A NOTE ABOUT THIS TRANSCRIPT
The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.
John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled "I and the Father Are One, Part 2," the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.
Now I want you to get comfortable and get your Bible in hand, because tonight is going to be more like Bible study. We’re going to be going everywhere in the Bible, absolutely everywhere, in particular, in the Old Testament. So you’re going to have to be ready to try to keep up with me, okay, because we’re going to be looking at Scripture.
Now last time we began this little two-part series on God’s requirements for rulers, thinking about who rules in any kind of situation, whether it’s a king, or a pharaoh, or a Caesar, or an emperor, or a tsar, or a president, or a prime minister, or a senator, or a judge – anyone who is in authority over people; anyone who has people’s interest in their hands; anyone whose decision-making affects people, populations, societies, cultures, and nations.
Does the Bible require anything of rulers or is it just a theocratic issue? If you’re a ruler in the kingdom of Israel, God has requirements. But beyond that He doesn’t care what rulers are like. Is it just that God cares what pastors are like, and elders in the church, and leaders in the church, and really doesn’t care about other leaders?
The truth of the matter is God has requirements for all rulers, all those who have authority over people, and it’s laid out in Scripture. And last week we tried to lay just kind of a basic understanding of that. I’m just going to rehearse a few of the things that we sort of established as foundational, and this you would know if you were here. But I just want to kind of set it in place again.
I told you that all people in all nations were created in the image of God for His glory, so no one is exempt – no person is exempt, no family is exempt, no society is exempt, no nation is exempt, no race is exempt, no ethnic group is exempt from being responsible to acknowledge God and glorify Him. All people who are created, were created in the image of God for His glory.
Secondly, all of those who are created have been commanded by God to worship Him and Him alone, and have no other gods before Him – not to make any idols, not to worship any other gods. That is the first of the Ten Commandments summed up that you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that means that all your faculties, all your capabilities go in the direction of the one true God, and you have no such affection for any other false god. You are to worship Him and Him only. That is the first commandment; that is the commandment that is at the very beginning of the list.
Now we understand that while all humanity is called upon to glorify God, all humanity is commanded to worship God and to have no other gods, humanity individually, societally, nationally has rejected that command. Romans 1 says that man refuses to glorify God. He refuses to do that even though the knowledge of God is all around him. Reason tells him there is a God. Romans 1 makes is crystal clear that every human being is accountable for the knowledge of God because Romans 1:19 says, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” How? “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
That is why man has invented evolution. It is the most effective blow against reason, and therefore against God, because reason says for every effect there is a cause; and for something as massive and complex as the universe and all that is in it, there has to be a cause. Evolution says there is no cause. That kind of idiocy has been accepted, because men will come up with idiotic things so that they don’t have to believe in the true God.
And so, as we said, they worship they know not what. Romans 1 says they make up gods. Romans 2 says, not only can they know there is God and a lot about Him by the power demonstrated in creation, but, Romans 2:14 says, they have the law instinctively. “The law – ” verse 15 “ – is written in their hearts, and their conscience bears witness, and their thoughts alternately accuse or defend them.” So reason takes you back to a first cause, and the law of God written in the heart takes you back to a first cause who is moral and has established himself as the authority and the judge. Man is universally then aware of God and a lot about God, and aware of God’s law.
In Romans 3 then Paul says in spite of this, “There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good, there’s not even one. Their throat is an open grave. With their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is not fear of God before their eyes.” Every one of those statements is taken from a passage in the Old Testament, and collectively they define the human condition.
“We know then – ” says Romans 3 “ – that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law – ” that’s all humanity “ – so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” The whole world is accountable to God. Mark that statement at the end of verse 19 of Romans 3: “Everyone is accountable to God – every person, consequently of course, every leader.” But as we read in Romans, chapter 3, man resents that accountability.
Listen to Ephesians 4:17 which says it in another way: “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer as the pagans – ” the ethnos, the nations “ – also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” That’s the human condition.
