, doesn’t that apply only to Israel?” No, not at all.
There is a prophet that everyone knows about, at least they know about one part of his life, and that was when he was swallowed by a great fish. But there’s something much more important in the big scheme of things in looking at Jonah. Third chapter of Jonah, he goes to Nineveh. Nineveh, by the way, is modern Mosul in Iraq – at least in that same location.
“The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time,” – chapter 3 – ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I’m going to tell you.’ So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord.” Nineveh was exceedingly great city, a three-day’s walk.
“Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and they put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. And when the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, ‘In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.’
“When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He didn’t do it.” That’s not personal salvation, that’s a nation turning to the true God, acknowledging that there is one true God, and it saved that nation from immediate destruction. Unfortunately, the next generation and the next deviated from that, went back to the natural bent of their sinful hearts, and around 627 BC that great city of Nineveh was wiped off the face of the earth by the judgment of God. They worshiped Ishtar. They were Pagans, they were non-Jews.
The expectation to worship the true God was not just for Israel, it was for every nation. And God pronounced doom on a pagan nation that did not worship Him. The Lord Jesus Christ – repeating Deuteronomy 6:5 – said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
There’s only one God, only one true God. All humanity is commanded to worship that one true God, and the fundamental reason, the fundamental plan of God, as far as nations are concerned, is to bless the nations that acknowledge Him as the true God. We’re not talking about person salvation, we’re talking about a national recognition of who is the true God.
And the third thing to say is this: “Failure to worship God and to worship any other god brings judgment.” It certainly brings judgment on individuals, but it also brings judgment on nations. That judgment becomes inevitable because when you turn from the one true God you therefore turn from His law; and when you turn from His law, reverence is gone, morality is gone, fear is gone, virtue is gone, and God is gone. That’s the cycle of the history of nations, Acts 14: “God has allowed all the nations to go their own way.” It’s the way of destruction.
That’s what Paul’s talking about in Romans 1: “They knew God, they glorify Him not as God, and the wrath of God was unleashed on them. God gave them over to lusts and impurity; gave them over to unlawful degrading passions, women with women, and men with men; gave them over to a depraved mind, and they heartily approved behaviors that they knew led them to judgment.” There’s only one God, He demands that everyone worship Him: individuals for individual’s salvation, nations recognizing Him for national temporal blessing.
Where am I going with this? Pretty simple. When any government separates from God and His law in Scripture and from His people and His church it invites judgment on a personal scale and a national scale. It’s unavoidable because God is immutable, He doesn’t change. When government thinks its only responsibility is for physical material, social temporal needs, and ignores the spiritual reality of the true God and people’s spiritual needs, when a nation becomes indifferent to the true God and His word and His law, it makes a grave mistake, which if not reversed will lead that nation to its own destruction. The notion of a secular state is a lie; government is ordained by God. In Ryle’s lifetime, he called his nation England to biblical law, biblical Christianity, and he said, “It should be recognized nationally, and the Scriptures should be promoted for the good of the society.”
Now the Reformers were right in seeing three uses for the law of God. Use One was to show the sinner what holiness was like so the sinner could see how far short he falls, be convicted and repent personally, and receive the salvation that God offers through Christ. So the first use of the law is to awaken the sinner to his sin and judgment.
The second use of the law is then to become the standard for believers’ behavior as they walk in sanctification and holiness. But the third use of the law, said the Reformers – and they were right – is to restrain sin in society. And God’s law does restrain sin, and government is to be its enforcer, Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. For government is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it doesn’t bear the sword for nothing; for government is a minister of God, an avenger who brings evil on the one who does evil.” Wrath comes on the one who does evil, and the executer of that wrath in the government are those that carry the weapons and deadly force.
So God’s law, first of all, is designed to show sinners how far short we fall off God’s holy standard, and how desperately we need a Redeemer and a Savior. Secondly, to provide a standard of behavior for us to live sanctified lives. But, thirdly, God gave law to restrain sin in a society; and as long as a society follows biblical law, there will be restraint on sin.
