Sermon title:   Will God Pick Our Next President?

Immanuel Baptist Church – September 27, 2020

 

 

Will Donald Trump continue to serve

as President of the United States?

 

Or will the November election

result in a new administration?

 

What role will God have

in determining who will be president?

 

Will God pick our president?

 

We’ll gain some insight into that,

as we continue to look at the Acts of the Apostles.

 

The Apostles Peter & John

had just spent the night in jail

when we looked at them last week

in Acts Chapter 4.

 

What was their offense that landed them in jail?

 

After miraculously healing a crippled man

they had told the crowds of people at the Temple

that they were able to heal in Jesus’ name

because Jesus rose from the dead

and was now sitting

on the throne of God in heaven.

 

And the living Messiah had given them this power

to perform miraculous healings in his name.

 

That was enough to get them tossed in jail,

because the Temple authorities were the same ones

who handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate,

and they wanted that to be the end

of Jesus and his teachings.

 

After jailing Peter and John overnight,

and before letting them go in the morning,

they sternly warned them

to stop talking about Jesus.

 

They threatened them with further punishment.

 

That meant they could face a lot worse than a night in jail

if they dared to keep on preaching.

 

So, what did they do?

 

Look for a good lawyer?

 

No, that was not an option at that time and place,

because the force of law

was on the side of their persecutors.

 

What they did do was pray.

 

And we read about it, beginning at Acts 4:23.

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.

 

It was God who gave them the command

to preach in Jesus’ name,

so they turned to God for the help they would need

to keep on doing that

in the face of government persecution.

 

And we have their prayer preserved for us

right there in the 4th Chapter of Acts.

“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth rise up

    and the rulers band together

against the Lord

    and against his anointed one.’

 

The disciples began their prayer

by quoting from Psalm 2

in the Old Testament book of Psalms.

 

When King David wrote that Psalm a thousand years earlier,

he must have had in mind

the pagan nations surrounding Israel

whose leaders conspired together

against Israel’s God

and against Israel’s anointed king, David himself.

 

But, through divine inspiration, the Apostles realized

that King David’s words in that Psalm

also had a prophetic application

to events in their day—

the rulers who conspired together to kill Jesus,

and who were now trying to stop

any further preaching in Jesus’ name.

 

The disciples continued their prayer by saying,

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

 

The Apostles’ prayer recognized

the mysterious combination human free will

and divine omniscience and predestination.

 

Somehow, God had decided beforehand

that these things would happen,

so that Jesus could die on the cross as our redeemer.

 

But, at the same time,

those rulers had used their own free will

to conspire together for evil ends.

 

Herod and Pontius Pilate and Israel’s chief priests

all acted wickedly, of their own free will,

when they decided to prosecute and convict and kill

an innocent man—the Messiah

sent to them by God.

 

But they ended up accomplishing God’s purpose,

that Christ would die a sacrificial death on the cross

to set us free from sin and death.

 

It’s a mystery to us—

that seemingly contradictory interaction between

God’s sovereign will and man’s free will.

 

It’s not really a contradiction from God’s perspective,

but our puny human brains

can’t comprehend how that is.

 

We see another example centuries earlier,

in the way God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon,

to punish unfaithful Jerusalem,

but then punished the king of Babylon

and that nation for their own wickedness.

 

We read it in the 25th chapter of the prophet Jeremiah:

8 Therefore this is what the LORD of Hosts says: ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, 9 behold . . . I will send for My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, whom I will bring against this land, against its residents . . . So I will devote them to destruction . . . 11 And this whole land will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

12 But when seventy years are complete, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation.

 

So, God can turn the hearts and minds of national leaders—

even wicked men like Nebuchadnezzar—

to serve as instruments of God’s will.

 

It’s beyond the ability of our small human brains

to grasp how that all works—

just as much of God’s creation

and all the things of heaven

are beyond our present understanding.

 

But it’s a constant theme in Scripture

that God is in control,

and that he holds humans accountable

when they choose to do evil.

 

But, before we look into that further—

especially as it relates to human governmental leaders—

let’s look at the rest of the Apostles’ prayer

after their release from a night in jail.

 

After quoting from the 2nd Psalm

and applying it prophetically

to the actions of Herod, Pilate and the Jewish rulers,

the Apostles went on to pray like this...

 

29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

It was the miraculous healing of a man born lame

that opened the way for Peter

to address the awe-struck crowds

and tell them about Jesus.

 

And the Apostles prayed now for God to perform

more healings—more signs and wonders—in Jesus’ name,

and to enable the disciples

to keep on speaking boldly about Jesus.

 

They were not about to be deterred

by the threats of punishment from the authorities.

 

Rather, they asked God for more opportunities to speak

and for God’s help to speak boldly about Christ.

 

The answer to their prayer came immediately.  We read,

 

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

 

So, God used powerful means to assure them

that they had his backing

as they continued preaching about Christ

in defiance of the authorities.

 

And that Great Commission to preach and make disciples

continues in force today,

with the same powerful backing of Almighty God,

despite what hostile governments may say or do.

 

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But, as I mentioned before, there’s an element of mystery

associated with God and human governments.