In the creation God put Himself on display as to His power and the massive complexity of His mind. In the law written in the heart God puts Himself on display as to His moral law, but men reject it. And as I said last week, any worship is more pleasing to the natural heart than the worship of the true God in the true way. Romans 1 again: “When they knew God they glorified Him not as God, but created vain imaginations; and professing themselves to be wise they actually became fools.” The whole world is accountable to God. Every human being is accountable to God, and God has put in man a mechanism, the conscience, to strike man with guilt and anxiety and fear when he violates God’s commands. Every person is accountable to God.
Government, as such, serves the purpose of revealing God and His law to society. In the 13th chapter of Romans, since we’ve been in Romans – just go over to the 13th chapter of Romans, and still reviewing just a little bit – this is how it begins: “Every person is to be in subjection to the government authorities, every person.”
Listen to what I say to you: “No revolution is acceptable to God. No revolution is acceptable to God.” Being a part of a revolution, creating a revolution, aiding and abetting a revolution is a violation of a clear statement in 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. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
God has put into the world conscience to strike an individual if he violates the law of God, and government to strike a society if they violate the law of God. Government then has the responsibility to enforce God’s law, God’s law. Obviously it cannot force worship, but it can enforce God’s moral law. That becomes clear in the rest of Romans 13, verse 3: “Rulers are not a cause for fear of good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you’ll have praise from the same; for it – ” that is government “ – is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing.” It has the deadliest weapon. “It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”
There you are. It is our conscience that strikes us individually. It is the governmental authority that strikes us collectively. Conscience strikes us on the inside and government strikes us on the outside if we do what is wrong. It even comes down to verse 6: “Pay your taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” You cannot have a society that is going to enjoy the benefits of common grace, God’s extended common grace, unless that society is under the control of a government that is defined by the law of God as revealed in His Word. So a secular state is a lie. The whole world is under the law of God.
Back again to Romans 3:19. Every mouth is stopped and the whole world is guilty before God. The separation of God and true religion from government is a disaster, it is a disaster, because now you have led people to believe that the law written in their heart is not binding, and you now confuse the conscience, which is the personal restraint, and you define behavior that is acceptable in ways that are inconsistent with God. You literally free up people to live in open violation to the law of God, which is a kind of inevitable spiritual, if not physical suicide. Government should never separate itself from God, from the true God and the true law of the true God.
Recognition, reverence, toward the true God and submission to His law as recorded and revealed in Scripture is essential to the well-being of a nation. Such commitment to God and His law is the pathway to enjoying the blessings of common grace and a measure of peace. I’m talking about personal salvation, I’m talking about what we saw last time in Scripture towards national and social existence. The chaos of the nations, the chaos of our country, the chaos of any country, the chaos of the world is always related to a rejection of God and God’s revealed law.
All godlessness, all irreligion, all immorality leads to the destruction of a society. That is why Acts 14 says God has allowed all the nations to go their own way; and when they go their own way they run through the cycle of disaster described in Romans 1. They reject God, they plunge into immorality, and then homosexuality, and then a reprobate mind, and then judgment.
For a nation to say, “We’re open to all religions; we’re open to all gods, all idols, all of Satan’s deception, all of Satan’s falsehood; we’re open to all freedoms, all sexual preferences, all moralities, or no morality; we’re open to theism or atheism; we’re open to any form of deception, any form of lie, any form of iniquity,” causes a nation to cease to exist for the purpose God designed it. It will lose control and plunge that culture into chaos and self-destruction. Driving a massive wedge between society and God is the path to national self-destruction.
Now that’s what we looked at last time, and we saw a specific illustration of that in Deuteronomy 26 to 30. You will remember the example that God gave to Israel. He said, “If you obey Me, I will bless you; if you disobey Me, I will curse you.” And He spelled out the blessings and He spelled out specifically the curses. And Israel has been, for the rest of the world, an example of what happens to a nation that obeys God and is blessed; and on the other hand, what happens to a nation that disobeys God is curse.
