Psalm 33:12; 1 Samuel 2:30
The Leaders God Uses: The State of a Nation
It’s hard to believe that in just two days, all of this will be over – hopefully. I say hopefully because you never know. Remember the phrase “hanging chads?” I’ll never forget watching hour after hour of those riveting videos of committees analyzing the ballots to determine the intent of the voter. Well, our technology has gone so far beyond that today, but remember the fateful words of the Donald: “I’ll accept the outcome of the vote – if I win.” But with all of the back and forth with the war of words, who knows what will take place when the votes are counted? God knows. In reality, from the foundation of the world, not only did God know who was going to win this election, God had this foreordained. Now that probably just blew some of your minds and your beginning to wonder if your pastor has gone Calvin on you. Let me assure you that I haven’t. As far as I have found in Scripture, there are only a few things that are predetermined in the Bible. The fact that we who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are going to be conformed to the image of Christ. The moment that Jesus is going to return to call us home. And the rise and fall of Kings. That’s what Daniel says in Daniel 2:21. He says, God “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings;” He repeats that sentiment in Daniel 4:17, where he says that God gives the Kingdom to whomever He will. God said the same thing about Pharaoh in Ex. 9:16 and had Isaiah prophesy the rise of the Persian King Cyrus 100 years before he was even born. That doesn’t mean that you and I can stay home and not vote. God will still hold us accountable for what we do or don’t do! As Doug Ripley reminded us last Tuesday, President Obama only won by 5 million votes, and over 25 million registered Christian voters sat out the last election. We still have a Christian responsibility because remember what our text is for this message. Psalm 33:12. “Blessed is a nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Remember what I said last Sunday. The United States of America has been great not because she has been good. She has been great because she was blessed of God because she was founded on Christian principles and as Christian men and women honored God, God honored them. Look at 1 Samuel 2:30 (NKJV).
30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor.
My friends, you cannot say it any more clearly than that. Those who honor God are honored in return by God. It is a promise that is spelled out in His word. But what does it mean to honor God? That is a question worth asking this morning, and we will deal with that question a little later. If you will remember, this is a prophecy against the High Priest of Israel, Eli, both a political and religious leader of the nation. He had chosen to honor his sons rather than God, men that God had called sons of Belial, worthless, sinful men who were corrupting the sacrifices and causing men to despise worship. They were treating the teachings and the rituals of God with contempt, but instead of dealing with them, Eli was turning a blind eye to them, allowing them to do all of these things. Do you remember what was said of Eli the High Priest over in ch. 3 as a result of his apathetic behavior? “The word of the Lord was rare in those days and there was no widespread revelation.” God had quit speaking to the High Priest of Israel. There was a famine of the Word. Why? Because the leaders of Israel had stopped honoring God. Those that honor God, God honors, but look at the remainder of 1 Samuel 2:30.
“… and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” Doesn’t sound all that bad in the NKJV, does it? But that’s because the word in the actual Hebrew should be translated as “cursed.” Look at the 6-fold judgment described in vv. 30-34 and you get a better picture.
I think the word curse is more fitting than lightly esteemed, don’t you? But we have no concept of the word in the 21st century.
My friends, the Bible is clear. God blesses a nation that honors Him, and He destroys those that forsake Him. Ps. 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God.” Pr. 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” That is why I believe with all of my heart that America is on a suicidal course with destruction and judgment. This nation was founded on Christian principles, but we have forgotten the God of the Bible and have forsaken His commands. When we were honoring God, God was honoring His people and the nation was blessed, but once His church stopped honoring Him, the curse has come in full effect.
Last week, I told you that God uses Perfect Leaders. Unfortunately, there was only one Perfect Leader, and His name was Jesus Christ, but He left us a model that we can follow – the model of Servant Leadership. A model that says I have come to serve those around me, and when we have a president who is more concerned for the welfare of the people in this nation than for his own needs, then we have the man or woman that we need to elect as president of this country.
Then I told you that God uses Passionate Leaders, men and women who are so consumed with trying to lead that they sometimes make mistakes. They are struggling leaders, men like the apostle Paul whose passions sometimes got the best of them, but who always tried to do the right thing. What sets apart a good leader from a bad leader is the good ones admit their mistakes and ask for forgiveness, so when you find a candidate for president who is willing to admit their mistakes and ask for forgiveness, that’s the candidate to vote for.
