Sermon title:

Prayer for the New President?

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, January 24, 2021

 

 

 

The classic musical production “Fiddler on the Roof”

is set around the year 1905

in Czarist Russia, in a Jewish community

in the town of Anatevka.

 

The Russian Empire was no friend of the Jews.

 

The ruling Czar confined them to live in certain areas.

 

And, even in those areas, there were “pogroms”

from time to time.

Pogroms were riots

where hostile mobs of non-Jews

rampaged through Jewish communities,

and destroyed homes and shops

and attacked & killed Jewish people.

 

The American musical production “Fiddler on the Roof”

told the story of a Jewish milkman named Tevye

and his family and neighbors

who lived under those

restrictions and threats and dangers

from the hostile community around them.

 

A line in the musical compares

their precarious situation

to a man balancing on the peak of a roof

while playing a fiddle—

a “Fiddler on the Roof”—

 

The fiddler was in danger of falling off at any time,

and the Jewish inhabitants of Anatevka

faced the danger of Russia’s ruling Czar

unleashing a pogrom on them

at any time.

 

In fact, the play ends after the Czar issues an order

expelling the Jews from the Russian Empire.

 

It concludes with Tevye and those around him

all sharing their plans to emigrate

to different cities in America—

but mourning over the loss of

their dear home town of Anatevka,

where they had spent all of their lives.

 

But way back at the beginning, the musical play opens

with a scene where some young men

are talking with their Rabbi

perhaps at their Hebrew School

or at the synagogue.

 

And the Rabbi’s son asks him

“Is there a proper blessing for the Czar?”

 

The rabbi responds: “A blessing for the Czar?”

 

And then he thinks about it for a moment.

 

Normally, a prayer of blessing

would go along the lines of

“May God bless you and keep you!”

 

But, after thinking for a minute, the Rabbi answers,

 Of course . . . May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”

 

And then everyone laughs at such a perfect answer.

 

“May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”

 

Their wish was that God would keep the Czar

from interfering with the peaceful lives

they were enjoying at the moment.

 

Keeping the Czar and his henchmenfar away

was the best hope they had

for their lives to continue undisturbed.

-----------------------------------------

 

Well, how does all of that relate to us?

 

It relates to us, because we Bible-believing Christians

live in a hostile world

where persecution against Christians

breaks out in one place or another,

just as those anti-Jewish pogroms

kept happening in Russia.

 

It also relates to us,

because the New Testament calls us to pray

about our nation’s government leaders

very much as

the Rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof”

says,

“May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”

The instructions to pray that way

come from the Apostle Paul in a letter he wrote

while the world Christians lived in

was ruled by the Caesars of the Roman Empire.

 

And the Caesars were not nice people.

 

They were very much like the Imperial Czars of Russia.

 

In fact, the Russian Czar took his title

from the word “Caesar.”

 

If you look at it the way we spell it now in English—

C   Z   A   R   --

you have the letter “C” followed by zar

or “C”-zar.

 

So, when the Apostle Paul told Christians

to pray for those in government leadership,

the head of government was the Roman Caesar.

 

And Paul’s blessing for Caesar

was very much like the Rabbi’s blessing for the Czar

in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

 

We find Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 2:1

where he says,

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

 

So, the “prayers, intercession and thanksgiving

Paul was urging

for kings and all those in authority

were actually prayers for Caesar

and for those in authority under Caesar,

executing Caesar’s commands.

 

But those prayers that Paul encouraged

were not prayers that Caesar would have his way

and succeed in his plans.

 

Caesar was an anti-Christian pagan,

and Caesar’s plans included expanding his Empire

and keeping people in subjugation to him.

 

The Caesars of Rome were brutal dictators,

much like the Czars of Russia.

 

So, Paul was not calling on Christians

to pray God’s blessing on what Caesar was doing.

 

Rather, the Apostle was calling on Christians to pray

along the same lines

as the Rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof”:

“May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”

 

Paul said for us to pray

“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

 

In the Apostle Paul’s day

that meant for Caesar to keep his hands off Christians—

to keep from disturbing our lives—

to keep from imposing on us

anything that would interfere

with our godliness and holiness.

