Want to make sure you have your Bible handy. We’re going to do a little work in the Scripture as we think about God’s requirements for rulers. Obviously, this is on the mind of people. It is drummed at us insentiently day after day, month after month, seemingly year after year as we are overexposed to the political scene in our own country and others around the world. And there are all kinds of perspectives, and all kinds of viewpoints, and all kinds of pundits weighing in on what should be the characteristics of leaders and how governments should operate, et cetera, et cetera.
Just to clear the air, I have really nothing to say about the politics of the United States of America, or for that matter any other country. But I am going to show you from the Word of God the measuring rod by which you will be able to evaluate any and every situation in terms of leadership and rule in any nation, and we’re going to dig down on this a little bit into the Scripture. So you need to be ready to use your mind and think through with me. It’s not going to be like a sermon, it’s going to be like a big Bible study that we’re going to have together, only I do all the talking, okay.
It was June 10th in the year 1900, at the age of 84, the Bishop of Liverpool in the Church of England went to heaven. His name was J. C. Ryle. He was dubbed the man of granite with the heart of a child. Good way to explain him. During his long years of spiritual leadership, biblical faithfulness, enduring influence through his writings, he had been loved and hated, and he had been as strongly hated as he was loved. He was hated and he was loved for the same reason: he was a lion for the truth, he was unwavering, he stood firm. We know him mostly for his book Holiness. But he wrote many, many other books. He would be, if he were alive today, a ubiquitous blogger. In those days, they wrote tracts, brief – a few pages on a given subject, had them printed up and distributed.
He was a bishop, as I said, in the Church of England. He was a stalwart for the truth. I think the great tragedy of his life was that he had a son named Herbert who also became a bishop in the Church of England, and fully refuted and rejected his father’s faith. He had been influenced by higher criticism in Germany, and he essentially embraced an anti-biblical position as a kind of academic posture, wound up rejecting the truth faith and perished in 1925. He was as far away from his father as anyone could be, and he was his son. Nonetheless, the scope of Ryle’s influence was massive and vast.
Because he had an enduring and lengthy life, he managed to speak on all matters of concern for the church and for England. He spoke frequently on the matter of government and on the relationship between government and the church. It was important to him to have his people understand the relation of the church to the state. He took a view that you might find unique. I don’t know that I’ve heard it espoused, even from evangelicals. He recognized that what was missing in the thinking of the people of his day in England was that they tried to have a government without God, without the Bible, without the true church. Ryle affirmed that man was created in the image of God and for the glory of God, and that God had planted the truth about Himself in the heart of man – Romans 1 and Romans 2. God had planted His law in every human heart, but that man in a fallen condition, with a compelling, driving instinct to worship, would choose to worship anything and anyone but the true God.
As our Lord said in John 4 to the Samaritan woman, “You worship; you know not what.” That is a statement that literally blankets all forms of false worship.
Ryle said this, and I quote, “Any worship is more pleasing to the natural heart than worshiping God in the way which our Lord Jesus Christ describes it as in spirit and in truth.” Really a clear statement. “Any form of worship is more pleasing to the natural heart than the true worship of God.” Man is an inveterate worshiper. But because when he knows God, he glorifies Him not as God, but in His place creates the gods of his own fashioning to please his fallen heart, he ends up worshiping you know not what.
Ryle went on to say that, “The worship of God is fundamental to life and blessing, and anything less than the worship of God, the true and living God, and an endeavor to follow His laws in society will divest a society of reverence, fear, morality, and hope.” Ryle knew that God not only gave a law written in stone to His people Israel, but He gave a law written in the heart to every human being, and that law was there for all the purposes of the law.
The reformers used to say the law has three purposes. Purpose Number One is to convict the sinner of sin so that he’s driven to the Savior, because he can’t keep the law and he’s under judgment. The second use of the law is to be a restraint upon sinners. It cannot fully restrain sinners, but it does have a restraining affect.
Illustration: If they took away all the speed limits, what would happen? The first use of the law then is to convict sinners, to drive them to a Savior, because they feel the weight of their sin and the coming judgment. The second use of the law is to act in society as a restraint. The third use of the law is as the path of obedience for believers; and all three are legitimate uses of the law.