Ryle wrote this in his day: “The government of England would allow all its subjects to serve God or Baal to go to heaven or to go to hell just as they please. The state would take no cognizance of spiritual matters, and would look on with epicurean indifference and unconcern.” That is a deadly thing for a society to face. When you hear a presidential candidate say, “If I’m elected I want to fill my cabinet with Muslims,” this is a blasphemous attack on the true and living God.
Ryle also said this: “In what manner God would punish England if English government casts off all connections with Him. I cannot tell whether He would punish us by some sudden blow such as defeat in war and the occupation of our territory by a foreign power, whether He would waste us away gradually and slowly by loss of commercial prosperity, whether He would break us to pieces by letting fools rule over us and allowing parliament to obey them, whether He would ruin us by sending a dearth of wise statesmen. But one thing I am sure: the state that sows the seed of national neglect of God will sooner or later reap a harvest of national disaster and national ruin.” And England has reaped that harvest, so has Scotland and Ireland. Who would have thought that Ireland would ever legitimize abortion?
So the law of God has a personal purpose: to convict the sinner, lead him to salvation. It has a sanctifying purpose as the regulation for the living of a sanctified life. But it also has a national purpose to restrain sin.
So what are we saying? There is no god except the God of the Bible. There is no true morality but the morality of the Bible. There’s no true worship but the worship of the true and living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no personal blessing apart from Him, there is no national blessing apart from honoring Him, and there is no way to Him except through Jesus Christ.
All irreligious, immoral, indifferent governments will self-destruct. And that self-destruction is only apparently a self-destruction; it’s really a divine judgment. Godless complacency or open rebellion against God ends up with the same result. A society that turns from God will be open to all false religions, welcoming the doctrines of demons. A society that turns from God will be open to all moralities and all immoralities, all perverse freedoms, all sexual preferences, all ideas and opinions, all lies, all deception, all sins, all iniquities.
You might want to call it post-modern, but I think we’re at the end of the post-modern era and we’re moving fast toward paganism. There’s a new term called “research justice.” It’s social justice has gone to the university in recent years. And research justice says, “If you’re a White heterosexual male, your research, no matter what it is, is unacceptable. You’re an oppressor; we don’t accept your research.” This blunts the edge of all advancement and drives us back to tribes in the jungle.
A nation that turns from God will lose control of absolutely everything. Chaos will begin to take over, and it’ll lead to anarchy; and anarchy usually leads to a police state or a dictatorship. We have a reprobate mind, we don’t think rationally. If you think rejecting cutting-edge scientific advancement because it comes from a White heterosexual male will advance a society that shows that you have a reprobate mind. That’s insanity. That is lunacy.
Removing the worship of the true God is a disaster to a nation. First Timothy 2:1 and 2, Paul said, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings” – rulers – “all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” This is Paul saying, “God desires people to live a quiet and tranquil life.” That’s not salvation language, that is simply societal peace, well-being, the enjoyment of common grace. But for that to happen we have to pray for the leaders who are in authority, pray that they will submit to God: first, that they would be saved, they would submit to God. When God and Christ in Scripture are dishonored in a nation there will be violence, there will be noise, transgressions, and shame. There will not be a tranquil, peaceful life in all of godliness and dignity. Joshua 24:20, “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” There’s no question that God has done good to this nation; but He will consume this nation if it stays on the path it’s on.
Removing the worship of the true God, removing the authority of His Word, the voice of the church, the moral education of children and youth, removing the gospel because it’s too offensive is the path to national destruction. God chose Israel and laid out these same realities to Israel, and Israel was disobedient and it destroyed Israel, and they had a covenant promise from God. Their destruction was not final because God promises to save them in the future. No other nation has such a promise of restoration and national salvation in the future. If God didn’t spare Israel historically, He’s not going to spare people who are not part of His covenant.
