As we enter the final stages of the 2020 Presidential Election, I can’t help but be reminded of the kings of the Old Testament. These kings that we see in the Old Testament are every bit as human, flawed, and complex as the two men fighting for your vote on November 3rd. I believe that through the study of these kings we might gain insight into where we ought to place our hope this election season.
The kingship of Israel, and subsequently the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel, comes from the people’s desire to have a king. After the sons of the prophet Samuel prove to be unfit for service as judges over Israel, the nation’s elders gather and agree that they want a king to rule over them, as the surrounding nations do. The elders make their request to Samuel, who is greatly displeased. Samuel consults the Lord, and the Lord tells him to grant the people their request. The Lord makes clear that the people’s desire for a king has nothing to do with Samuel himself, but rather the people have rejected God as their ultimate authority and wish to submit to an earthly king rather than their creator. God then commands Samuel to warn the people of the oppressive ways in which the king will rule, but this does not change the people’s hearts. The Lord grants their request for a king. With great expectations, Saul is anointed the first king of Israel.
Though the beginning of Saul’s rule can be characterized as “good”, Saul quickly fails to live up to the expectations of a king. He is replaced by David, who once again fails to live up to the expectations of a righteous king. He sleeps with Bathsheba and then murders her husband to cover up his sin. The pattern of kings failing to live up to what we expect of them continues throughout the Old Testament. One after another we see kings whose unfaithfulness is indicative of the unfaithfulness of God’s people as a whole.
Finally, in 2 Kings 22, we are introduced to King Josiah. He rules with far greater righteousness than his predecessors. However, his rule is cut short when he dies in battle at Megiddo. Once again, our expectations are unmet and all we are left with is a dead king. Just when we think we have a king who will finally be the one to live up to our expectations, he is cut down. Yet, out of this stump that has been cut down, the “shoot of Jesse” will rise. (Isaiah 11:1) Jesus Christ comes and is the one true King who does not fail to live up to our expectations. In fact, in the exact moment where we believe that once again a king has fallen short, he exceeds our expectations and rises from the grave to conquer sin and death and lay claim to his Kingdom.
In the exact moment where we believe that once again a king has fallen short, Jesus exceeds our expectations and rises from the grave to conquer sin and death and lay claim to his Kingdom.
How does this relate to our current political climate? I am not advocating that we do nothing and watch this election from the sidelines. I firmly believe that we as Christians ought to exercise our political rights. I believe that as Christians we must vote based on ethics formed by the word of God. Nevertheless, I believe that through the biblical narrative of the failed kings of the Old Testament and the one true King of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we should never place our hope in a human king, president, or ruler. It can be easy to believe the lie that unless we vote a certain way or unless a particular candidate wins, all hope is lost. However, instead of placing our hope in elections and politicians, we must place our hope in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. When things in our political climate seem unsure, we know that as the people of God our ultimate fate has been purchased by King Jesus, and he holds our fate secure until the day that he returns to rule over his people forever in the new creation.
“There will come a ruler
Whose brow is laid in thorn
Smeared with oil like David’s boy
Oh-lei, Oh-lai, Oh Lord”The Oh Hellos