The whole world then is under the law of God. It has been written in stone and it has been distributed around the world in some for generations, for centuries, even millennia. When other laws are found going all the way back to the earliest things like the Code of Hammurabi around the time of the patriarchs, there are very similar laws of behavior as there are in the mosaic law, because that law is not only written in stone revealed from heaven, but it is written in the heart.
Now you say, “Where are you going with all this?” Just this: when society or government separates from the law of God, it cuts itself off from any hope of being driven toward salvation, any kind of restraint against sin. To care only for the physical, to care only for the material, to care only for the natural, to care only for the temporal life, if that’s the government’s only job, and for the church to care only for the soul, both have made a vastly, severely devastating mistake. Society cannot survive caring only for physical needs; and the church cannot fulfill its mission caring only for spiritual needs. There is a sense in which the church cares also for the natural, physical, temporal needs of people; and there is an equal expectation that government is concerned about the character of people, because if they are concerned about the character of people, they understand the importance, the critical importance of restraint by law, moral law, and they hold tightly to that so they don’t have anarchy.
My good friend Iain Murray said this: “A secular state is a lie. Government is a divine institution. The powers that be are ordained of God.” America likes to talk about the separation of church and state. Of course, our constitution doesn’t say that. But the separation of church and state, which is now the new perspective that dominates everything is essentially paving the way for the death of a society.
Bishop Ryle believed that biblical Christianity should be recognized nationally, that biblical Christianity should be recognized nationally for this reason: it is true, it is true. And because it is true, it is the true restraint. It is the true path of behavior that allows a nation to enjoy the maximum impact of common grace. Ryle believed that biblical Christianity should be recognized nationally as being true, that the true and living God should be recognized as such, and that all laws and rules should be based on the divine revelation of Scripture so that the principles and behaviors promoted for the good of society would come out of God’s Word; and that that, first of all, make the law available for its first use, to convict sinners of sin; and its second use, to restrain sinners; and its third use, to be the way of life for those who had been redeemed.
Ryle wasn’t alone. In 1890, A. A. Hodge, the great Princetonian theologian warned with these words: “The atheistic doctrine is gaining currency, even among professed Christians and even among some bewildered Christian ministers, that an education provided by the common government for the children of diverse religious parties should be entirely emptied of all religious character. The claim of impartiality between positions as directly opposite as that of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and especially as that of theists and atheists is evidently absurd.”
It is absurd to think you can educate an entire society without regard to true religion, true morality, true divinity, true sacredness, true law. So Ryle wrote extensively against those who wanted to separate the church and the state, so that the state would have nothing to do with religion, and he said the result will be absolutely disastrous.
Listen to Ryle. It’s a lengthy passage, but it’s worth listening to. Listen carefully. He said, “If we succeed in separating church and state, the government of England would allow all its subjects to serve God or Baal, to go to heaven or to another place, just as they please. The state would take no cognizance of spiritual matters, and would look on with Epicurean indifference and unconcern. The state would continue to care for the bodies of its subjects, but it would entirely ignore their souls.”
He went on: “Galileo who thought Christianity was a matter of words and names, and cared for none of these things, would become the model of an English statesman, the Sovereign of Great Britain might be a papist Roman Catholic, the Prime Minister a Muslim, the Lord Chancellor a Jew. Parliament would begin without prayer. Oaths would be dispensed within courts of justice. The next king would be crowned without a religious service at Westminster Abbey. Prisons and work houses, men of war and regiments would all be left without chaplains. In short, for fear of offending infidels and people who object to intercessory prayer, I suppose that regimental bands would be forbidden to play ‘God Save the Queen.’”
He goes on: “Scripture teaches plainly that God rules everything in this world, that He deals with nations as they deal with Him, that national prosperity and national decline are ordered by Him, and that without His blessing no nation can prosper. Whether men like to see it or not, I believe it is the first duty of a state to honor and recognize the true God. The sinews of a nation’s strength are truthfulness, honesty, sobriety, purity, temperance, economy, diligence, brotherly kindness, charity among its inhabitants. Let those deny this who dare. And will any man say that there is any surer way of producing these characteristics in a people than by encouraging and fostering and spreading and teaching pure scriptural Christianity. The man who says there is must be an infidel.”
