Should Christians Pray for ‘Greatness’ or Humility?
For many Christians I know, Donald Trump was far from being their first choice for President. But when it came down to a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, they regarded Clinton as the greatest of evils. They voted for Trump to make sure she would not become President. But there were others who voted for Trump, claiming that he is God’s man for the hour. They make this claim despite the fact that it is not consistent with the record of his life. They compare him to rulers we encounter in the Bible—imperfect pagan rulers like Cyrus of Persia, or disobedient rulers like Israel’s King Saul—whom God used for His purposes.
Cyrus of Persia was a monarch, who wielded sovereign power over an empire he claimed by right of conquest. Is the President of the United States properly compared to such a monarch? How can this be when the Constitution of government for the United States is ordained and established by the people of the United States? Its authority is therefore a function of their claim to sovereignty over themselves and their country. And though this claim had to be vindicated by victory over the forces of the King of Great Britain, they did not understand that victory as the basis for it. For in the Declaration that asserted it, they refer their claim to rulership over themselves to the authority of “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
Properly understood, therefore, the people of the United States occupy, with respect to their government, the place of human sovereignty occupied by monarchs like King Cyrus. By God’s Providence, they have come into the authority to make and execute the laws and institutions that govern them. But this authority does not encompass an absolute power to do as they please. As it is endowed by God, it has to be wielded in accordance with the terms of that endowment, made known to all by the law the Creator, God, has written into the heart of all humanity, as an aspect of human nature.
The provisions of the U.S. Constitution, and the constitutions of all our state governments, reflect our people’s indebtedness and responsibility to God, for sovereignty over itself. The officers of the various branches of our governments are ministers chosen, directly or indirectly, by the authority of the people. This includes all chief Executives, such as the President and the State governors; all legislative representatives, such as the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; and all magistrates such as the Judges and Justices of the Federal Judiciary.
As this is so, the people of the United States is the sovereign properly compared to the monarchs of the Old Testament. That position is not to be ascribed to any of the ministers who derive their positions from the election of the people, as it acts on its responsibility to the ultimate sovereign, God.
Given this responsibility, citizens of the United States cannot point to God as the author of their misfortune when they settle for some great or lesser evil to represent them in the administration of government. Rather, they should see themselves, standing as one before God, and called to account for the choice they have contrived. And if that choice is evil, or brings evil upon them, they bear responsibility for the abuse, abdication or loss of the authority God’s Providence placed in their power. When David, foregoing participation in the battle, for his own selfish reasons sent Uriah the Hittite into the forefront, God did not take responsibility for that abusive choice. Rather he sent Samuel to make clear to David his fault.
Obviously, people who have no use for the Bible in any respect are unlikely to understand America’s self-government in this way. But this was the prevalent understanding of the generations that founded and sustained the constitutional government that took our nation from obscurity to greatness. It’s ironic that, by putting their trust in someone who promises to “Make America Great Again”, the American people appear to acknowledge that they have let that achievement slip from their grasp. And they applaud as their chosen spokesman lays the blame for that fact everywhere but where it belongs. Given the terms on which we still, at least formally, lay claim to being a self-governing people, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Thus, people who take the Bible seriously need to stop mining it for specious excuses for our nation’s turn away from God. We are at fault, for abandoning God’s wisdom even after it proved, time and again, to be the path of success for our nation. Rather than admit that, in recent years, we have missed the mark God still holds out to guide to guide our aim, we scratch our itching years with harsh, prideful and combative words that express our anger and resentment against betrayers we have time and again authorized with our votes.
Instead of pretending that the one who serves up such words to satisfy our sullen passions is another Cyrus, uplifted by God, we might do better to recall Shimei, offspring of the defeated House of Saul, who met King David on the road as he fled the forces of Absalom, his son. We might do well to remember David’s frank humility when Shimei rebuked him as “a man of blood”, for displacing Saul as the king of Israel. David rejected it when Abishai called Shimei a “dead dog” and asked leave to “take off his head”. Instead David said:
Behold my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjamite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”
God took the kingship from the House of Saul because of his disobedience. Though already anointed by God to replace Saul, David refrained from beheading hi. He, trusting instead to God’s strategy against him. In Absalom’s rebellion King David faced the consequence of his own departure from God’s rule. By staying Abishai’s intent to execute Shimei, David signifies his return to God’s sway, after treacherously sending Uriah the Hittite to his death in order openly to usurp his place in Bathsheba’s embraces. Despite David’s treacherous act, God forgives him; and in Solomon, the fruit of his illicit union with Bathsheba, God preserves the Kingship over Israel in the House of David.
Today, on every hand, America is filled with people who speak with the harsh, insulting voice of Shimei. But who speaks for the American people, as sovereign over our own affairs? Who expresses our willingness to resist answering insult with execution? Who speaks for our repentant trust in God? Who speaks to raise our Publican’s prayer that He return us good for the evil we are doing and have done? Instead of pridefully suppressing those who are, as it were to us Shimei, shouldn’t our sense of God’s justice demand that we restrain ourselves? In token of our utter reliance upon God’s mercy, should we not remember the transgression by which, as a people, we are still refusing to honor God’s institution for life, exalting instead the dissolution of the God-endowed family, and the slaughter of scores of millions of our own offspring?
On account of this slaughter we deserve such reproaches as God alone has the power to end. But how shall we signify the return of the America that acknowledges God’s authority and trusts in His forgiveness? How shall we signify our understanding that the earthly sovereign power His Providence entrusted to us can be ours only as long as we follow the one, in David’s line, with whom to God we say, “Not my will but Thine be done”?
In this time of what may be our greatest trial, perhaps we should not be preoccupied with greatness. Perhaps instead we should pray to God to Make America Humble Again, so that we faithfully undertake the “little tasks” of great importance, by which we preserve and care for our posterity. Thus, we shall do our duty, and trust in God for our allotment, great or small, in His apportionment—where every lot exceeds what our human eye has seen, or ear has heard, or heart imagined.
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