Listen to how broad the Bible says worship of the true God is. Psalm 33:8, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the nations of the world revere Him.” Psalm 117:1, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; and extol Him, all you peoples!” Now that has to come from leadership. So Psalm 72:11 says, “Let all kings bow down before Him, and all nations serve Him.” All kings, all nations.
You remember the story of the prophet Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar who thought himself to be God, and he was turned into a beast. For years he wandered in the meadow insane with growing fingernails and animalistic behavior. Daniels 4:34 says, “At the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar said this: “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. All His works are true and His ways just, and He’s able to humble those who walk in pride.” There was a pagan king, so pagan that he tried to paganize Daniel and his three friends unsuccessfully, and God turned him into a reprobate mind, acting like a beast, until he came to his senses and acknowledged that the Most High is to be praised and honored, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation.” God is to be worshiped by all nations, all leaders, or judgment will fall.
Turn for a moment to Joshua chapter 10. You remember that when Moses went to be with the Lord, the mantle of leadership was turned over to Joshua. And Joshua took the children of Israel into the land of Canaan which had been promised, of course, to Abraham long before. But when Joshua entered into the land I want you to see what he did.
Go to the end of chapter 10, verse 40. Well, verse 38: “Joshua and all Israel with him returned to Debir, and they fought against it. He captured it and its king and all its cities, and they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person who was in it. He left no survivor. Just as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had also done to Libnah and its king.” First thing Joshua does is go into the land of paganism, and he is the executioner of the Lord’s wrath.
Verse 40 then: “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev” – in the south – “and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded.” This seems very disturbing to many people who read this in the Old Testament. But none of those kings died under that judgment who weren’t going to die under judgment another way had God not done this. God is the one who destroys both soul and body in hell. He used Joshua as His executioner. “Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen even as far as Gibeon. Joshua captured all these kings and their lands and at one time, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. So Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal.”
Go over to chapter 11, verse 17. “Further from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon.” That’s way in the north. “He captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel.” Their hearts were so hard, verse 20, “It was of the Lord to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Verse 23: “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes.” Broke it up into the twelve tribes. “And the land had rest from war.”
Just glance at chapter 12. Here are the kings defeated and slain. All of chapter 12 lists them: 31 the end of chapter 12. That is shocking to many people that God is an executioner of pagan kings who have not acknowledged Him. God is the same God today. It’s not to say He is not compassionate and merciful; He is, and the Old Testament is clear on that. But for those who reject Him and His offer of forgiveness and salvation, He is the inevitable Judge.
This puts a huge burden on leadership in a country. I know there are a lot of people who are pursuing political power. That’s a dangerous thing to pursue, dangerous, because God has requirements for those in power; and I want to share just some of them with you, because nations are basically formed by those who lead them; and by what they demand and what they tolerate a nation will be defined.
So what does God require? Let’s go back to Psalm 2. I’m going to give you a lot of Scripture, so just kind of hang on and listen. Psalm 2, verse 10: “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth.” If you’re in a position of power, whether you’re a king or a judge, governor, president, vice president, congressman, senator, mayor, whatever, “Take warning. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Reject the Son of God, and you will anger God and His wrath will fall on you.
Psalm 72:11, again, “Let all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him.” Listen to Psalm 138:4 and 5, “All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord, when they have heard the words of Your mouth. And they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.” By the way, that is not a prophecy, but a hope in view of what the Lord had done through David and Israel.
Psalm 47. And I’ll just be reading these to you, but you can jot them down if you want to look back. In Psalm 47, “O clap your hands, all peoples,” – all nations – “shout to God with the voice of joy. For the Lord Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.” That is a call to universal national worship of the true God. That is a command; and not to do that is to bring upon one’s self terrifying judgment.