He closed his statement: “The government which ignores religion and coolly declares that it doesn’t care whether its subjects are Christians or not is guilty of an act of suicidal folly. Irreligion, even in a temporal point of view, is the worst enemy of a nation.”
On another occasion he said this: “In what manner God would punish England if English governments cast off all connection with religion; I cannot tell. Whether He would punish us by some sudden blow such as a defeat in war and the occupation of our territory by a foreign power, whether He would waste us away gradually and slowly by placing a worm at the root of our commercial prosperity, whether He would break us to pieces by letting fools rule over us and allowing parliaments to obey them and permitting us like the Midianites to destroy one another, whether He would ruin us by sending a dearth of wise statesmen in the upper ranks and giving the reigns of power to communists, socialists, and mob leaders. All these are points which I have no prophetical eye to see, and I do not pretend to determine God’s sorest judgments, which the ancients said are like millstones, they grind very slowly, but they grind very fine. The thing I fear most for my country is gradual, insensible, dry rot and decay. But of one thing I am very sure, the state that begins by sowing the seed of national neglect of God will sooner or later reap a harvest of national disaster and national ruin.” You’re watching it happen in England.
Again, Iain Murray responded to Ryle’s thoughts with these words: “The gospel may succeed in lawless paganism; but does that mean that Christians need not pray for conditions which support godliness and honesty? Can the Christian be unconcerned whether Christ is publically honored or not? Does it make no difference whether society at large acknowledges or despises the law of God? Was Ryle dreaming when he taught that from creation God appointed one day in seven to kept holy, and that the public observance of that day has brought untold blessing to mankind? The truth is that the law of God has wider function than the promotion of conviction which leads to salvation. Where it is heard and known, it acts as a restraint on sin. It speaks to the conscience of the unregenerate. Although obedience to the law may be only external, nonetheless, it makes for a far better country than the one where its sanctions are thrown aside. To live where God is known and where His Word is heard is – ” says Murray “ – an inestimable blessing.”
Look, there is no law that is true but God’s law, there is no worship that is true but the worship of the true God, there is no morality that is true but the morality revealed in Scripture, and there are no blessings for individuals or nations apart from honoring God and His law. And, again, I would like to say it this way: a nation that lives under the power and influence of the law of God will enjoy the richest blessing of common grace. The chaos of the world, national chaos at any point anywhere is always related to the rejection of God, and the rejection of true worship, and the rejection of His law and His Word and obedience to Him.
His law defines what is good; His law defines what is evil. His law promotes good; His law restrains evil. And Romans 13 says that all government officials are ministers of God for the punishment of evildoers and the welfare of those who do what is good. And irreligious, immoral government that cares nothing about God and nothing about His law will self-destruct in the disintegration of its own godless complacency. Such a society will be open to all kinds of religion, all kinds of moralities, all manner of freedom, all preferences.
In summary: all lies, all deceptions, all corruptions are accepted. That society will lose control of everything. It will lose control of everything. Chaos will begin to take over, and the only way that chaos will be slowed down will be when dictatorial control, or maybe even a police state is formed, where thought and behavior is fixed, and anybody out of bounds is punished. Eventually, the chaos has to be controlled. We’re not headed toward socialism; we could well be headed toward dictatorship in our world. Is this hard to grasp?
Remember the America that was, some of you? This is not a Christian nation; there’s no such thing. It never has been a Christian nation. Even the founding fathers were not true Christians. But they did understand that Christianity was a fix necessity, because it established divine law; and when people knew that this was law from God, it controlled their behavior. Biblical ethics, biblical patterns of morality were honored, respected, and expected. Marriage, family, virtue, work, relationships, success were all connected to noble ideals that are found in Scripture. That’s long gone, long gone, unlikely to ever appear in the lifetime of anybody sitting here, because evil men just get worse and worse.
Ryle had some serious convictions about government and about the worship of God and about the law of God, and he said, “If England separates God from the state, England will be destroyed morally, religiously, ethically, and in every other way.” It is today an absolute wasteland, spiritually speaking. You drive a massive wedge between the state and the church, you’re going to end up with modern Europe and the United States.
