God Sets Up Kings

I must admit that I don’t go out of my way to either listen to or read the writings of John Piper. As the founder of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, he carries great influence in the Church today. But as someone whose Calvinistic and Covenant perspectives on salvation and Christian living and even prophecy differ markedly from my own, I typically don’t gravitate to his teaching.

That said, on those occasions when I see his name appear in the headlines of otherwise daily news, I will most often take the time to read his perspective on the world around us.

But I frequently do not agree.

And today might just be another one of those times.

Looking back to the day of President Trump’s inauguration, John Piper writes:

“Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there.” (the article can be read here)

Now unless we have been living with our heads buried in the ground, we should have a pretty good idea what Dr. Piper is talking about. The headlines, launched early in the campaign were flooded with President Trump’s head shaking behavior, providing Dr. Piper with more than enough ammunition to bury the President under a bulleted list of ugly accusations.

There can be no denying that the President’s behavior and street tainted language is strikingly off-color compared to what we would expect to hear from someone standing in the White House. Despite that, my issue is not with the President and his laundry list of personal failings, but with Dr. Piper himself.

I think it is important that we remember that when Dr. Piper speaks, he is not speaking as any other man, but he does so with the weight of his own office and position as a leader in the Church. Like it or not, by virtue of who he is, his judgment on the President comes with one hand gripping the pulpit and the other holding his Bible.

And yet…

I am making no attempt to deny or condone any of the President’s sinful misdeeds.

But I have to wonder if Dr. Piper’s list was shortened by one or two items, would he find the President morally acceptable? Or perhaps if three of Trump’s failings were to be erased from the charges—would he be able to slip under the Piper limbo pole of acceptability.

Or perhaps it isn’t the number of accusations per se, but the items themselves which Dr. Piper finds morally reprehensible and thus disqualifying to the office of the Presidency. And if that is the case, which ones are the really bad ones?—the deplorable disqualifiers?

And I wonder, with all of the lying, pandering, fornication, political subterfuge, greed and corruption which has walked the halls in wingtips and high heels of every political edifice in our land for decades, how many other Dr. Piper sermons and how many other articles have singled out others as morally unfit for whatever political office they held. For they have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.

When reading the article, I wondered what standard Dr. Piper used in leveling his judgment?

Now before anyone tries to hit me over the head saying, “the Bible, you idiot!”, let me rephrase the statement. What exactly in the Bible is Dr. Piper using as a litmus test to declaring whether this man or this woman is or is not acceptable for the office of the Presidency. Is he somehow trying to pull ideas from the pages of the pastoral epistles, and the requirements for pastors and elders? Or is he moralistically bloviating an opinion which really has no basis in Scripture other than clearly identifying President Trump as a sinner like the rest of us.

I would like to remind Dr. Piper, he being the Calvinist that he is, of the sovereignty of God. And God’s sovereignty with regards to Kings and Presidents is clear in Daniel 2:21 where the Scripture says that it is God who sets up kings and removes kings.

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. Daniel 2:21

It is important to understand that not every king that God sets up or removes is what we might consider a good king. In fact the Old Testament is filled with the names of wicked kings such as king Ahab or Agag. But the Bible also has names like Solomon and David who ruled Israel and yet had serious flaws in their character, particularly when it came to women.

So when I look at our President, do I see Ahab or do I see Solomon?

Well, I stand with Scripture and the sovereignty of God. For whatever purpose, God has placed Trump in the White House. Our President is a flawed man. There is no denying that. But is he unfit for his office, morally or on any other basis? I cringe at the idea of essentially accusing God of making a mistake. For God chose him, and therefore our President is fit for the task God intends.

Now what that task is, I have no idea. The Bible says that God chose Samson as a Nazarite (before his birth) who would deliver his people Israel from the hands of the Philistines. God chose Samson and therefore saw him fit to accomplish that task. And he did so knowing full well the failures which would pockmark Samson’s life as he turned from the laws of his people and embraced a Philistine women, a worshiper of idols as his own wife.

The Scripture is clear that our Sovereign God works all things together for good and the accomplishing of his will and purpose. It is true in our day as it was true in Samson’s day. For though Samson failed, God accomplished his purpose in Samson’s life as he collapsed the pillars and brought down the house on the Philistines through the renewing of his strength by God’s grace.