But this is the standard for all nations and all leaders. We saw that illustrated in the case of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel, a pagan leader who violated God, who tried to take the glory for himself, and was struck by God until he learned that the Most High rules. We saw it in the New Testament with Herod Agrippa in Acts 12, who when he elevated himself as if he were a god, God hit him, he was eaten by worms and died. We also remember that when Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, God commanded him to begin killing all the kings, all the rulers of all the tribes and societies. He was God’s executioner, bringing divine judgment. We see the same thing happening in the book of Judges; more kings were judged by God. That is to say this, that all kings fall under the divine mandate to worship the true God and to establish His law and lead their people by that law. Now that was last week.
Now what I want to do for you this evening – and we’ll see how far we can go with this – I want to give you ten characteristics that the Bible requires of a ruler. Ten characteristics the Bible requires. I don’t know how far we’re going to get. I’ll do some editing. Maybe I’ll put this all together in some kind of a little booklet or something and can get it to you so you get all of it. But I’ll have to do a little editing on my feet, because I started writing this and I just kept going and going and going; and then when I was done I realized, “Oh, this is like a three-weeks series.” So we’ll see where we go.
All right, here are the ten characteristics of a ruler that God blesses. I’m going to give them to you and I’m going to give them to you in a list. One is worship, two is righteousness, three is justice, four if wisdom, five is honestly, six is morality, seven is humility, eight is teachability, nine is security, and ten is courage. Those are specific attributes that God requires of rulers.
Turn to Psalm 2 – and here we go on the fast track, Psalm 2. If you can’t keep up just settle in and listen carefully. Psalm 2: “Why are the nations in an uproar – ” why is the world in such constant chaos “ – and the people devising a vain thing?” Useless things. “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed – ” meaning of course the Son “ – saying, ‘Let us tear their fetter apart and cast away their cords from us!’” The rulers of the world want to free themselves from their accountability to God, and to God’s anointed.
“But He who sits in the heavens – ” God “ – laughs. The Lord scoff at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ I will surely I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son – ’ speaking of the Son of God ‘ – today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. And you shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’
“Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. 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!”
Any ruler, any king, any person in authority who shakes his fist in the face of the true God, who rejects God and rejects God’s law in any way will find himself under the terrifying judgment of God. The executioner here is the Son of God Himself who will crush all such rulers who refuse to worship the True God and take himself the nations as his own inheritance. “O you kings, show discernment.” The first priority for all rulers is to worship the true God, and the True God as revealed by His Anointed One, the Son of God.
Psalm 72:11 says it this way: “Let all kings bow down before Him, all nations serve Him.” Psalm 138, verses 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.”
That’s not a prophecy that is a hope in the heart of David for what could happen in the world if Israel was faithful. David is saying, “If Israel is faithful and Israel is the example of what a blessed nation is like, and the world looks and sees that blessing, then all the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord.” That was a hope for what Israel could be as a witness to the Lord.
Last time we also looked at Daniel, chapter 4, and that familiar expression of testimony by Nebuchadnezzar the pagan king who says speaking concerning God after he had learned a really terrifying lesson being turned, as it were, into an animal. He said, “I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, 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 and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” That’s what every leader on the planet ought to be saying. Every leader ought to give the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar. That ought to be in the lips of the President of the United States, the governor of every state, the mayor of every city, and every judge who sits on any bench.
Psalm 47 is a call to a universal worship: “O clap your hands, all nations, O clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with a voice of joy. For the Lord Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us and nations under our feet. He chooses our inheritance for us, the glory of Jacob whom He loves.
“God has ascended with a shout, the Lord, with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of God of Abraham, for the shields of the earth belong to God.”
Every shield represented some national entity – every shield, every flag, if you will, they all belonged to God. “He is highly exalted.” And that means worshiping the True God, and that means worshiping the True God in spirit and in truth. God requires that of every ruler.
Secondly, God requires righteousness of every ruler, righteousness that he adhere to the law of God. Listen to the last words of David, 2 Samuel 23: “The last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares – ” the king he says “ – the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel – ” speaking of himself as Israel’s king “ – the Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me – ” listen to this “ – He who rules over men must be righteous. He must rule in the fear of God.” There’s worship and righteousness; that is a great verse.