So what can we say should mark a ruler? Worship of the true God. Secondly, righteousness, righteousness. Second Samuel 23:3, during the time of David, says, “He that rules over men must be righteous, ruling in the fear of God.” So worship and righteousness go together. Listen to Proverbs 16:12, “It is an abomination for kings” – rulers – “to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 20, verse 28, “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.” Proverbs 25:5, “Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” That’s great wisdom. Get rid of the evil advisors, and a ruler has a chance at ruling righteously.
Sometimes around here we see people saying, “Recall the governor,” or, “Let’s get rid of our governor,” because they’re upset. First of all, we need to pray for the salvation of our governor. And, secondly, God is not unaware of everything he has done. And when it comes time for judgment, God will execute that wrath if there is not repentance and salvation. Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice; when a wicked man rules, people groan.” Have you been groaning? “When a wicked man rules, people groan.” Literally in Hebrew, they make a sigh: “Ahhh, I’ve had enough.”
Isaiah 32. The chapter opens, “Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.” You don’t feel that way about your leaders, do you? It’s because they don’t rule righteously. They’re no refuge from the wind for us. They’re no shelter in the storm. They’re not streams in a dry country. They’re not a rock of shade in a parched land.
There’s a third and very closely related characteristic of leaders that God requires and that is justice, justice. Earlier I read Psalm 83 and 84. But if we back up into Psalm 82, I’ll read, follow along, the first maybe about eight verses.
Psalm 82: “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.” This is if all the rulers of the world are gathered around and God is in their midst. “How long” – verse 2 – “will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.” Those are the people who can’t bribe the leader. “Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, ‘You are gods.’ – this is sarcasm to rulers – ‘You are gods, aren’t you. All of you are sons of the Most High.’ – that’s sarcasm – ‘You think you’re gods. You think you’re representing the Most High. You will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possess all the nations.”
God calls together all the world rulers in that Psalm – judges, legislators, kings, presidents, governors, people in any responsible role of leadership – and God presides over all of them. They are marked by darkness: intellectual darkness and moral darkness. They rule unjustly. They undermine the moral order that God has established for human well-being. And they think they’re gods, and they’re not; they’re men who will be destroyed.
Proverbs 29:4, “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.” Proverbs 8:15, “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.” “By me” – verse 12 – “wisdom.” “By wisdom kings reign, and rulers decree justice.” That leads us to a fourth characteristic of rulers, which is wisdom, which is wisdom.
I can’t resist going to Proverbs 8 for a moment. There’s so many Scriptures, I’m just giving you some samples of them. But in Proverbs 8, you could pick it up in verse 12: “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.” This is wisdom personified. “By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly. I love those who love me.” That’s wisdom. “I love those who love wisdom; and those who diligently seek me will find me. And riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.” God doesn’t want to hold anything back, but His blessings are in the path of righteousness, not for a governor to announce that they’ve lessened the consequence for predatory homosexuality on a minor. That is not walking in righteousness.
The prophet Jeremiah chapter 22, verse 1, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word and say, “Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you men will indeed perform this thing, then kings will enter the gates of this house, sitting in David’s place on his throne, riding in chariots and on horses, even the king himself and his servants and his people.” But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself,’ declares the Lord, ‘this house will become a desolation.’” Under your leadership innocents are slaughtered, you will pay. The most innocent of all are babies in the womb being murdered.
In Daniel, again, the prophet Daniel, just a comment from chapter 2, verse 20: “Daniel blessed the God of heaven; and Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king’s matter.’”
Guess what: a believer who knows the word and will of God can explain reality to a king, to a king. That’s what Daniel did. And his wisdom was so profound that he became the Prime Minister of that pagan kingdom. Wisdom comes only from God, as Nebuchadnezzar found out.
Again, back in Proverbs – and these are just among the many scriptures we could look at – Proverbs 25: “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable. Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith; take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” In other words, kings are supposed to solve very difficult problems, but they will not be able to do it, as we noted, if surrounded by liars and corrupt advisors.
