A Blessing for the Tsar

ABlessingForTheTsarThe American political scene is an absolute circus, and the public is eating it up. The frontrunners of this country’s two biggest political parties have repeatedly proven themselves to be habitual liars whose perception of reality can be most generously described as “flexible.”

It’s terrifying. I’m legitimately terrified of how this election is going to turn out, because instead of voters everywhere demanding that their respective parties provide candidates of a higher moral caliber (for instance, ones who haven’t been routinely caught in flagrant, shameless acts of deception) Americans everywhere are buying tickets and popcorn and enjoying the show.

These are candidates I’m honestly not sure I would trust to take my order at a fast food chain, and the general public is attempting to install them at the helm of the United States of America—a country, it should be noted, in possession of a nuclear arsenal capable of starting World War III.

It’s unreal. I can’t begin to wrap my mind around it. I can only imagine this is how Samuel felt after explaining to Israel how much worse life would be with a king, only to hear them cry out in defiance, “No, but we will have a king over us!” (1 Samuel 8:19).

And so they did.

Samuel warned them, “And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18), but it didn’t matter. They wanted what they wanted, no matter the consequences—and that’s exactly what they got. After leading his people out of slavery, through the wilderness, and into a land of milk and honey, God remarked to Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).

If that isn’t the picture of America in 2016, I don’t know what is.

I don’t vote. I know some people look at that and believe it makes me part of the problem—that if only I and other people like me would exercise our right to vote, things would be different.

I doubt that, somehow. I suspect that God will install the leader He wants over America, just as He installed the king He wanted over Israel. And I further suspect that I have no idea who that leader is, because “the Lord does not see as man sees” (1 Samuel 16:7). I don’t know God’s plan for this specific moment in world history, I don’t believe I’m qualified to guess, and I know He doesn’t need my vote to bring it about.

There is, however, something I do need to be doing—something we all need to be doing—and I’ll admit that up until now I’ve done a remarkably poor job of it.

In the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof, one the townspeople ask the rabbi, “Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?” The rabbi replies, “A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!”

It’s funny. It’s a gag to make the audience laugh—but it’s also Biblical. Paul wrote to Timothy, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). In other words, pray for those in authority… to leave us alone.

The political scene is shifting, shifting, shifting. Christianity—and even pretending to be Christian—are no longer in vogue. People are done pretending. Even the watered-down, mainstream varieties are falling out of the public’s good graces, so people like us who insist on unchanging, immutable standards for right and wrong are quickly becoming intolerable to those who claim to be champions of tolerance.

Persecution is coming. We’re promised that. We are not of the world, and the world hates us for it. Are you praying for your leaders? Are you beseeching God on their behalf, that you may live “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”?

I’m not. I need to be, but I haven’t been. It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around the need for such a prayer. I’ve grown up in a country where persecution for my beliefs was never an issue—at least, not really. But the Bible talks about “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” during which “the power of the holy people [will be] completely shattered” (Daniel 12:1, 7).

Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:32). God is going to hand the reins of this country to whoever He wants. I don’t have much say in that process, but I do know this: If I’m not praying for whoever that leader is—if I’m not petitioning God on their behalf—then I’m falling short of Paul’s exhortation. I need to be praying for them both as a person and as a leader fulfilling an office that God (and we) ought to take seriously.

And I think that’s the crux of this whole thing. This election isn’t about us installing the candidate most qualified to lead our country. This is about God installing the candidate most qualified to move His plan forward. Those two qualifications are not one and the same. What we need to be praying about is how God allows His people to function under that candidate’s leadership.

That should be our focus. “Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks,” no matter how difficult that last item may prove to be. Why? “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

God and God alone can open the right doors for the Church to do her work, and in that sense, it doesn’t matter who’s elected. There will never be a leader who can prevent God from empowering His Church to do the work He called her to do. But we still need to be praying that God will open those doors, remembering that God desires all people to understand the truth and attain salvation—even, one day, the very candidates who today stand in stark opposition to His word and His way.

Until then, though, let’s be very purposeful in our prayers.

May God bless and keep Tsar*.

Until next time,

*a convenient distance away from us.

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