Literally, he who rules over men must be righteous and rule in the fear of God. And when that happens, “He is as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.” What that means is you get a blessed nation. You get a blessed nation when He who rules over men rules righteously and rules in the fear of God.
If you look at the history of Israel and you see the kings of the southern kingdom and the kings of the northern kingdom, you know the litany of kings in the northern kingdom. None of them ruled righteously. Every king of the northern kingdom when the kingdom divided was evil, and many in the southern kingdom.
But there were occasions when some of them ruled in a righteous way. Second Chronicles, chapter 14, “Abijah slept with his fathers, they buried him in the city of David, and his son Asa became king in his place. The land was undisturbed for ten years during his days.” Why? “Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. He removed the foreign altars; he got out the false religion, the idolatries, and the high places; tore down the sacred pillars; cut down the asherim – ” which were some kind of wooden symbols of female deities.
“He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him.” You want an undisturbed kingdom, get rid of the false religion, get rid of the idols. They offend God.
Proverbs 16:12 says, “It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.” Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace – ” listen “ – to any nation, to any people.” Righteousness will exalt any nation; sin is a disgrace to any nation.
Proverbs 20:28, “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 saying not only does the king need to be an advocate of righteousness, but he needs to get rid of all the wicked people around him. “Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.”
Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” Literally the Hebrew is “are made to sigh.” “When a wicked man rules, the whole nation sighs, mourns.”
Isaiah 32, the prophets also spoke of what God required of rulers. “Behold, a king will reign righteously – ” Isaiah 32 “ – and a prince 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 see, this is all speaking of what happens when you have a righteous ruler. When you have a righteous ruler the nation enjoys the full benefits of common grace. That ruler becomes like a “refuge from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like shade from a huge rock in a parched land.”
The prophet Micah also spoke to this issue. In Micah, chapter 3: “Here now, heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel. Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil, who tear off their skin from them and their flesh from their bones, who eat the flesh of My people, strip off their skin from them, break their bones and chop them up as for the pot and as meat in a kettle.” That’s what happens when you have a wicked ruler, the people are destroyed. Worship righteousness.
There’s a third characteristic that God blesses of a ruler, and we’ve already seen it in some of these passages: justice, justice. It was in several of the texts that I read, I won’t go back to those. But I do want you to take a moment and look at Psalm 82, Psalm 82. This is a very vivid psalm, Psalm 82, very vivid. It is in this psalm that God calls the world’s rulers together. He calls them together to surround Him: “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.”
God assembles, as it were in this psalm, the rulers of the world. The word “rulers” referred to kings, legislators, judges, presidents, whatever they are. And God says to them, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? How long will you do that? How long will you, as a justice in the supreme court, advocate the slaughter of babies? How long will you advocate homosexuality or any other form of immorality? How long will you judge unjustly? How long will you favor those who buy your influence, who buy your power, who buy your decisions, and show partiality to the wicked? Rather – ” He says “ – vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”
See that in the context of abortion. The weakest, the most needy, the most helpless – do you crush them? Do you slaughter them? This is not justice, this is not justice. God says of these rulers, “They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken, all the foundations of the earth are shaken.” What in the world does that mean? When leaders walk in moral darkness, they literally shake the foundations of society; they literally destroy moral order established by God. They undermine the very foundations of society.
Verse 6: “I said, ‘You are gods – ’ I think with some sarcasm. ‘ – You imagine yourself to be so powerful. The truth is all of you are sons of the Most High in the sense that God created you. You may think you are gods, but you will die like men, and fall like anyone of the princes.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possess all the nations.”
That is a frightening, frightening word from God to any ruler to be called to a tribunal, to be gathered around God Himself and be asked, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? How long will you take up wicked causes? You think you’re gods, you think you rule, you think you’re sovereign; you’re all just sons of the Most High God and you will die like men, you will fall like any other prince.”
Proverbs 29:4 says, “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it. The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.” If you can be bought by any person, any interest, any collection of people, you literally overthrow your own land.