And that leads to a fifth characteristic of a ruler: honesty, honesty. Just a couple of verses along that line. Proverbs 17:7, “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less lying lips to a ruler.” Are you not weary of lying people in power? Proverbs 20:28 says, “Loyalty and truth preserve the king.”
There’s a sixth characteristic of a ruler: morality – and that is in the final chapter of Proverbs. Proverbs 31 suffers a little bit because everybody starts with verse 10 about the wife; and that is an incredible passage. But if you start at the beginning you’re going to learn about what God expects of a ruler.
“The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him: What, O my son?” This is a king, Lemuel “What, O son of my womb? And what, O son of my vows? What would you like to know? What do you want to know from your experience in wise mother? Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings.” – immorality – “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to him who is perishing,” – use it to ease somebody’s pain when they’re dying – “wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more. But open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” Warning against vices, immorality with women, overindulgence, indifference.
There’s another characteristic of rulers that God honors, and this is powerful. It’s humility. Go back to 2 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles chapter 33. “Manasseh” – King Manasseh who followed Hezekiah in southern kingdom of Judah – “was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel.” He did evil in the sight of the Lord.
How did he do that? “He built the high places” – places for worshiping idols – “which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim,” – a kind of a deity – “worshiped all the host of heaven,” – worshiped the stars – “built altars in the house of the Lord of which the Lord had said, ‘My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.’ He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.” This is unbelievable. Manasseh is putting idols in the temple.
“He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom,” – that is to say he burnt up his children as sacrifices to Baal – “practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, dealt with mediums and spiritists. Did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes and the ordinances given through Moses.’ Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.
“And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, and they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains, took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God, humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”
And what did he do? Verse 15, “He removed the foreign gods, removed the idols, set up the altar of the Lord.” It was too little, too late. “The people still sacrificed” – verse 17 – “in the high places, although they pretended that it was a sacrifice to God.”
He was followed by Amon, verse 21. “Twenty-two years old when he became king, and reigned two years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the carved images his father Manasseh had made, and he served them.” – brought them back – “He did not humble himself before the Lord as his father Manasseh had done. Amon multiplied guilt. Finally his servants conspired against him, put him to death in his own house. But the people of the land killed all the conspirators against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.” A father who humbled himself, a son who refused to humble himself.
If you keep reading these accounts, this keeps popping up: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He did evil in the sight of the Lord.” That is the epitaph of all the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom, and most of the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He did evil in the sight of the Lord.” It was a breath of fresh air with Josiah. But the rest is a story of evil.
Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” Humility, a willingness to acknowledge sin, repent, and turn before it’s too late. God expects that out of evil rulers. We need to call rulers who are doing evil to repent, fall before God, cry out for forgiveness and mercy through Christ.
There is no mystery about what God requires. Let me just suggest two other things: protection, protection. We just read it, Proverbs 31:8 and 9, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” He’s a protector. Habakkuk 2:12, the prophet said, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!” They’re to be protectors.
Psalm 94 speaks to this. Just a few verses, verses 20 and 21 and following: “Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,” – someone who allows killing – “one which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” All I can think about when I read that is abortion. “But the Lord has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. And He has brought back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil; our Lord will destroy them.” I don’t know a more devastating warning to rulers who tolerate the death of innocence than that.
And finally, courage, courage. Rulers need courage. Courage is hard to come by. To be a virtuous ruler, to lead a nation that God will bless, a leader must worship the true God, must conduct his life and his affairs on behalf of the country or the nation with righteousness, justice, wisdom, honesty, morality. He must be humble. He must be a protector of those who need protection. And finally, he must have courage.
That is so beautifully expressed in the opening of the book of Joshua. And we talked about this a few weeks ago, so I won’t make a big point out of it. But as Moses hands the baton to Joshua to be the leader, Joshua 1:6, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous.”