 

First of all, human government represents

a rejection of the Kingdom of God.

 

God is our only rightful king, or president, or ruler.

 

Human government apparently began

with a man named Nimrod,

a great-grandson of Noah.

 

Genesis 10:8 tells us,

8 Cush had a son named Nimrod, who became the world's first great conqueror.

And Verse 10 continues,

10 At first his kingdom included Babylon, Erech, and Accad, all three of them in Babylonia. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built the cities of Nineveh . . .

 

But Nimrod is not spoken of as walking with God,

and the places he ruled were pagan nations known

for brutal oppression of conquered lands.

 

After Moses led them out of Egypt,

the people of Israel had God as their king,

and he gave them human judges when needed,

to rescue them from enemies.

 

God used those judges to protect his people,

but some of the judges themselves

were really questionable individuals—

not what you would call godly men.

 

Samson, for example, protected God’s people from enemies,

but Samson was a liar, a cheat and

a violent and sexually immoral man.

 

He visited prostitutes and had

a notorious extra-marital relationship with Delila.

 

Yet God used him

to protect the Jews from their Philistine enemies.

 

It makes us think of how, even today,

God could use an uncouth man like that—

not as a pastor or deacon of a church,

but as a governmental leader—

to protect Christians from evil enemies.

 

Judges Chapter 11 tells us about

another questionable individual, Judge Jephthah,

who served at another time,

leading Israel as their judge.

 

He was a tough and rowdy son of a prostitute

who led a gang of criminals

before he was called to lead Israel against its enemies.

Beginning at Judges 11:1 we read

1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

4 Some time later, when the Ammonites were fighting against Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 “Come,” they said, “be our commander.”

 

The elders called Jephthah to lead the nation,

not because he was a godly man—he wasn’t—

but because he was a skilled fighter,

capable of defending Israel from its enemies.

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Israel was led by judges

from the time of Moses’ successor Joshua

until the time of the prophet Samuel, their last judge.

 

Then the people of Israel demanded to have a king,

instead of just a judge.

 

1 Samuel 8:5 tells us they went to the prophet, and demanded,

 

appoint a king to judge us like all the other nations.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” their demand was displeasing in the sight of Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.

7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you. For it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king.”

 

Choosing to have a human king

meant rejecting God as their king.

 

God allowed them to have their wish,

but his invisible hand still worked

through the line of kings descended from David,

even though many of them were bad men

who left God and worshiped idols instead.

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And, right down to today, we have a world

where God tells us to obey the civil authorities,

but those civil authorities can vary,

as to whether they are good or bad.

 

Romans Chapter 13 tells us,

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. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

 

Since men refuse to obey God as ruler,

God gives them human rulers to enforce law and order,

to avoid total anarchy.

 

And, for the most part, those human rulers

fail to act as godly men, but instead

look out for their own interests

and form corrupt deals with others.

 

Still, God wants us to obey them,

unless their orders contradict God’s commands.

 

The Apostle Peter had to disobey the authorities

when they commanded him to stop proclaiming Jesus.

 

But in other ordinary matters of life,

Peter wrote at 1 Peter 2:13,

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to the king as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors as those sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.”

 

Remember, Peter wrote that at the time of the Roman Empire

when a line of corrupt Caesars were ruling

most of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

 

If you could have gone to the polls to vote at that time,

you might have been given a choice

between men like Caligula and Nero—

both horribly evil men.

 

But many leaders were not fairly chosen—

never mind not elected by the people,

but not even properly chosen

by the institutions in effect at that time.

 

Consider Julius Caesar, for example.

 

Prior to him, Rome was a republic.

 

We call our republic the U.S.A.

 

They called their republic the S.P.Q.R.—

Senatus Populusque Romanus—

the Senate and people of Rome.

 

That republic ended when Julius Caesar,

a general in the army,

brought his legions home with him,

in effect occupying the city of Rome,

and using that military power,

to become the first Roman Emperor.

 

Today we think that our politics is getting rough

when some Senators conspire against the President—

even Senators in his own party.

 

But the Senators in Rome took matters a step further.

 

Several of them,

including Julius Caesar’s friend Senator Marcus Brutus,

came up to him in the Senate chamber,

pulled daggers from under their garments,

and plunged them into the Emperor’s body.

 

He was stabbed 23 times, and died on the spot.

 

New leaders maneuvered themselves into position

to take the place of the assassinated ruler.

 

So, was that murder of Julius Caesar God’s doing?

 

No, it was a human conspiracy.

 

But God, somehow, through his

foreknowledge, his permission and his sovereignty—

God determined the outcome.

 

How does that work?

 

If you can’t understand it, you’re in good company.

 

It’s really beyond human understanding—

one of those mysteries of God

that we must accept on faith,

because the Bible tells us it is so.

 

What, then, about the coming presidential election

here in modern-day America?

 

Nothing has changed.

 

Daniel 4:17 tells us that we should

“know that the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes. He can place the lowest of people in charge of them.'"

 

Yes, God determines the end from the beginning.

 

But the voters of America

will also determine the outcome of the election,

from our human standpoint,

and we have a responsibility to vote wisely.