The prophet Jeremiah addressed this as he was speaking, of course, to the people of Israel in light of the coming devastating captivity. In Jeremiah 22, obviously the sins that led to the captivity of Judah were sins of the leaders. But listen to Jeremiah 22: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Go down to the house of the king of Judah. Go to the king – the leader, the ruler – speak this, say this: 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 – ’” all of the elites, all of those who have access to the palace, all those in authority. “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; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’” Innocent blood – the blood of millions of babies. Is there any more innocent blood than that?
Proverbs 8:15 says, “By me – ” speaking of wisdom and prudence and justice “ – kings reign, and rulers decree justice, by me.” Verse 12: “I, wisdom, by me, rulers decree justice.” Justice comes from knowing God and knowing the true concerning God. God has defined what is just and what is right. You cannot look to a cultural definition. You cannot be a ruler and say, “I’m against that,” two years later when you test the latest poll, “Oh, I’m for that.” You must always be faithful to the law of the one who rules.
Second Chronicles 19:5, “Jehoshaphat appointed judges in the land and all the fortified cities of Judah city by city. He said to the judges, ‘Consider what you’re doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’” You are a judge, you are under obligation to the law of God as revealed in Scripture.
“Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you.” This is the message to every judge, everyone who presides on a bench, “Be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness or partiality or the taking of a bribe.”
Verse 9: “He charged them saying, ‘Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and wholeheartedly. Whenever any dispute comes to you from your brethren who live in the cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statues and ordinances, you shall warn them so that they may not be guilty before the Lord, and wrath may not come on you and your brethren. Thus you shall do and you will not be guilty.”
“You’re a judge. When anybody comes to you with a case you tell them the law of God, and tell them they must adhere to the law of God; and if you tell them any differently than that you’re going to be under God’s judgment.” Any judge who advocates any unbiblical behavior is under the judgment of God. Verse 11 ends, “Act resolutely, and the Lord be with the upright.” Justice.
So Number Four is wisdom. Number Four is wisdom, and we’ve already intersected with that. But go back for a minute to Proverbs 8, Proverbs 8. I don’t want to leave this one out even though we’ve referred to it.
Proverbs 8, verse 12: “I, wisdom. I wisdom.” Wisdom is personified here, wisdom as if it’s speaking; really the wisdom of God, of course. “I 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.
“By me – ” that is by wisdom “ – kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me – ” that is wisdom “ – princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly. I love those who love me; 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, wisdom, 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 you poor, but the path to treasure is the path of wisdom, path of wisdom.
Again, going back to 2 Chronicles, chapter 1: “God comes to Solomon – ” in verse 7 “ – and says, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’ Solomon said to God, ‘You’ve dealt with my father David with great lovingkindness – ’ 2 Chronicles 1:8 ‘ – you’ve made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?’
“God said to Solomon, ‘Because you had this in mind, and didn’t ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.’” He asked for wisdom; God gave him wisdom, and by wisdom he acquired wealth. Anyone who rules is required to be characterized by divine knowledge and divine wisdom.
Listen to Daniel, chapter 2. Daniel in chapter 2 is speaking to God and it says, “He blessed the God of heaven – ” in verse 19 “ – and here’s what 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.’”
And what a ruler Daniel became, didn’t he. He rose to be the leader in the Babylonian empire because he was given the wisdom of God. Wisdom comes only from God, only from God. You cannot rule wisely if you reject the true God and the true revelation of the wisdom of the true God.
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 – ” God doesn’t reveal everything to us “ – but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” In other words, a ruler should be defined as one who diligently searches out the right solution to any matter.
“As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable.” In other words, this is a call to exhaustive search on the part of a ruler to understand what God desires. “Take away the dross from the silver and there comes out a vessel for the for the smith; take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.”
There’s that verse again. When a king is committed to the search for wisdom and that search is for the wisdom of God, he will remove the wicked so that he is clear in his pathway to the truth of the true God. Mark this: If a ruler is a liar, all his advisers are liars; they have to be. If a ruler is wicked, all his advisers are wicked. If a ruler is a liar, then he is an agent of Satan who is the father of lies.