Can we say that Samson, David, Solomon and President Trump were all sinners and morally flawed?

That being said…

Was Samson fit for the office of Judge?

Was David and Solomon fit for the office of King?

God thought so.

Is Trump fit for the office of President?

God thinks so.


The Heart of the Father

1280x720 Christian David Mourning Absalom (Dore)(Absalom My Son My Son [ChocolateBox])

Pretend for a moment that you have been the target of a major rebellion in which you, the rightful king have been removed from your throne. The rebellion has divided the nation and brought death and ruin for so many. Ahead of you is what very well could be the final battle to put down the rebellion and to reclaim your throne. As your armies prepare for battle, you give final orders to your captains concerning the leader of the rebellion.

How would you act?

What orders would you give?

What if the leader of the rebellion was your own dear son?

His seat of authority as king granted him the right to render swift and terrible judgment against the rebellion, even against its leader Absalom, David’s son. And yet, while still king David responded with the heart of a grieving father and ordered his men to deal gently with Absalom for David’s sake. Whatever judgment would ultimately need to be levied against his son, David wanted his son to be brought home. He wanted to see him, to kiss him and to throw his arms around him.

And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:5

His words however were not heeded, though clearly they were understood as the bible reveals. A man came across Absalom helplessly caught up in a low hanging tree. When he reported to Joab what he saw, he was rebuked for not having put a spear through his heart.

10.   And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak. 11.   And Joab said unto the man who told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle. 12.   And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:10-12

Take note what the man said to Joab: in our hearing the king charged saying beware that no one touch the young man Absalom.

Joab ignored the reminder of what the king said, defiantly heading off with 10 of his men to where Absalom was still trapped, thrusting 3 spears into his heart. His actions were followed by the other 10 who also thrust their weapons into the now lifeless body.

As you can imagine, David was pacing back and forth waiting for the report from the battlefield. When Cushi returned with the report David really didn’t want to hear, that his son was dead, David was deeply moved as he openly wept and cried.

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! 2 Samual 18:33

Curious eyes fell upon the weeping king accompanied with hushed whispers, one of which made it back to the ears of Joab.

1.   And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom. 2.   And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. 3.   And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle. 4.   But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! 2 Samuel 19:1-4

David was a father, but when it came to the kingdom he must act as king first became the reasoning in Joab’s mind as he mulled over the report. There was no room to weep for a son who brought the kingdom to the edge of disaster. Believing the king needed correction, Joab immediately went into the presence of David and laid it on the line.

5.   And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; 6.   In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. 7.   Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now. 2 Samuel 19:5-7

Joab was the commanding general of the armies and had a very close and trusted position with the king. Concerned with the safety and security of his people, and facing the enemy countless times on the battlefield put Joab squarely on the side of justice and the law, allowing little room for grace and mercy. David in his grief went out to meet his people and did not react or respond to Joab immediately. Later on, in verse 13, we see that David replaces Joab as commander with his son Amasa.

The rigidness of the law cuts to the heart of the matter, separating one side from another. Certainly the actions of Absalom demanded swift and terrible judgment to be meted out by the hand of the king, and yet David relented. The love for his son rose above the law. This was the grace of David.

This is the grace of God.

In the movie The Grace Card, the pastor is speaking to his congregation about the problems in his city. “No justice no peace,” the pastor said. “I hear that every single day like justice is going to change hearts. It’s not justice we need or even want. It’s grace! It’s forgiveness!”

While you have never been a king or queen facing a rebellion as David did, perhaps you have faced rebellion and division when one of your children brings unimaginable heartbreak upon you and the kingdom of your family. Perhaps your heart endlessly groaned as you tearfully watched the destructive path your child took. Taking every effort to intercede and protect your wayward child, perhaps the day came when you cried as David did—would God I had died for you.

That is your heart as a father or a mother.

That is the heart of the Father of heaven toward you and I and all the other rebellious hearts of this world. With a trembling hand of love, the Father reached down from heaven as he watched our rebellious path bringing so much pain, suffering and death. And make no mistake, the law clear on the matter. I am guilty. You are guilty. The holiness and the righteousness of God speaks from Joab’s lips and we deserved justice. But what we need is grace. And with his hand, God offered grace through his Son as he offered Jesus on our behalf. With Jesus, God offered himself—as God I will die for you.

Rollin Miller