Paul, speaking to the Christians in Rome, penned these words that echo today in the minds of people who seek to do God’s will: “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
Lest we gloss over the historical context, Paul wrote these words from a Roman prison cell. He wrote them not knowing that he would never live free again. He would remain a prisoner until his public execution at the hand of those same Roman authorities established by God.
Not that Paul would have said anything different if he had known his fate. I don’t believe knowledge of his future would have changed anything he said. In the same letter to the Romans, Paul said, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)
I have heard many people recite Romans 13:1 in support of defending Donald Trump. Many of those same people would not have given that verse much consideration during the Obama presidency.
The Scripture didn’t change. Our application of it changed.
Many people who have championed Trump for President, and Trump as President, have claimed that God wanted Trump to be President. Like Daniel in the Persian palace, they say Trump is God’s man in the White House.
I have been skeptical of that claim. Not that it couldn’t be true. It’s that I don’t see the fruit of it.
I admit that I had to be cautious in my skepticism as I read the story of a fireman, Mark Taylor, who prophesied that Trump would be President dating back to 2011. This was an entire term before Trump became president. Those prophetic words echoed in the back of my mind as the election results slowly revealed a Trump victory in 2016 to a nation of shocked newscasters and political pundits on live television.
(I note that the same man who claimed God told him Trump would be president, claimed he would defeat Obama in 2012. He was wrong about the timing. He has also claimed a number of things that have not occurred. “Taylor’s other prophecies have proven to be less than accurate. The Guardian reported that he said a ‘red tsunami’ would solidify Republicans’ hold on Congress, and that he predicted former President Barack Obama would be arrested for treason. Taylor also says Trump will release evidence of cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.”)
Paula White, who is now an adviser to Trump in the White House, said after he was elected, “Trump had ‘been raised up by God’ and added, ‘It is God who raises up a king. It is God that sets one down. When you fight against the plan of God, you are fighting against the hand of God.’” Of course, she would have been just as right if she were speaking of Barack Obama eights years and four years earlier.
I wondered then, as I do now: does Trump’s victory mean that we (believers) won too? Did God give us what He wanted? Or did God give us what we wanted?
Friends of mine have told me they think that Trump is like Daniel in the book that bears his name, the faithful believer who was exalted to a top position in the Babylonian government during the captivity of the exiled Jews, the same Daniel who is famous for a stint in a lion’s den without harm to his body, to the chagrin of his onlookers. A book has even been written about Trump fulfilling the prophecies of Daniel.
If I look into Daniel’s story and character, though, I don’t see similarities; I see contrasts. When I look at Daniel, I don’t see a self-aggrandizing politician (or businessman) who bullied his way into public office. I see a faithful public servant who was promoted because of his faithful, wise, and selfless character and integrity. Daniel isn’t known for his public persona as much as his private faith, a private faith that Daniel honored at the risk of public advancement.
Is Trump really a modern-day Daniel? Or is he more like a modern-day Saul?
Saul, of course, was the first king of Israel, the king that God gave Israel, but a king wasn’t God’s preferred choice for them. Saul was what the people wanted. God gave them a king they wanted, even when what they wanted was a rejection of God, Himself.
This is the story. The people demanded from God a king (1 Samuel 8:5), but in doing so they were rejecting God as their king. (1 Samuel 8:7-8) God even warned them that having a king would cost them in many ways: the king would take from them more than they got. (1 Samuel 8:10-18) But they refused to heed the warning. They demanded a king. (1 Samuel 8:19-20)
Some Trump supporters compare him now to King Cyrus, rather than the prophet Daniel. They do this because Trump is clearly not a Daniel. He doesn’t have the integrity of faith of a Daniel, so they claim God is using Trump like God used the pagan King Cyrus to bless His people.
Trump sees himself as king, too. Trump talks and acts like a king who is above the law. Trump’s lawyers even called him a king in recent testimony. When Trump supporters called him “the King of Israel” and the “second coming of Christ”, Trump retweeted the statements multiple times in self-aggrandizing fashion, calling himself “the chosen one”.
But I think Trump, the king, is most like Saul, the king, not Cyrus the king. For starters, Saul was a privileged man. Like Trump, Saul was born into a powerful family (the son of a “mighty man of valor”), was and he handsome and taller than anyone in Israel). (1 Samuel 9:1-2) Saul and his father’s household had all the advantage and position they could want in Israel (1 Samuel 9:20), much like Trump.
Saul was anointed by the prophet, Samuel (1 Samuel 10:1). Trump has been anointed by Evangelical leaders, such as Paula White. Even as Samuel called the people around to proclaim Saul their king, the king they requested, Samuel reminded them that they were rejecting God in that very request. (1 Samuel 10:19) Many Evangelicals were saying the same things as Trump was running for President and afterwards.
Saul did deliver the Israelites from dangers, such as the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11) and the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:1-23), but he was impetuous and foolish, speaking too quickly on matters without giving them thoughtful consideration. (1 Samuel 14:24-30) The consequence was chaos and confusion, empty oaths, conflicting directions and a complete lack of integrity. (1 Samuel 14:31-46). What’s more, the nation was constantly at war during the entire reign of King Saul. (1 Samuel 14:52)
Saul lacked good character and good judgment, turned his back on God and failed to follow God’s direction. (1 Samuel 15:11) He even set up a monument to himself. (1 Samuel 15:12) He blamed others for his own failures. (1 Samuel 15:21) When he was told that God was removing him from his position, even after Saul begged for a change of mind, he still asked that he be honored in front of the people (caring more for his own honor than God’s acceptance). (1 Samuel 15:24-30)
Does this not sound familiar?
Ultimately, I do believe that the governmental authorities that exist are ordained by God. This is true for Donald Trump, but it was true of Barack Obama as well, and for whoever wins the next presidential election, and all the ones after that.
God is working out His purposes in the world throughout history, but His plans are not our plans. He may even give us the kings we want, even if it means we are rejecting God in the process.
The election of Donald Trump is not necessarily an endorsement by God of those things we want. It might even mean that we have rejected God and want a king. I fear that we didn’t get what God wanted, but what we wanted, and we will experience the backlash of it. But, then, God knows that too. I hope that I am wrong about Donald Trump, but, either way, I am confident that God is at work despite us.
We should not forget that God works out all things together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) We see this even in the story of Saul:
“Then all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.’ Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.'” (1 Samuel 12:19-22″
Though we may fail (and we will), we must continue to pray, confess and repent of our sins and always return to God, who is the author and finisher of our faith. He is working in us as we try to work out our salvation as we do it with fear and trembling (honoring God and earnestly seeking Him).