Now what does this mean? What’s the basis of that courage? “Be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; then you will make your way prosperous, then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
People say to me, “You have a lot of courage because you’re doing what you’re doing?” No, I’m thankful the Lord has given me resolve. But I don’t tremble; and I’m not dismayed no matter what comes, because the Lord God is with me because I’m following His word. I’m following the book of the law, and it does not depart from my mouth day and night. I want to do everything that’s written in it. And then the promise of God is, “Your way will be prosperous and you’ll have success. Do not turn to the right or turn to the left.” These are the characteristics of leaders and rulers that God blesses.
A man who has character, conviction, virtue, righteousness, wisdom, honesty will be very careful with power; and the first thing he’ll do with his power is to make sure he honors God, and the church of God, and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be a strong advocate for everything that honors God. He will submit himself to God’s commands and to all of God’s demands for him as a ruler. There is no other way to distinguish a good ruler from a bad ruler. It’s not personality. God’s standards are the only way to distinguish a good ruler from a bad one.
A leader without virtue, a leader without character is like a contaminated surgeon. The standard is very high. We need leaders like this, which means we need to replace a whole lot of the ones we have, or they need to repent and be saved. Is there any hope? Is there an ideal king? You know the answer. Is there an ideal king? We’re waiting for Him, aren’t we? The King of kings.
Listen to what Isaiah said in Isaiah 33:17, “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will behold a far-distant land. Your heart will meditate on terror: “Where is he who counts? Where is he who weighs? Where is he who counts the towers?” You will no longer see a fierce people, a people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends, of a stammering tongue which no one understands.” In other words, you’re not going to be seeing another invader, another conquering power with a foreign language. “Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, an undisturbed habitation, a tent which will not be folded; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its cords be torn apart. But there the majestic One, the Lord, will be for us a place of rivers and wide canals on which no boat with oars will go, and on which no mighty ship will pass – for the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; He will save us.” Love that. He will save us.
Back to Daniel. Very frustrating because I have a lot of other scriptures, but I only have another half hour. No. Daniel chapter 7, verse 13. Daniel says in chapter 7, verse 13, “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. To Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”
Is there an ideal king? Yes. Do we know who He is? The Lord Jesus Christ. He’s coming back to establish His kingdom. He comes in the book of Revelation riding on a white horse: King of kings and Lord of lords. The psalmist said in Psalm 2:8, “Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” The Father saying that to the Son: “I’ll give You the nations.”
Psalm 22:27, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the earth will worship You.” Psalm 86:9, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 98:3, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Psalm 102:15, “So the nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth will fear Your glory.”
A King will come who will reign righteously, and He will establish His kingdom – none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re waiting for Him, aren’t we? We’re waiting for Him. As we wait, we have hope, and that is a realized hope. We already cling to it firmly because it’s promised in the Word of God.
Let me close with Psalm 67: “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the nations praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the people with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.”
The psalmist is saying if we are a blessed people let the world see it. That’s why we’re here today, regardless of what we’re supposed to do by the world’s evaluation. We’re here because we want the world to see God is a God who blesses His faithful people. Let’s pray.
It is a high and holy privilege beyond expression to navigate the truth of Scripture, see its consistency, its power, its clarity. It brings upon our souls both conviction and blessing, fear and joy, judgment and forgiveness, a threat of wrath and the promise of heaven. We pray for our country, we pray for our leaders; pray for their salvation, first of all. And we pray that those who are evil leaders will be replaced, and You will graciously give us righteous, just, truthful, worshiping leaders who will restore to us the national blessedness that is so far gone.
We have no right to ask that; it would be sheer grace for You to do that. But You will not bless this country unless this country meets the conditions for blessing. May it start with us. That’s why we need to be the church; and we need to let the light shine brightly no matter what. We must let our light shine before men, that they may see the transforming power of the gospel, in order that we might confront sin and evil at every level, including leadership, and give demonstration of the joy and peace and hope that fills our hearts through Christ.
Thank You for meeting us today. Now may we go from this place, committed afresh to live for Your glory and Your honor and proclaim Christ as Lord, we pray in His name. And everyone said, “Amen.” Amen.
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