 

More than any other time in recent decades,

this election seems poised

to affect whether this country

will stay true to its founding principles

or will renounce our biblical heritage.

 

Many issues hang in the balance.

 

One of the first things President Trump did after taking office

was to stop the enforcement of the

Johnson Amendment against churches and pastors.

 

That rule, put into place in 1954,

effectively blocked pastors and churches

from making political statements.

 

But President Trump removed that obstacle

to free speech from the pulpit.

 

If he hadn’t done so, I could have faced penalties

for giving this sermon today.

 

Under the Obama administration,

in 2014, in the spirit of the Johnson Amendment,

the lesbian mayor of Houston, Texas,

issued subpoenas, requiring Houston pastors

to turn over copies of their sermons

that might have spoken about city ordinances

on homosexual and transgender rights.

 

Pastors faced prosecution and penalties,

if they failed to turn over those sermons

and churches faced possible loss of their tax-exempt status,

if they upheld the Bible’s teaching on those issues.

 

President Trump changed the government’s position,

to guarantee churches and pastors their freedom.

 

All of that could be reversed,

if the Democrat party wins in November.

 

And there are many other things President Trump has done,

that could be reversed if he loses in November.

 

For many decades the Democrat party

officially favored abortion,

while the Republican party officially opposed it.

 

But when push came to shove,

the Republicans were just

giving lip service to that position.

 

At one point, the Republicans controlled

the White House, the legislature, and the Supreme Court,

but they failed to take action.

 

President Trump, on the other hand,

attended pro-life and Right to Life marches and rallies.

 

He took action to protect Christian medical workers

from losing their jobs

because they wouldn’t perform abortions.

 

And he cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

 

Democrat Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris

was California’s Attorney General

when 2 under-cover journalists

exposed that Planned Parenthood was selling

the body parts of aborted babies.

 

Instead of prosecuting Planned Parenthood

for selling those babies’ body parts,

she launched a criminal investigation

against the 2 pro-life journalists.

 

And she would be next in line for the presidency

in a new administration.

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So, some serious biblical issues are at stake

in this coming election.

 

It’s not just a matter of the personalities of the candidates.

 

Democrats have been demanding the right

to kill unborn babies right up to the moment of birth.

 

And if a baby manages to come out alive

during a botched abortion process,

they advocate withholding care—

just ‘keeping the baby comfortable’

until he or she dies.

 

Because Congress refused to act,

President Trump signed a “Born Alive” executive order,

protecting babies that are born alive,

regardless of their circumstances.

The Obama administration lit up the White House

in rainbow colors when the Supreme Court

by-passed the legislative process

and imposed homosexual marriage on America.

 

And the White House, with Joe Biden as Vice President,

imposed rules on the military

allowing gender-confused men to serve as women,

and making the government pay

for so-called sex-change operations.

 

President Trump rolled that back and gave a command

that soldiers must serve under their biological gender,

despite any perverted desire for a woman to

pretend to be a man, or vice-versa.

 

And now the military will no longer pay for

gender-change operations.

 

President Trump also rescinded the Bathroom rules

that Obama had put in,

that cut funds from schools unless they allowed

gender-confused boys to use the girls’ bathroom

and to take showers with the girls.

 

And the Trump administration filed a legal brief

at the Supreme Court

in support of the Christian baker who refused

 to decorate a cake for a gay wedding.

 

Homosexual activists are not content

to practice their sin in private,

but they are determined to force Christians

to celebrate their sin with them.

 

These homosexual activists and radical socialists

are behind much of the hatred

the media directs at our current president.

 

And, if he is taken out of the way,

I suspect they won’t be satisfied,

but will, instead, direct that hatred against us.

 

How should we pray about these matters

that threaten to make it difficult

to be a Bible-believing Christian in America?

 

The Apostle Paul wrote at 1 Timothy 2:1,

 

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

 

If President Trump wins in November,

his policies will continue to hold back, for a while,

the anti-Christian tide sweeping across this country.

 

If November brings, instead, a radical swing to the left,

we Christians may face the End Times challenges

in more troubling ways.

 

The Lord may give mankind

enough rope to hang themselves, so to speak,

exposing the failure of human government,

and hastening the Return of Christ.

 

In any case, regardless of the outcome in November,

we can find comfort in the 2nd Psalm

that the Apostles quoted in their prayer

when they faced persecution.

 

They quoted only the first 2 verses,

but the rest of that 2nd Psalm has further application

to the end of the world.

 

It is quoted multiple times

in the Revelation or Apocalypse

in connection with Christ’s return

as the powerful King of God’s kingdom

who will put an end

to corrupt human governments.

 

That 2nd Psalm says,

 

1 Why do the nations conspire

    and the peoples plot in vain?

2 The kings of the earth rise up

    and the rulers band together

    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break their chains

    and throw off their shackles.”

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

    the Lord scoffs at them.

5 He rebukes them in his anger

    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

6 “I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;

    today I have become your father.

8 Ask me,

    and I will make the nations your inheritance,

    the ends of the earth your possession.

9 You will break them with a rod of iron;

    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”