But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain… Exodus 18:21 (NIV)
In last week’s Prayer Targets, I highlighted a sermon by Dr. Simeon Howard, successor to Rev. Jonathan Mayhew at Old West Church in Boston. More from his 1780 political sermon:
The fear of God, in scripture, does not mean a slavish, superstitious dread of a cruel Being; but a reverence that arises from habitually considering God’s glorious perfection and providence; his moral rule of the world, love of holiness and hatred of vice. He sees every thought and action of his creatures, and will punish the impenitent and reward the virtuous. The fear of offending him produces obedience to his laws, together with hope in his mercy and love due One so amiable in character…Without this fear, a man is unworthy of any trust or confidence. No principle so promotes this regard for virtue, as the fear of God. A man may follow virtue when he faces no strong temptation to the contrary. But when temporal infamy and misery are a certain consequence of practicing virtue, and temporal honor and happiness the consequence of forsaking it, will [he] adhere to his duty without regard for God, as his ruler and judge? Will he sacrifice all for the sake of virtue, when he has no expectation of reward beyond the grave? Will he embrace reproach, poverty and death to do what is right? With no fear of God this ought not to be expected…
MEN invested with civil power are much more exposed to temptations to violate their duty than other men: They have more opportunities of committing injuries; and may do so with less fear of present punishment; they need every possible restraint to keep them from abusing their power….
A holy life comprised of the fear of God, has a powerful tendency to ennoble the mind and beget an abhorrence of everything cruel and base; to inspire a magnanimity and fortitude of spirit that will prevail through the greatest dangers and difficulties; refine and purify the heart, disengage it from the vanities of the world, and beget good will and benevolence – the brightest part of a virtuous character. Contemplating daily the perfections of the Deity naturally will lift the affections and fix them upon divine things, make us love and seek to imitate the moral character of God; and weaken the lusts so apt to draw men aside and entice them to sin…
Circumstances often occur to leaders, which call for greater wisdom than they possess, though they may be very able men. In such cases we are directed to look up to God, the inexhaustible source of wisdom. God may give us a more just views and lead us to wiser decisions, than we would otherwise have made… There is little reason to think that this light and direction will be given to men who have no fear of God. Though they lack wisdom, they will not ask it of God, “who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Without divine counsel, their conduct will be wrong and ill-judged, calculated in many instances, not for good, but harm, even destruction.
It is important for their happiness that religion and virtue prevail among a people. Government should use its influence to promote them. Rulers should encourage the people both by their example and authority; … they should punish open acts of profanity and impiety, which destroy reverence for God, the only effectual support of moral virtue…without which there can be no confidence, peace or happiness in society. WITHOUT such, there is danger that the people will forget God and abandon themselves to immorality. God has made religion and virtue necessary to the happiness of human society. It is the duty of the civil magistrate to promote them.
TAKING this care for religion appears so plain and important a duty, that a government that wholly neglects it, would be guilty of base ingratitude and a daring affront to heaven. By such conduct they, in effect, adopt the language of the profane fatalists mentioned by Job, who “say unto God, depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him! And what profit shall we have if we pray unto him?”
Faith in the gospel of Christ should be considered an important qualification for civil rulers. Impious, immoral men at the head of government, with authority to appoint subordinate officers, will choose men of their own character, and so spread corruption and much injury to society. [Edited for archaic language]
Why is our nation so troubled? We have ignored God’s command to choose leaders who fear God!
2016 Elections – Too many Christians are either ignorant of Exodus 18:21 or choose to ignore it when voting. Yet God’s principles in that verse have direct application for how we ought to select civil leaders. Indeed, Exodus 18:21 (see also Dt. 1:9-18) set forth the political framework for the selection of leaders among the Israelites, a forerunner of our own representative form of government. God’s prescription applied to the selection of all representative leaders, including those over thousands down to leaders of tens. In other words, it applied to officials at every level of government. Interestingly, Exodus 18:21 was the staple Scripture for the election sermons of the founding era. It was the standard for the 3 million Americans who lived through the War for Independence and the creation of the American republic. It remains the standard for Bible-believing Christians to choose our national, state and local leaders. The “fear of God” is the cornerstone of the admonition, which is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Pr 1:7; 9:10).