Is that progress? Is there any sense in which the government welcoming millions of Muslims into their historically Christian traditional countries is not going to result in chaos? Because now you have the collision of a traditional Christian morality, a very different Muslim morality, and a fast-developing immorality. Everything is out of control. Removing the acknowledgment of the true God, the authority of the Bible, the voice of the true church, the moral education of youth, and the elevation of the Bible and the gospel – removing that is the path to destruction, and it’s a downhill run.
Now there are many ways to support what I’ve tried to say to you, this perspective, but I’ve chosen one that I hope will be helpful. It’s a clear one. Let’s start with leadership.
Does God have a requirement for leaders? I’m not talking about leaders in Israel or leaders in the church. Does God have requirements for national leaders? I mean, obviously, He’s written the law in every heart. He’s revealed His law, passed it down through generations, and spread it around by translation, so that almost everywhere in the globe the law of God is now available. God does require that His law be the standard for life not just, of course, for those who believe, but as a restraint of sin, and as I said, to enjoy the full benefit of common grace.
What does God require of rulers? Let’s start there. I’m not talking about a theocratic ruler, but any ruler of any society anytime. Again, common grace and the enjoyment of a life in a society, common grace is dependent on rulers who have some fear of the true God and understanding of His law, and uphold that. Where that does not happen, everything disintegrates.
I want to show you this by having you turn in your Bible to Deuteronomy 26, and this is where you’re going to have to work with me a little bit. Deuteronomy 26. The children of Israel are about ready to go into the Promised Land; it’s a very familiar setting. Deuteronomy means the second law.
God reiterated and gave them His law as they were about to, after 40 years of wandering, to enter into the Promised Land. God tells them here how He wants them to live. Now what He’s going to say to them here, as they are gathered outside the Promised Land and about to enter, is not related to personal salvation. This isn’t about personal salvation; this is about national behavior, this is about national life. He’s talking to them about how they are to behave as a nation.
So we could pick it up at a lot of places, but let’s look at chapter 26, verse 16: “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statues and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.” Now God is going to lay out what He wants them to do.
“You have today declared the Lord to be your God – ” this is nationally “ – and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. The Lord has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He as spoken.”
Again, He’s not talking about personal salvation, He’s talking about national conduct: “If you will conduct yourselves in this way, recognizing the true God, obeying His laws, God will elevate you as a nation.” This is obedience on a national scale; results in verse 19, “in praise, and fame, and honor, and testimony.” Now into chapter 27.
In chapter 27 God starts laying out the rules, and you’re familiar with this: “Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people saying, ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you today. Keep them all, so it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” Again, common grace, milk and honey – benefits, physical benefits. “You’re going to a rich and blessed land. You will experience many of God’s rich blessings, but you must keep His law.”
So He calls for a ceremony; you know the ceremony between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, two mountains in the vicinity. One is going to be the mountain of cursing, verse 13. The curses are going to be recited on Mount Ebal, and the blessing are going to be recited on Mount Gerizim. God is going to lay out, “If you disobey My law, this is what’s going to happen. If you obey My law, this is what’s going to happen.”
First come the curses, verse 15: “Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.” All the people shall answer and say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.” All the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.” All the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who mislead a blind person on the road.” All the people shall say, “Amen.” You see, these are all basic behaviors. This is morality; this is ethics.
“Cursed is the one – ” verse 19 “ – who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and a widow.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who lies with any animal.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who lies with is sister, the daughter of his father or his mother.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
“Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.” This is all national, ethical, moral behavior.
Then in verse 1 of chapter 28, flips over to the blessings: “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” God blesses any nation that obeys Him. “But, Israel, if you obey because of the revelation that’s come to you uniquely, you’re going to be set above all nations, and all these blessings will come on you.
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.” And then, “Blessed in the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, in the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessings shall come upon you when you come in and when you go out. And the Lord – ” verse 7 “ – will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you.” Again, national protection comes to an obedient nation. “Your enemies will come against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”
Verse 8: “The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your had to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Prosperity.
“The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So – ” verse 10 “ – all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they’ll be afraid of you. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and the offspring of your beast and the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your father to give you.” Do you understand that this not about personal salvation, this is about national obedience to God.
“He’ll open His good storehouse – ” in verse 12 “ – and give rain on your land and bless the work of your hand. Make you as the head and not the tail.”
Verse 14: “Do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today.” The only way to bless a nation, the only path of blessing a nation can ever take is the path of obedience to the Word of God. There is no blessing apart from that.