Paul called on Christians to pray like that

because the pagan Caesars

expected to be worshiped as ‘gods.’

 

They wanted people living under the Roman government

to show their loyalty

by performing a public act of worship of Caesar.

 

People were expected to worship Caesar as a god

by sprinkling a pinch of incense

onto the fire at the foot of Caesar’s image.

 

That was no problem for the pagan population.

 

They were already polytheistic,

worshiping multiple gods and goddesses.

 

Adding Caesar to the many other gods they worshipped

was not an issue for them.

 

But it was an issue for Christians.

 

We worship only the one true God—and no other.

 

Jesus Christ is “the Way and the Truth and the Life”—

no one comes to the Father except through Him.

 

1 Corinthians 8:5 says,

…5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many so-called gods and lords), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist. And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we exist.

 

We don’t worship other gods,

even if the government requires it.

 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

refused to bow down to the idolatrous image

the king of Babylon set up,

even though the penalty was death.

 

So, Christians refused to sprinkle that pinch of incense

as an act of worshipping Caesar.

 

And that resulted in hostility and persecution.

 

Sometimes the Caesars and the authorities under them

were lax, and just let it go by,

that Christians were not worshiping them.

 

But, at other times, the conflict would come to a head,

and persecution of Christians would break out.

 

It was much like the pogroms against Jews

in Czarist Russia:

they came intermittently,

whenever the Czar failed to

“keep...far away from us.”

 

And so, that is what Paul urged Christians to pray for,

when he encouraged prayers

“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

 

These were prayers for the Caesars and their henchmen

to keep far away from Christians

and leave them alone

to live godly Christian lives

of full devotion to Jesus Christ.

 

And that’s what Paul’s words mean for us today.

------------------------------------------

 

Although Christians have faced government persecution

down through the centuries in many lands,

that has not been an issue facing Americans

until recently.

 

Here in the United States we have a government

that was founded on biblical principles.

 

Many, if not most, of our Founding Fathers

were God-fearing Christian believers.

 

And our earliest governmental documents

like the Mayflower Compact

and the Declaration of Independence

make direct reference to

a Christian foundation for this country.

 

The State Constitution of Massachusetts

originally called for each town to provide for a church

and for the State Legislature in Boston

to intervene and provide for a church

if the town failed to do so.

 

And the early federal government’s regulations

for settlement of the Northwest Territory—

which eventually became the new states

of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois,

Indiana and Ohio—

those federal regulations required

setting aside land for a church to be built

in the center of every new town.

 

Although some national leaders and even presidents

quietly led immoral lives,

and so were hypocritical in their public statements,

all of our leaders publicly endorsed

Christian values and beliefs.

 

But times began to change during the late 1800’s

and early 1900’s

when the theory of evolution began to replace

belief in our Creator

in the educational institutions.

 

And, in recent decades, we’ve also seen

growing sexual immorality among the population

--which has driven

a growing anti-Christian trend.

 

Couples who are living together outside of marriage

don’t want to hear Jesus’ words

about the importance of marital faithfulness.

 

Individuals who choose to abort their babies

don’t want to hear what the Bible says

about the sanctity of life.

 

People who indulge their passions

in the worst sexual perversions

don’t want to hear that God condemns

homosexual conduct

and gender misidentification.

 

And, for some decades now,

youngsters in public schools

have been taught secular values and beliefs

that are hostile to Christian values and beliefs.

 

The result is that a sizeable portion of our population

is hostile to biblical Christianity—

or cares so little about biblical Christianity

that they will put up with

anti-Christian political leaders.

 

This shift in attitudes

at the highest level of government

came to light most prominently

during the Obama administration.

 

National leaders promoted sexual immorality

and even perversion

in ways never seen before in our history.

 

They lit up the White House in rainbow colors

to celebrate the Supreme Court’s fabricating

a supposed “right” to same-sex marriage.

 

They required schools to send gender-confused boys

into the girls’ locker and shower rooms.

 

They required government institutions

to perform and pay for surgical operations

to mutilate men to look like women

and mutilate women to look like men.

