When members of the church place too much trust in government leaders, what happens next is what we have seen happening in the United States the last 8 years. The disdain that is expressed for a political rival sounds like hatred. Conversely, the affection for political allies sounds like worship. Whatever the response, what seems to come through is the fact that faith and trust in God through Jesus is second place to one’s political affiliations and convictions. This happens because followers of Christ are discipled in political-social-economic realities more than we are discipled and trained in living out of a radical faith centered on Christ and rooted in Scripture.
The collection of songs and meditations in the middle of the Bible gives us a glimpse into what it sounds like and looks like when someone believes that their life and well-being ultimately rests in God’s grace, not a government leader’s policies. It doesn’t disengage us from the culture; it leads to faithful engagement with the culture with hope in God.
Psalm 20 is a great example. Right off the top, in the very first verse, David encourages the worshipper:
“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!”
The Lord (Yahweh) was, for the Hebrews, the one, true sovereign, holy, and creative God. This is the transcendent God, who is without compassion and eludes our final comprehension! Of all the people you might think you want nearby when trouble comes, the LORD is the one you better hope answers you. That’s still true today!
When Moses needed a name for who was sending him to confront the power structures of Egypt, the burning bush answered him, “Tell them I AM has sent me to you,” (Exodus 3:14). The transcendent LORD confronts us in our trouble. Instead of speaking from a burning bush, He speaks through a Jewish carpenter. Jesus is I AM in the flesh of man who has come to save us and all of creation from trouble.
Then, David calls forth a different image of God. Whereas Yahweh represents the transcendent whose power is without equal in the midst of their trouble, David reassures the people that the “Name of the God of Jacob [will] protect you!”
God is not only transcendent. The God of the Bible is immanent. He is not only above us, God is also closer than we dare imagine… just ask Jacob! The patriarch’s story is one long wrestling match with God. In fact, Jacob literally wrestles with God, or God’s messenger, all night long on the side of a river (Genesis 32:22-32). This spiritual and physical struggle into the next morning changes Jacob’s name to Israel and prepares him to confront his long held fear, Esau, his brother. That was Jacob’s trouble and God met him in the mud to prepare him to face the trouble.
As the United States of America begins a new chapter with our 45th president, Donald J. Trump, all of God’s true worshippers ought to seek the LORD and pray for our country and her leaders. We can do this because in Christ we have full access to God the Father. Return to the confession of of Psalm 20, and others like them:
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God,” (7).
This doesn’t those who trust in God disengage from our Western culture and hide away in our bunkers awaiting for King Jesus to return. NO! We wait eagerly for His return as we faithfully engage our culture with the truth of God’s trustworthiness and goodness.