That leads to the next characteristic, Number Five: honesty, honesty. John 8:44 says every liar is acting like Satan, every liar is acting like Satan.
Proverbs 17:7, “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool.” You don’t expect a fool to have excellent speech. “Much less are lying lips to a ruler.” No one expects excellent speech out of the mouth of a fool, nor should anyone expect lies out of the mouth of a ruler. God hates liars.
Proverbs 20:28, “Loyalty and truth preserve the king – ” and I might add preserve the kingdom. When liars rule no one knows what’s really going on; chaos results.
I need to hurry, so let me give you Number Six. I had more to say, but we’ll leave it at that. Number Six: morality. We go from wisdom, to honesty, to morality. Look at Proverbs 31 – and we could look at a lot of things. But look at Proverbs 31, and I think you’re familiar with this.
Most of us know the latter half of Proverbs 31 and not the front half. But the front half talks about a ruler, King Lemuel, and his mother is giving him some instruction. This is the burden – it’s called the oracle in the NAS. It’s kind of the burden that his mother had as she realized that her son was going to reign, so she taught him this: “What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb? And what, O son of my vows? Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings.”
Immorality, immorality, it destroys kings. And it did destroy tragically the king who had such a wonderful beginning, Solomon, when he asked for wisdom and God gave it to him. He shunned the wisdom of God, and in 1 Kings 11 it says, “King Solomon loved many foreign women. He loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, Hittite – ” he didn’t care what society they came from “ – from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’ Solomon held fast to these in love.” In a kind of erotic love, Solomon was attracted to them so, this is just beyond imagination.
“He had seven hundred wives, princesses, three hundred concubines – ” women for sexual partnership “ – and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and didn’t follow the Lord fully, as David his father had. He built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.” You know Molech required, right? If you wanted to worship Molech and appease him, you offered your living baby on an altar. You burned your baby to death to satisfy him. “He did all this for his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
“Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. The Lord even says to him – ” in verse 11 ‘ – because you’ve done this and not kept My covenant, My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and give it to your servant.’” And you all know what happened, the kingdom fractured and split.
So back to Proverbs 31, a wise mother says, “Because you’re the king, you’re going to have all kinds of women coming around you, all kinds of women who will be offered to you as a part of an alliance with another neighboring nation. It’ll all seem so political.” But it wasn’t politics that drew this man in, it was the love of the women that drew him in, that is crystal clear.
The mother of Lemuel says, “Do not give your strength to women.” Earlier in the book of Proverbs we know exactly what that means: don’t have sexual relationships with multiple women. “This is destroying kings. It’s not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not even for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink.” Don’t be immoral, don’t be over-indulgent, don’t be drunk. “If you have strong drink give it to somebody who’s dying as a sedative. Give it to somebody – wine to somebody 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.” And there again, this is the role of all rulers to defend those who are defenseless. Multiplying wives is devastatingly destructive. And then Proverbs 31 ends with, “Just find one excellent wife.”
Number Seven in the list is humility, humility. This is a very difficult things for kings to be humble, because power makes men proud. “The fear of the Lord – ” Proverbs 8:13 “ – the fear of the Lord is to hate evil – pride and arrogance and the evil way, pride and arrogance and the evil way.” There are a lot of illustrations of this. I wish we had more time, but maybe just a couple of them as we kind of get toward the end, and the last ones we’ll try to shorten up a little bit.
Back in 2 Chronicles, chapter 33: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and 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.” These kings just got caught up in the paganism around them, just sucked it all up.
“He rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down. He put back up the altars for the Baals and made the Ashrim – ” the idols of females deities “ – worshiped the stars, the host of heaven, served them. Build altars in the house of the Lord of which the Lord had said His name shall be in Jerusalem forever.”
Can you imagine literally building pagan altars in the temple of God? That’s what he did. That’s what he did. “He built altars – ” verse 5 “ – for the host of heaven in the courts, the two courts of the house of the Lord. He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom.” That is to say he offered babies to Molech, incinerating them.
