America’s Hope

Stephen Rummage 2 Chronicles, Sermons

There’s a great book called “How Should Christians Vote” written by Pastor Tony Evans.  If you’ve never read that book, I’d encourage you to take a look at it.  You might even want to look at it this week, Tony Evan’s “How Should Christians Vote.”

At the beginning of that book, he addresses and affirms the Bible’s sufficiency in every area of life.  And he begins just by making an observation that I’ll just sort of put it in my own words: If your personal life was in shambles – things were just going on in your life, and you just couldn’t put things together – and you came to me as your pastor, you would want me to listen to you, but then to take the Bible, to take the Word of God and to show you how the Word of God addresses your personal life.  That’s what you would expect.

The same thing is true in your family.  If your family was messed up, if you were having trouble with your marriage or with your kids, and you came to me as your pastor, you would want me to listen, but then to open up the Word of God and show you what the Word of God has to say about your family.  And then if there were problems in a church – you know, every now and then pastors and people from other churches or people from this church will contact me and say, “Pastor, we’re having problems in the church.  We just don’t understand some things that are going on.”  Well, again, you would want me to listen and then open the Word of God and show you what the Word of God says.

But what about when our nation is in shambles?  What about when we need an answer for the moral and social and economic mess that our, our nation is in?  You know, so many times, instead of coming to the Bible, we go to another book.  We go to another source.  We want something else, or someone else to address the issues of our nation.  I want you to hear what Tony Evans writes.  He says, “Will Scripture is good enough for individuals, families, and churches, it seems that somehow it has been deemed insufficient for how we respond to politics and government.”  I would tell you the same thing Tony Evans would say.  This book is sufficient for every area of life.  It’s sufficient for our personal life, it’s sufficient for family life, it’s sufficient for church life, and it’s sufficient for our national life.

I got an email from someone recently who said, “I don’t think the church should say anything at all about political issues.”  And you know, on the surface, I can understand that.  I mean, I don’t want to go to a church that seems like a political rally every Sunday.  And I don’t want to be a pastor who sounds like a spokesman for a candidate or a party.  But if we believe that God cares about our nation, and He does; and if we believe that God is paying attention to what is happening in our nation, and He is; then we should consider what His Word has to say when national issues intersect with Biblical truth. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

So I’m asking you to look with me today at a passage of Scripture that is probably going to be unfamiliar to you. But it’s a very important passage.  It’s a very important passage historically in the United States.  And I’ll talk about that at the end of the message.  But I want you to look with me in 1 Chronicles – actually 2 Chronicles, chapter 13.  Will you stand with me as we prepare to read God’s Word together?

2 Chronicles, chapter 13 tells about something that was happening in the life of God’s people.  The people of Israel had divided into two nations.  There was the southern kingdom of Judah, then there was the northern kingdom of Israel.  They were not only divided, but they were fighting against one another.  In fact, in 2 Chronicles, chapter 13, the armies of Israel were coming to attack the armies of Judah.  So what we’re going to read is just one verse of Scripture where the King of Judah is addressing the armies of Israel, and warning them not to fight against the Lord, their God.  Notice what the Bible says in 2 Chronicles, chapter 13, verse 12.  The Bible says this.

Behold, God is with us at our head, and His priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you.  O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.

This is the Word of God.  Will you join with me as we pray?  Father in heaven, I ask that You would move me out of the way and that You would speak today.  Lord, speak a word for Your people to hear.  Transform our lives today through Your Word.  And God, show us how You would have us walk, what You would have us do in these days as Your people.  For we pray these things in Jesus’ precious Name.  And church, if you agree with that prayer, would you say “amen.”  Amen.  You may be seated.

2 Chronicles 13 tells about something that happens right before the battle.  And I want you to notice three things, very quickly, three things from this passage of Scripture.  We’re going to look at this passage and then I’m going to talk to you, making application of the Word of God, about seven principles for Christian citizens.  But first of all, I want you to notice with me three things in this passage.  First of all, the Bible shows us that the nation of Judah trusted in God.  In this passage of Scripture, Judah, the southern kingdom, was trusting in God.  The Bible says in 2 Chronicles, chapter 13, verse 12, “Behold, God is with us at our head.”  Those were the words of Abijah.  He was the King of Judah.

Now King Abijah was not an especially godly man.  He had some real issues.  Over in 1 Kings, chapter 15, verse 13, the Bible says that Abijah’s heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God.  Most of the time, King Abijah worshipped God and served him; but he wasn’t above bowing down to an idol every now and then and worshipping an idol.  His moral life was messed up in a lot of different ways.  He went to prostitutes.  He had multiple wives.  But even with all of these things, King Abijah still understood that the Lord was his God.  And he understood a basic principle, and that is, only by following God could his nation succeed.

So look at what King Abijah said in verse 12.  He said, “God is with us at our head.”  The word “head” there means “captain or leader, or ruler.”  The King of Judah was saying,  “God is our leader; God is our ruler; God is our captain.  He is the one who is leading us and we are looking to Him.”  And so, the Bible shows us that Judah trusted in God.