The third kind of leader that God uses are Powerful leaders, men and women who will stand and boldly proclaim the truth regardless of what others think. You see, truth is not dependent on circumstances. Neither is it based on cultural whims. Sometimes the truth hurts, and it isn’t always popular. But it is always the truth.
As we look to this coming election, let me make one thing clear. I hope you understand this morning, that I believe that God’s hand of judgment is coming regardless of the outcome of this election. Now I don’t say that to totally discourage you. I see hope in that statement, too, because in God’s hand of judgment, there is always healing. There is always hope. Because God uses His judgment to change His people for the good through the leaders He uses. How does He do it?
God uses Wicked Leaders. The Bible is full of examples in Israel’s history. Saul didn’t start out wicked, but he became wicked. There was Manasseh, and the Herods, Jezebel and Jephthah. Nebuchadnezzar and Nero. You could list a number of wicked leaders. Leaders of Israel and Judah. Of Syria and Assyria and Babylon. Nation after nation. Some led God’s people. Some oppressed God’s people. But all were used by God for very specific purposes. Do you know what I discovered as I have looked at the stories of all these leaders?
Wicked leaders are refining leaders. Every one of us must go through the fires in life. But here is the good news. Look with me at Isaiah 43. There are going to be days when the fires come and the flood waters rise, but when we are part of the redeemed, the fires want burn us and the waters won’t overflow us. When you read the Old Testament, you see men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego going through the fires – somewhat literally – and coming through them stronger than ever before. They were already righteous men when they arrived in Babylon. Can you imagine what they must have been like after the Lion’s Den and after the fiery furnace? The hottest fires of refinement strengthen and purify. That’s why the church in China was strongest after the persecutions of the 20th Century. Again, I am not a prophet, and no one, especially me, looks forward to times of trials and tribulation, but I will tell you that persecution under the hand of a wicked leader is exactly what the church in America needs to wake us up, to purge and purify us so that we might become the Bride of Christ robed in His Righteousness.
When God uses wicked leaders, Wicked leaders are revealing leaders. God uses these wicked leaders to reveal to us that we are wicked people, sinners who though we have been redeemed continue to fall short of the glory of God. We are the church, yes, but we are the church who continues to fail to walk in holiness. That’s why His judgment is falling. We are a church in need of confession and repentance, and until that comes, we are going to face the wrath of a holy God, and life is going to be difficult as we go through the refining fires. But once we have gone through the fires of refinement, and cried out to him, God shows us what we are made of. We realize that we are stronger than we realize because He has strengthened us beyond all human abilities.
Then wicked leaders also reveal to us who God is. It is so easy for us to forget that He is the Mighty God who has the power to deliver us from our enemies. We often remember what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says about praying and seeking God’s face and how He promises to heal our land. But do you remember what leads up to that? Listen to what God tells Solomon that prompts vs. 14. In 2 Chronicles 7:13 (NKJV), God says, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people….” When He sends His hand of judgment upon His people because they have turned their backs on Him and they have stopped honoring Him…. Judgment comes at His bidding to draw His people back to Himself, then He brings deliverance to show His people that He is still the Mighty God who is able to save.
So sometimes the leader God uses is a wicked leader. Sometimes the leader God uses is a Warring Leader. Do you realize that both of our presidential candidates have spoken of war if their opponent wins this election? Both have said that if the other candidate wins, we will be in a war. Both of them. Civil war. Nuclear war. Both have declared that their opponent is not fit to be president – that neither should have the nuclear football, and both have promised that they will be the one that will lead our country best if we have to go to war. Warring leaders. Wow. Again, the Bible is filled with these. From Israel’s own kings to their enemies, the list is long. But they all have one thing in common: they were used by God. Every one of them was the instrument of God’s justice. God used the Israelites to mete out justice against the Moabites, and He used the Moabites to mete out justice against the Israelites. God used the Ammonites to do the same. When each nation’s “cup of iniquity” (that is how it is described) had reached the point of overflowing, he would bring another nation to their border to attack. It was just that simple. So understand that warring leaders are wrecking ball leaders – swung by the arm of God to destroy as He chooses – to bring to an end governments and civilizations if He so chooses.