Verse 15: “If you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments – ” verse 15 “ – and His statutes which I charge you today, then these curses will come upon you: you’ll be cursed in the city, cursed in the country, cursed in your basket, your kneading bowl – ” goes back through all the same things that He promised blessing for. And it gets worse.
Down in verse 30: “You’ll betroth a wife, but another man will violate her. Build a house, not live in it. Plant a vineyard, not use its fruit Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, you’ll not eat of it. Your donkey will be torn away from you.”
Verse 32: “Your sons and daughters will be given to another people, while your eyes look on and yearn for them continually; there’ll be nothing you can do.” And He goes on and on and on with all these curses for disobedience. They are vivid curses. You can read them on your own; they go all the way to verse 68.
It’s a horrendous revelation from God. He even tells them, “He’s going to smite them – ” verse 60 “ – with all the diseases of Egypt – every sickness, every plague. They’ll be few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God,” verse 62.
Verse 66: “Your life will hang in doubt. You’ll be in dread night and day, have no assurance of your life. In the morning you’ll say, ‘I wish it were evening!’” Verse 67: “In the evening you’ll say, ‘I wish it were morning!’” That’s the history of the Jews, history of Israel.
Chapter 29, verse 1: “These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant He had made with them at Horeb.”
Drop down to verse 10 in chapter 29: “You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders, your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people, that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today – ” every generation in the future, every generation in the future. Your faithfulness is required to the law of God.
Over in verse 22 of chapter 29 it says, “Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it, will say, ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown, unproductive, no grass grows in it.”
Verse 24: “All the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? Why this great outburst of anger?’”
Verse 25: “Then men will say, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went and served other gods and worshiped them – ” they brought in other religions “ – and the anger of the Lord – ” in verse 27 “ – burned against them, to bring upon it every curse written in this book. And the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, cast them into another land, as it is this day.’”
This is such a profoundly, mysterious work of God that verse 29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” There are some things God keeps secret. Listen, this isn’t one of them; that’s what that verse is saying. This is not one of them. God tells a nation how to live.
Verse 1 of chapter 30: “So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you.” In other words, take this message to every nation that you ever set foot in. Why? Because God has the same standard for all nations.
Israel is the witness nation to the world that God blesses obedience and curses disobedience. It is not a badge of honor that the United States of America is so relentlessly devoted to separating the church and the state. That is a destructive division. Israel was to be the witness to the world of what happens when you obey and what happens when you disobey, and they have played that role. Times of obedience, they were blessed. Times of disobedience, they were cursed.
Deuteronomy 30 is a very important chapter, by the way, because there’s a promise here you need to hear, verse 2: “And you return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.” That’s the future. That’s going to happen in the future.
“The outcasts – ” verse 4 “ – are going to be gathered from the ends of the earth.” The Lord is going to bring them back to their land. That, of course, will be fulfilled in the coming of Christ at His return, and the establishment of the messianic kingdom.
This powerful message of blessing and cursing comes to a culmination down at the end of chapter 30, verse 15: “I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” “You obey Me, you’ll prosper, you’ll live in the land. You disobey Me, you’ll perish, perish.”
How many Jews have perished just in the last century, the 20th century? Millions. The promise of Deuteronomy 30 is the future salvation of Israel. That’s a promise repeated by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and Malachi. But the principle is this: “As a nation, as a people, love and obey God and you will have a life of prosperity. Reject God, bring in other gods, and you will have death and adversity. Choose God. Choose life.”
So God has declared unmistakably that blessing is for the nation that acknowledged Him and obeys His law. It is not wise to welcome all religions. It is wise to proclaim the one true God, and the one true religion, and the one true authority: Holy Scripture; otherwise, you’re just full of idols, and you have violated the first commandment – you have other gods before the true God.
I think we have to have this perspective: God calls all people to honor Him, all nations. Listen to Exodus 9:16, “But I have raised you up for this purpose, that I might show My power and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” In other words, God has raised up His people not to simply be the recipient of His blessing, but to be the model of how to live as a people that are blessed.
Joshua 4:24, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful, and so that you might always fear the Lord.” God used Israel as an illustration of the blessing of fearing the Lord.
