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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”