 

They began forcing Christians to participate

in homosexual weddings,

if they worked as bakers, photographers,

caterers, or in the hospitality industry.

 

They outlawed counseling services

helping young people to reject perverted desires

and live more normal, healthy lifestyles—

to the point that Christian counsellors

faced loss of employment or fines.

And Christian teachers faced job termination

if they referred to a boy as “he” or “him”

after the boy said he identified as a girl.

 

Adoption agencies that refused to place children

with homosexual or lesbian couples

lost their state contracts

and had to shut down operations.

 

Military chaplains faced disciplinary action or discharge

if they advised against homosexual relationships

when counseling troubled individuals.

 

Nurses and medical technicians faced job loss

if they refused to help carry out abortions.

 

And Christian schools and other institutions

faced penalties if they refused to hire

job applicants whose sinful lifestyles

were contrary to Christian beliefs.

--------------------------------

 

How could you pray for a President like that?

 

Only by following the Apostle Paul’s counsel,

when he encouraged prayers

“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

 

Or, as “Fiddler on the Roof” put the same thought,

“May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”

 

‘May God keep the government from disturbing

our peaceful and quiet lives!’

 

‘May God keep the government from interfering with

our godliness and holiness!’

 

‘May God keep the government from persecuting us!’

------------------------------------------

 

Christians did, in fact, pray like that

during the Obama administration.

And God answered our prayers

by placing in office President Donald Trump.

 

It was rather miraculous.

 

Before the 2016 primary elections

the news media quoted

a California Republican as saying,

"We've got 15-16 very serious people

running for president — and one clown."

 

And that’s how the hostile media portrayed him

from that point onward.

 

But, somehow, the voters chose him over

the so-called “serious people.”

 

And the American public elected him President.

 

Even more miraculously, unlike the politicians,

he kept his promises.

 

And he used his Presidential power

to roll back all of those threats to Christians

that I listed,

as far as it was in his power to do so.

 

He shielded Christians all across the country

from the attacks

of the homosexual activists

and the abortion industry.

 

He protected Israel

from anti-Semitic Muslim nations,

and brought about the Abraham Accords

--peace deals with Arab nations

that no one thought possible.

 

And he even stepped in to protect Christians

from persecution in foreign lands.

-------------------------------------------

 

But now America has a new President

and a new administration with a different agenda.

And that agenda is to go back

to all the anti-Christian policies

of the Obama administration.

 

President Joe Biden professes to be a Christian

and went to Mass at a Catholic church

the morning of his inauguration.

 

But it’s not clear whether he received Communion there.

 

Biden was denied communion

by a South Carolina priest during his campaign.

 

And in August, Cardinal Raymond Burke said he

shouldn’t receive communion because he was not

a Catholic “in good standing.”

 

On the day of Biden’s inauguration

the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

released a statement

condemning the new president’s agenda.

 

The Bishops Conference head said,

“I must point out that our new President

has pledged to pursue certain policies

that would advance moral evils

and threaten human life and dignity,

most seriously in the areas of

abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.”

 

And the official statement by the American bishops

continued, to say,

“Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church

and the freedom of believers

to live according to their consciences.”

 

That same concern is being voiced

by Protestant church leaders, as well.

 

The new President’s policies

don’t just please the abortionists

and homosexual activists who supported him,

but they also threaten to unleash persecution

against Bible-believing Christians.

 

Scripture tells us to pray for our leaders

and those in authority.

 

But we can not, in good conscience,

pray for the new President to be successful,

because that would mean succeeding

in implementing his evil agenda.

 

We need to remember that it was the pagan Caesars

who were in power

when the Apostle Paul encouraged prayers

“for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

 

Our prayers now, as respects our nation’s leaders

and those in authority,

should be

that they keep from imposing their evil agenda

in ways that would harm God’s people

by disrupting our peaceful and quiet lives.

 

We need to pray that the authorities

won’t try to force us to do things

that would take away from

our godliness and holiness.

 

Or, as “Fiddler on the Roof” put the same thought,

 

“May God bless and keep the Czar

. . . far away from us!”