First Kings 8, verse 60, “So that all the nations of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is no other.” And a nation that does not affirm that is an idolatrous nation that will experience the curses of God.
In 2 Chronicles – and there are a lot of scriptures that speak to this issue. I’ve tried to pick maybe the most important ones. In 2 Chronicles 6, verse 32, we read: “Also concerning the foreigner who is not from Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your great name’s sake and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house, then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, and fear You as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.” Every foreigner who calls on God will be heard by God, so that the world knows that God’s blessing is not just for Israel, but for all the peoples of the earth who call on the name of the true and living God.
Psalm 33:8 says, “Let all the earth fear the Lord.” Listen to this: “Let all the nations of the world revere Him.” That is a command to the United States of America: “Let all the nations of the world revere Him.”
Psalm 117: “Praise the Lord, all you nations; praise and extol Him, all you peoples!” God didn’t require anything of Israel that He doesn’t require of every nation. What God required of Israel is exactly what He requires of every nation. Rulers must understand that. “They are – ” as I quoted earlier, Romans 13 “ – servants of God.” The powers that be are ordained of God, and the rulers are the servants of God, or ministers of God, of the true God, for the well-being of men, for the expression of the fullness of common grace.
Listen to what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king or a ruler as one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” He’s writing to people scattered in the Gentile world, and He says governors and kings and rulers are sent by God to punish the people who violate His law and to protect the ones who obey it. Again, what God requires of Israel, He requires of every nation. He doesn’t have a lesser standard.
So what is the responsibility initially of a leader? The responsibility of a leader is to call a nation to the worship of the true living God of Holy Scripture. And the second responsibility of a leader of a nation is to call that nation to obedience to the revealed law of God in the Bible. Extoling abortion, homosexuality, the nonsense of transgender identity is to shake your fist in the face of the true and living God; and to call a nation to accept that and embrace that is to call a nation into cursing. That’s very serious.
Let me show you a couple of negative examples of this. Turn to Daniel, chapter 4. Daniel, chapter 4: Nebuchadnezzar, king to all the peoples, nations, men of every language – ” king of the Babylonian empire, the greatest empire in the world at the time. “Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the people, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: ‘May your peace abound! It seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs; how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.’” Quite a statement by a pagan king.
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the vision in my mind kept alarming me. So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magician, the conjurers, the Chaldeans, the diviners came in. I related the dream to them, but they couldn’t make its interpretation known to me. Finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar – ” they gave him a pagan name “ – according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him saying, ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the vision of my dreams which I have seen, along with its interpretation.’” Well you remember; he told him the dream.
“There were visions in my mind as I lay on my bed. I was looking, and there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. The fruit became large and became strong. Its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant. In it was food for all the beasts of the field, and found shade under it. The birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it.
“I was looking in the vision in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven. He shouted out and spoke as follows: Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field; and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts and the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let a beast’s mind be given to him, and seven period – ” seven years “ – of time pass over him. This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes and sets it over the lowliest of men. This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, if you’re able.”
“Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to its interpretation to your adversaries! The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth, and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the air lodged – it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share it with the beasts of the field until seven years of time pass over him.”
‘This is the interpretation, O king. This is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven years of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is heaven that rules. Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’
“All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the palace in Babylon. He reflected, looked over his estate and said, ‘Is not this Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal resident by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ And while the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you. You’ll be driven away from mankind. Your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You’ll be given grass to eat like cattle. Seven years of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever His wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from mankind, began eating grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.” Punishment to a pagan king for rejecting the true and living God and usurping praise and worship to himself.
“At the end of that period – ” verse 34, here’s the good news “ – 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 Hos dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
“At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He’s able to humble those who walk in pride.”
Every ruler needs to read that. Every ruler needs to understand God is the true King. If you do not honor Him you will be judged. That’s a pagan king, held to the highest standard, and punished severely. Mercifully the story ends in grace, and I think you’ll be able to greet Nebuchadnezzar when you get to heaven.
One final illustration is in Acts 12, Acts 12. And this is the end of the chapter, verse 20. This is Herod who was feeling like Nebuchadnezzar, surveying his greatness. “He was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king’s chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king’s country. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum, and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man! He is deity. He is a god.’” Really?