“He practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery, dealt with mediums, 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 their fathers, if only they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to all the law, the statutes and ordinances given through Moses.’”
Again, this is, “If you want national blessing and prosperity and the benefits of common grace, then obey Me, obey Me.” Manasseh didn’t do that. He misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel.
Drop down to verse 12: “When he was in distress – ” they captured him with hooks, the Assyrians did, bound him with bronze chains, took him to Babylon. “When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty – ” He being God “ – heard his supplication, brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” That’s an Old Testament illustration of magnanimous grace, isn’t it. He humbled himself and God answered his prayer.
Over in verse 21, “Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord as Manasseh his father had done, and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them. Moreover, he didn’t humble himself before the Lord as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt. Finally his servants conspired against him and put him to death in his own house.” Sad ending.
Numbers 12:3 says this about Moses: “The man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” Wow. Humility. God blesses humility.
God blessed in 34th chapter of 2 Chronicles. God blessed Josiah. You can read that chapter. God blessed Josiah for his humility. Josiah was truly humble. He followed Amon who was so wicked. Just maybe a couple of verses.
Verse 31: “Then the king – ” chapter 34 “ – the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, keep His commandments, His testimonies, His statues with all his heart, with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the Lord their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers.” That’s what a ruler should do.
Number Eight is teachability. Just briefly – teachability. Listen to this comment, I’ll just give you one verse, Ecclesiastes 4:13, Ecclesiastes 4:13, “A poor yet wise lad, a poor yet wise lad – ” a nobody but wise “ – is better than an old, foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” Did you get that? “A poor yet wise lad is better than an old, foolish king who no longer knows how to receive instruction.” Teachability. O for rulers listen to those around them, who are teachable, who are not so proud, self-willed that they refuse to hear others who have critical instruction to provide for them for the sake of people. Two more.
Number Nine: It is the responsibility of rulers to provide security, security, security. Another way to say that would be protection. This is primarily what governments do, they protect people from harm. They protect people from aggressors, unrighteous aggressors, those who would assault, those who would attack, Romans 13.
Habakkuk 2:12 says, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!” That’s not a ruler that God honors.
Back to Romans 13. Rulers are ministers of God to punish evildoers and protect those who are doing good. Make it simple; rulers were basically the commander of the protective forces for the people. When we expect a national leader of any kind, including the President of the United States, to protect us from enemies, we are only asking for that which is the primary responsibility that a ruler has. He is the commander of the protective forces that provide safety for his people. Historically, that’s always been the duty of kings, to provide safety for the people by employing all their wisdom, all their skill, all their resources, all available counsel.
The worst rulers murder their people; and we know of some of those, don’t we, in history. The Hitlers and the Stalins who massacred countless millions during the period of the second World War. And other petty tyrants and dictators: the Kim Jong-ils of the world. Rulers are not killers of their people, they are protectors of their people, and they do everything for the safety of their people.
Listen to Psalm 94: “O Lord, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult, or rejoice? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves, promote themselves. They crush Your people, O Lord; they afflict your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger and murder the orphans. They have said, ‘The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.’” Really? You think you can slaughter, murder infants and God doesn’t see?
“Pay heed, you senseless among the people; and when will you understand, stupid ones? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, even He who teaches man knowledge? The Lord knows that thoughts of man, they’re a mere breath.” He sees everything; He hears everything; He knows everything. Nothing escapes Him, nothing. Corrupt rulers have a date with God.
Down to verse 20 of Psalm 94: “Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, one which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” Can’t read that without thinking of abortion. You have a date with God if you do that.
Verse 22: “The Lord has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil; the Lord our God will destroy them.” If a ruler is not a protector of his people at all levels, and most especially the most innocent, he has an appointment with God.
And lastly, Number Ten: Rulers that God blesses must have courage, courage. To be a ruler that can enjoy a measure of temporal blessing and bring that blessing to his people, a ruler must worship the true God, must establish his throne by righteousness, must be just, must draw his wisdom from God, must be honest, moral, humble, teachable, and a protector – protector from all enemies and all threats. But he must also have courage. And I don’t want to leave this out, so turn to Joshua, chapter 1. And I’m sorry to go over a little bit, but I’ll never do it again.
