Stephen Stills wrote the lyrics to the folksy 1970 tune, “Love the One You’re With,” and his buddies David Crosby and Graham Nash provided the background vocals. At the time hippie culture took the lyrics literally as an anthem for free love. As a motto for a Christian, though, “love the one you’re with” doesn’t apply to sex- that’s not the kind of love we’re trying to sow here- but the line keeps running through my head when I think about our new president.
This time last week most of America was eagerly anticipating the end of the grueling 2016 election cycle. One of the few things both sides had in common was an eagerness to get it over with; one of the few things both sides share now is utter surprise at the outcome. Although Clinton and Trump were the most disliked candidates in history- I think we can actually trust the polls on that, if nothing else- one of them had to win. So here we are. As Christians we are commanded to pray for our leaders, and really, it is in our own best interest to pray for our president, no matter who it is.
In searching for Scripture to pray for our president-elect, I read about the lives of several kings who ruled over Israel. What I saw there confirmed the verse which says “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord…” (Proverbs 21:1) Throughout history God has worked through rulers both wicked and wonderful to accomplish His purposes, so we have great reason to believe He will do the same in contemporary America. For example, take a look at Cyrus the Great, who allows the Jews to return and rebuild a decimated Jerusalem. He not only encourages them, he actually gives back all the plunder his predecessor had stolen from the temple when the Jews were captured originally. (see Ezra 1, Isaiah 45:1-7) Cyrus is a pagan and a warrior who spends most of his career expanding his empire, but in spite of this he is also God’s “anointed,” and through him God accomplishes the restoration of His people to their homeland and their temple. (Isaiah 45:1)
God seeks to establish relationships with every human being, so kings, rulers and presidents are no exception. When Solomon becomes king of Israel he has a remarkable encounter with the God he already loves. (1 Kings 3:3) God comes to him in a dream, saying “Ask! What shall I give you?” Solomon replies:
You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before you in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on this throne… Now O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king… but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” 1 Kings 3:6-9
Unbelievable humility coming from a young man who has lived his life in a palace. Solomon gratefully recognizes God’s blessing on his family, giving God all the credit for their prosperity. He knows he is only king because God made him so (David had many sons), and Solomon calls himself a “little child,” acknowledging how ill-prepared he is for such weighty responsibility. Furthermore, he is daunted by the fact that this nation isn’t just any old ragtag group- he now leads God’s chosen people. His reverence for God and the job he’s been given leads him to ask for wisdom and understanding, and God is so pleased with Solomon’s heart that He gives Solomon riches and honor so glorious that there will never be another king like him (v.12).
Sound like our recently elected president? Hmmm. Not so much. This fellow might sound a little more familiar: “Is this not the great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
That would be Nebuchadnezzar, one of the kings Daniel serves. Keep in mind the king says these words after he has already witnessed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walk through the fiery furnace unharmed. They had refused to worship the golden statue (of himself) the king had erected, and Nebuchadnezzar is impressed by their faith and their God, but not impressed enough to abandon his pride. So God sends the king a dream, which Daniel interprets to mean that Nebuchanezzar will be struck with madness for seven years. God even gives him twelve months to repent, but when Nebuchanezzar utters those words in the verse above, God allows the fulfillment of the dream. He is driven out of Babylon to live like an animal for seven years.
Now things get interesting. As Paul Harvey used to say, here is “the rest of the story.” Let’s go back to our humble king. Solomon wrote three books of the Bible, including Proverbs, the compendium of his wisdom. Song of Songs also demonstrates this wisdom, as he explores the metaphor of sex and romantic married love as it illuminates Jesus’s love for His church. But Solomon also wrote Ecclesiastes, perhaps the most mournful book in the Bible: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (2:17) Solomon’s deep wisdom has not saved him from his own foolishness. The once-humble king marries literally hundreds of foreign women and allowed them to bring idol worship to Israel, and at the end of his life God tells him the kingdom will split because of Solomon’s idolatry. (11:1-13)
On the other hand, Nebuchadnezzer finishes strong. When his wits return, the king is a changed man, fully understanding Who God is and his own relationship to Him: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will…” (Daniel 4: 34-35) He has learned what Solomon once knew and forgot: that God is holy, the Giver of all good gifts, and our only suitable relationship to Him is humble love, worship and gratitude. “Now I, Nebuchanezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (v.37)
Albert Einstein once said, “It is a tragic mistake for those in power to think that they are in control.” God gives a measure of power, but He retains sovereign control over the course of history as well as every individual life. Our good Father was not one bit surprised by the results of our election. America has not succeeded in derailing His plan for us. No matter what I think I might know or be able to predict about our president-elect, I cannot know how God will use him. Solomon looked like a great king, but his habits led to the division of his kingdom; Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus did not initially worship God, but they came to know Him and He used them mightily.
Donald Trump is a sinner in need of a savior- just like me, just like you. Jesus died for Donald Trump as surely as He died for anyone else. In light of this truth, we follow Paul’s instructions:
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority [presidents, their cabinets, Congress and our courts] so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
So this what it means to “love the one we’re with:” pray for Donald Trump. Allow God to change and mold your heart as you talk with Him about our leaders. Wait eagerly to see what He will do, because you are praying to “Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!” (Ephesians 3:20)
Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. Exodus 14:13