Verse 23, here’s the end of Herod Day: “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he didn’t give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” What an ending. God’s standards for rulers in any nation, Israel or any other nation, are the same: to worship Him, honor Him, uphold His law, call the people to true worship and true obedience. And when that doesn’t happen God moves in judgment.
When Joshua went into the land leading the people from where they were in Moab on the edge of the land into the land, what did he do? The end of chapter 10 of Joshua – we’ll wrap it up with this: “Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland.” He was leading the children of Israel in battle all the way to the slopes. And notice this, “and all their kings.” He was the executioner of all the kings of Canaan – idolatrous kings.
“He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 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 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.” Joshua was the agent of judgment on Gentile pagan kings.
Chapter 11, verse 17: “From Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. 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 except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. For 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.
“Then Joshua came at that time, cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim – ” great ones “ – left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod some remained. So Joshua took the whole land.” He is God’s weapon of judgment against pagan kings who have not given the true God glory.
Chapter 12 of Joshua, verse 1: “Now these are the kings of the land whom the sons of Israel defeated, and whose land they possessed beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise, from the valley of the Arnon as far as Mount Hermon, and all the Arabah to the east.” And they are then named. See the names running all the way down to the end of the chapter – king, after king, after king, after king. God’s judgment fell on kings that did not honor Him, kings that were idolatrous.
In the time of the judges, Judges 5, “Deborah and Barak, the son of Abinoam sang on that day saying, that the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, blessed the Lord! ‘Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing. I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel. Lord, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord, this Sinai, at the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.’” Total shaking and destruction in Canaan as God used His people as instruments of judgment.
So that’s the big picture. More specifically, what does God require of rulers specifically? There are ten things He requires, and we’ll work on those next Sunday night. They are fascinating.
Lord, we thank You that we’ve been able to go into Your Word; how wondrous it is, even though there are parts of it that are hard to understand. These are not. You tolerate and know other gods. You demand to be worshiped as the true and living God, and You demand that people and nations acknowledge You as God, obey Your law, do Your will collectively. And You install rulers in government, which is Your institution, so that they are Your servants to punish those who violate Your law, and to protect those who obey. This is Your design.
Lord, we are living in a world that is a new Canaan, full of idol kings, idol-worshiping kings, just waiting for judgment, even in our own land. Help us to understand that there is no tolerance in heaven for a nation that does not acknowledge You and Your truth and Your will, and that no nation who invites in liars, deceivers, corrupters, false religion, idols, demons is going to survive that pollution, that corruption. We all long for the day when the true King will come, and destroy all other kings and establish His own glorious kingdom.
Until that day, we are children of light walking in a dark world. Give us opportunity to proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ. While we can’t on our own change a nation, we can by faithful gospel witness see individuals come to faith in Christ. We see the world now as You see it, as its portrayed in Your Word, as anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture, disobedient, idolatrous – even the world in which we live, even our own country, for which many have fought and bled.
But, Lord, this is the way of the world. This is a new Canaan moving in a path of judgment. The world is ruled by people who give no place to You. We could pray that somehow in some way some rulers might rise by Your providence to give us an example of what a country could be, what a nation could be, how it could enjoy the fullness of common grace and acknowledging only the one true and living God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His law and His Holy Word. It’d be wonderful if such a place existed to be an example. That was the plan for Israel; they failed. It would be wonderful, Lord, should You see fit to provide another example.
But in the meantime, the church has to be that example, the redeemed church. We are the light in the world. We are the redeemed society. We are a nation of believers. We are a holy nation. We are called a holy nation. We are a nation bound together by common eternal life – worshipers of the true God, lovers of Christ, believers in Scripture. We cross all the borders and all the lines all around the world. May we have a shining testimony of blessing from knowing You and obeying You. May the testimony of the church be clear. Lord, we pray that it would be clearer than it is now, with all the chaos and confusion that has even found its way into Christianity.
Lord, we think clearly now about these things gratefully, and our hearts are filled with hope for that day when Christ establishes the perfect kingdom, with the perfect King, and a perfect rule of righteousness. We long for that day, and we know You’ve promised it, and that we are headed for it. We’re grateful that history doesn’t just keep descending the way it is, but rather the descent is halted by the intervention of our Savior who comes to destroy the ungodly and establish His glorious reign on earth. We look forward to that wondrous reality. We thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.