Do you remember a King by the name of Nebuchadnezzar? He was the King of Babylon. He was a wicked man in charge of a wicked army. Theirs was an empire set on world domination, and they did not care what or whom tried to get in their way. Not much did. They were ruthless. History reveals the atrocities committed by this king and his followers. ISIS is their modern-day counterparts, but such were their actions that I would not even begin to recount some of the stories other than to say that modern-day torture stories are nothing compared to what they did. Many would say, How could God use such a man like this? Because God often chooses to judge evil with evil, and sometimes even our own leaders are used to bring judgment.
Could it be that our next president would be the instrument of God’s judgment on His church? Threats to our religious freedoms are very real based on the one that is elected. We have seen the overreach of Executive Orders in this last presidency, and with the possibility of several new Supreme Court justices and the judicial tyranny of the last several years, we know that we are teetering on the brink of extremes. The day is coming, my friends, when the church will have to make a decision just like the first church as to whether we will listen and obey God or whether we will obey men, and I will tell you this – this pastor will ALWAYS obey God!
But then, sometimes warring leaders are releasing leaders. Just as God had Isaiah to prophesy 150 years before it happened, another warring leader, Cyrus the Persian came along, overcame the Babylonians, and God used him to set His people free. Listen to me. When God judges His people, it is for redemptive purposes. It is never simply to punish but always to redeem. Whenever judgment falls, God’s hope is for His people to return to Him in repentance. That is how we honor God in times like this.
And that’s not just about national judgment. Often, His people find themselves at odds with God because of decisions they have made. His Holy Spirit has spoken to them, warned them. They know that they have done the wrong thing. Oh, my friend, listen to Him. Because if you don’t, judgment is coming, and it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. But that’s where you’re headed when you refuse to heed His warnings. And that’s where our nation is headed today.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” That’s exactly what many of us have done. Absolutely nothing. We are too busy living our lives to save a nation headed straight for destruction and hell. We have become like Nero, fiddling while Rome burns. We ignore the cries of the rich man from hell as he begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them not to make the same mistakes that he made. We are the church of the living God, the one that Jesus said that He would build upon the solid rock, upon Himself. The one that the gates of Hell would not be able to hold back. But we are no longer trying to break down the gates of hell. We are just content to sit in our pews and wait for Jesus to return. And while we are waiting, our nation has become so morally depraved, so spiritually blinded, and so steeped in evil that there is only one power in the entire universe that can meet and overcome such evil, and that is the power of the living God, living and working through the children of God that He has empowered for such a time as this, but that will only happen if we will empty ourselves of self and sin and ask Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit and send us into our Jerusalem, our Judea, and our Samaria with the message of hope and healing that is ours.
How do we do that? We go back to 2 Chronicles 7: 13, 14. We recognize that God has shut up the heavens and there is no rain. God has given the command and locusts are devouring our land. He has spoken and pestilence is raging. While we are experiencing drought in our part of the country, today I am referring to a drought of His Holy Spirit, and the locusts are the demons and dark forces that are stealing His Word from the hearts of even His people so that many have been deceived, and we are suffering from a pestilence of apathy that has turned to animosity towards all that is holy and righteous. And the result in America of 2016 is the same result as it was for Israel in 721 B.C. and for Judah in 587 B.C. and again for Israel in 70 A.D. In America, because the church has turned its back on God, we are facing the hand of God’s judgment and our only hope is the very prescription that God gave to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people – not the president or the congress or the Supreme Court, but His people – who are called by His name – those of us called Christians – will humble themselves – not wait for Him to humiliate us through discipline though I believe that is coming but will voluntarily humble ourselves – and pray – that’s what we are here for today, to pray – and seek My face – not the face of a pastor or a politician but the face of Holy God – and turn from our wicked ways – and this is the hard part because it requires that we admit that we are living lives of wickedness, that even those things that we call little sins must be confessed as sin against a holy God, repented of with all of our hearts, and turned from with all of our might and God’s help because only then, God says – only then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.