Joshua, chapter 1. Joshua, chapter 1. And you just need to know this, this is such an important chapter. “It came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.’”
Now you have to know the story here. God has chosen Joshua to take Moses’ place. And Joshua is going to lead the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. It had been promised to Abraham and his descendants back in Genesis 15 over four hundred years ago – four hundred and thirty years in Egypt and forty years of wandering. Finally it’s time to go into the land and Joshua is going to be God’s leader.
Moses, the old ruler, the old leader, is gone. A challenging task now faces the children of Israel. They are to go in and be the sword of God to bring judgment on the Canaanites. And God chose Joshua to be the commander. With the death of Moses, all who were forbidden to enter the land because of the incident with the golden calf had died out.
The fear of unbelief that kept them in the wilderness had faded away. It’s time to go into the land, and Joshua must have been greatly encouraged to hear the voice of God. He actually heard the voice of God. And God says to him in verse 3, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, as far as the Great Sea – ” the Mediterranean “ – toward the setting of the sun will be your territory.”
That’s the definition of the Promised Land. You can see that in Deuteronomy 11:24. The land originally promised to the patriarchs starting with Abraham way back in Genesis 15. The Lord is going to give it to them. “No man – ” verse 5 “ – will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I’ve been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” God will be with Joshua.
This is a very challenging task. He’s going to war against one king after another, one army after another. What is required? Verse 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; 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 – ” the Word of God “ – 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, and the way of your nation, and then you will have success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And that is true when you go in obedience to His Word.
Meditate on the Word; speak on the Word; believe the Word; proclaim the Word. Be strong and be courageous. Leaders find their courage when they hold to convictions revealed in the Word of God. The world needs leaders with biblical convictions who then lean on God to protect them and bless them. Offend God, blaspheme God, fill a nation with idols and immorality, and you cannot turn to God to be your protector in a conflict.
First Chronicles 28:20, “David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work of the Lord is finished.’” But only if you obey Him.
What kind of leader does God bless? A leader with character, with biblical convictions, a leader who is virtuous, a leader who is virtuous and careful with power, who is a strong advocate for all that honors God, who submits himself to God’s commands and is a worshiper of the true God. There is no – listen – no other way to distinguish a good leader from a bad leader; God’s standards are the only authoritative criteria. A leader without virtue, a leader without character, is like a surgeon who is contaminated; the patient will die.
Will there ever be a leader like this? Yes, there will be. Yes, there will be. That leader will be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who will come, as we saw in Psalm 2, and establish His own kingdom.
Well, I can’t keep you any longer, so I have to leave out the best. Let me just read a few verses. When Christ returns, Scripture says God will say, “I give you the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession.”
Psalm 22:27, when Christ returns, “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, when Christ returns, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 98:3 says, “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” Psalm 102:15 says, “The nations will fear the name of the Lord and all the kings of the earth will give You glory.” That’s the full story. It won’t be the way it should be until the true King comes.
Father, we thank You for our time together tonight looking at these truths. And a lot to absorb, but all from Your Word; it’s so consistent. We thank You for clarity with what You have revealed Yourself and Your standards. We’ve been told to pray for those in authority over us. We pray for their salvation. We pray that they would turn to You, and that they would proclaim Your name, worship You, the true and living God in the true way, in spirit and in truth; that they would know Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a genuine way; that they would be the rulers who are righteous, and just, and wise, and honest, and humble, and courageous, and teachable so that people can know blessing even in this life, and in seeing that blessing be drawn to the one who is the source.
From a human viewpoint, the world is full of people, our country is full of people who are looking at the condition of this country. The Holocaust that goes on in all the chaos morally and socially and wonder about You. Where can see what a blessed people looks like so they can be drawn to You? Well we know the answer to that for now, it’s the church. We are a holy nation, a holy nation, and as such a witness to the world. May our witness be clear. Elevate the truth in Your church and draw many to Yourself. We ask these things in the name of Christ. Amen.
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