Since 1956 the official motto of the United States of America has been “In God We Trust,” and the phrase has appeared on our currency since the mid-1860s. But as a pastor of mine once said, someone can tell us what they believe, but a review of their checkbook or calendar will show us what they actually believe. That is as true for countries as it is individuals. What do you believe in? What do we believe in?
It surprised me to realize one of my favorite stops in Israel was the archeological tel known popularly as Ancient Shiloh. It is the very spot where the Tabernacle of God stood for more than 350 years before moving to Jerusalem. It is the spot where Hannah brought her son Samuel, and dedicated him to the service of God.
It is where the people later came to Samuel, rejecting the system of self-governance God had given them and demanding he establish a monarchy – despite severe warnings from God Himself.
The people of God decided, as you can read in 1 Samuel 8, to put their trust in a big, secular, man-devised government. We’ve been making the same mistake ever since.
In so many real and practical ways, all of Western civilization’s governing mistakes and missteps are traced to that rejection of God’s practical provision of self-governance.
Those warnings from God came to fruition over the next several decades for those people at that time, and they have been with us ever since. There is never any profit to be found in trading out God’s wisdom for the baubles of the world.
The Psalmist – who was very likely Israel’s second king, David – grappled with being a king as surely as he grappled with his own painful awareness of his inadequacy and sin. He knew his kingdom would fade, but that God’s would last forever.
In Psalm 146:3-7 we find:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.
There is truly nothing new under the sun, as David’s son Solomon would later write. Then as now, we find too many people casting their hopes and fears on the personalities of politicians, rather than the eternal God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
True justice – peace and mercy – is found with the Creator of the Universe, not self-serving politicians.
Just as we cannot trust government agencies to save us, neither can we outsource our governing responsibilities to corruptible politicians. To protect our public servants from corruption, we must limit the fearsome power available to them. That was wrapped up in the practical wisdom of God’s design for self-governance. Our nation’s Founding Fathers believed strictly limiting the size and scope of the government to be a design feature; our current generation has treated it as a bug.
The God who made us in His image calls us to be a self-governing people. That starts by trusting in Him not just with our words, but by our actions.