But are American Christians guided by the fear of God as a key criterion for voting? Columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative amid a sea of liberal writers at the New York Times, wrote a gloomy analysis of the fractured thinking of those who identify themselves as Christians in America, demonstrating that the lines of division are evidenced by their voting patterns thus far in the 2016 Election. Frequency (or even complete lack) of church attendance is a general predictor of the candidate (and party) of choice. The Barna Group, Christian pollsters and analysts, similarly address the confused and confusing Christian vote, identify evangelicals as a much smaller slice of the American church. They determine how to classify Christians by their adherence to biblical truth. Thus they say that American evangelicals are a much smaller segment of the population than other pollsters. For them the vast majority of believers who declare that they are born again do not qualify as evangelicals because of their low score in answering questions that reveal the degree of their fidelity to fundamental biblical truths. The fact that believers are all over the map suggests a low level of biblical literacy among Christian voters. That’s why we are emphasizing Exodus 18:21.
America is at a crossroad! The next president will likely nominate two, possibly three or more Supreme Court Justices. A liberal progressive president will most certainly select people who believe the Constitution is a “living and breathing document” and will legislate from the bench, further overturning laws duly enacted by Congress and the states. But a “conservative” president with no fear of God is as much a threat as proven liberals. Thankfully, Christians are coming out in higher numbers to vote than in past years. If we seek His face, study the candidates, observe the Scriptures pertinent to our decision-making, and vote accordingly, even if we do not prevail, God will honor our intentions (see Ross Douthat: Trump’s Christian Soldiers; see Tony Perkins discussing the 2016 Election on C-Span’s Newsmakers; John Bolton on American World Leadership).
- May God’s people wholeheartedly obey His guidelines for choosing civil leaders, especially during the primary elections. May God’s people urge fellow believers to do likewise, and may we pray fervently that they will! May our nation turn this year back to the Bible and back to the Constitution as it was intended by the Founders. May Christians everywhere make the American election the object of daily prayer!
The Supreme Court – President Obama, now a lame duck in an Election Year has just named his choice for Supreme Court Justice to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat: Merrick Garland, a Chicago born, Harvard educated liberal, currently serving as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Congressional Quarterly reports that: “Replacing Scalia with Garland would likely swing the ideological balance of the court leftward as it considers issues such as state abortion laws and potentially gun rights cases.” This nomination comes despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) pledge not to bring any high court nomination to the Senate floor this year. Republicans are determined that Scalia, the longest serving member on the court and a staunch conservative, will not be replaced by a liberal who will tip the balance of the court and further damage America. President Obama will make this a serious fight. It is essential that Senate Republicans stand firm with McConnell (see Supreme Decision by FRC’s Dr. Chris Gacek; Follow News on the Nomination Fight; White House Battle Plan; Obama to nominate Merrick Garland; Why all the Outrage?
- May Christians fully understand what is at stake with the presidency and his/her nominees to the Supreme Court, which has a profound impact on the direction of our nation. May churches and the intercessory prayer movement engage in warfare prayer until our high court is predominated by Constitutional conservatives who will preserve the right to life, natural marriage, religious liberty, private property, the Second Amendment and overturn rulings where past courts have gone awry. May our children’s liberty be vouchsafed!
Finally, please continue to pray over these matters: Troubled by President Obama’s hesitancy to declare the murder of Christians and other religious minorities by ISIS a “Genocide,” the U.S. House unanimously passed a genocide resolution by a unanimous vote. The Senate has yet to vote on a similar resolution. How can we stand by when our brothers and sisters are being mistreated, brutalized, and slaughtered? Thank you for praying!