A second thing I want you to see in this passage, number two.  On the other hand, the nation of Israel fought against God. Look at the end of verse 12.  There, Abijah’s warning continues.  He says, “O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”  Jeroboam was the king of the northern kingdom, Israel.  He was a wicked king.  Jeroboam had been a servant in King Solomon’s administration.  He was a conniving man.  He had moved up in the government, and then he led a plot to assassinate King Solomon.  That plot failed.  But after Solomon later died, Jeroboam became the king over the ten northern tribes of Israel.  And because he didn’t want his people going to Jerusalem in the south to worship God in the temple, he did something.   For political reasons, he turned away from God.  He built a temple in Bethel, and he built a temple in Dan, and he set up his own priesthood and he put golden calves in both of those worship centers and he called the people of Israel to turn away from the Lord their God and to start worshipping idols. Not only was he fighting against God, he was leading his people to come and fight against the kingdom of Judah.  And so, Abijah gives this warning. He says that, “It is futile for you to fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, because,” notice what he says at the end of the verse, “you cannot succeed.”

The Hebrew word for “succeed” there means “to prosper” or “to thrive.”  It’s a death-knell for any nation, for any individual, for anyone, when we decide to fight against God.  And so the Bible says that Judah trusted in God; it says that Israel fought against God.

I want you to notice with me a third thing.  As a result, God protected Judah.  Even as King Abijah was warning King Jeroboam and his troops, the armies of Israel were circling around the armies of Judah.  They were in the front of them, but they circled around behind them as well, preparing to ambush them.  There were 800,000 Israelite soldiers that attacked 400,000 troops from Judah.  Judah was outnumbered two to one.  But they cried out to God.  They asked God for His help. They faced their enemy, and with God’s power they won.  King Jeroboam, the Bible says, lost 500,000 soldiers.  The Bible gives this evaluation of the battle, down in verse 18 of 2 Chronicles, chapter 13.  The Bible says this, “Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time.  And the men of Judah prevailed because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers.”  Why did God protect Judah?  Was it because they had superior strategy, or manpower, or weaponry?  Not any of those things.  It says that they prevailed because they relied on the Lord.  The word for “relied” there means “to lean on”; it means to rest in something or to rest on something.  Here’s what happened.  The people of Judah leaned on God, and God held them up.

Now, as I was studying this passage this week, it reminded me of some things.  One thing it reminded me of is that a divided nation is not new to God. You know, right now our nation is divided.  People are angry.  People are fighting with one another.  I read an article in the paper this week that says human resources directors across the country are saying there is more volatility in the workplace than ever because of this election. And what’s going on?  We are divided.  God knows what it’s like for a nation to be divided.  He’s been there before.  God knows what it’s like for a nation to have in front of it two really bad choices.  Jeroboam was a bad choice.  Really, Abijah wasn’t a good choice.  This is not new territory for God. But then, as now, a nation’s only hope is not in our power, not in our wisdom, not in what we can do.  A nation’s only hope is in God.  And that’s the bottom line of this message, and I’m starting there today.  America’s hope is in God alone.  So, as believers, we understand we are not in control of what will happen in our nation’s future; we’re not.  But we do have a voice.  We have a voice in the direction of our country, and we have an opportunity and responsibility to be faithful to God as Christian citizens.

With that in mind, from a very practical standpoint, I want to talk to you about seven principles Christian citizens must remember.  I hope you’ll write these down; I hope you’ll put these somewhere.  I’m going to give you a verse of Scripture to support every one of these principles because I’m just opening the Bible to show you what God has to say; seven principles that Christian citizens must remember.

Here’s the first principle.  Don’t lose sight of God’s sovereignty.  In the middle of everything that’s going on, don’t lose sight of God’s sovereignty.  He is in control.  The Bible says in Psalm 103, verse 19, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.”  I’ll promise you something.  God is not running around the halls of heaven wondering what to do about America.  He’s not.  He has an agenda for His kingdom, and He is working, even though things that we don’t like and that God doesn’t like.  God is always working.  He’s working toward the culmination of history.  He’s working toward the return of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He’s working toward the dawn of eternity.  He is working.  He has a plan.  He has a purpose.  He’s in control, and more than that, God has ultimate power to make His purpose succeed.  So don’t lose sight of God’s sovereignty.  I start there because that’s so important for us to understand.

Number two, second principle, don’t neglect the opportunity to vote. You see, some people use the first principle, God’s sovereignty, as an excuse to disengage and do nothing.  They say things like, “Well, you know, our system is just so messed up, I’m not going to vote at all.  I’m just going to put it in God’s hands.”  Can I tell you something?  God’s put it in our hands.  God has sovereignly chosen to put you in a nation where you have a voice, you have a vote, and you can make a difference.  And in fact, the Word of God commands that we be involved.  Jesus commands that.  Over in Matthew, chapter 22, verse 21, Jesus was asked about paying taxes.  And notice what Jesus said.  The Bible says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Jesus said, “Give God what belongs to God, but give Caesar, give the government, the things that belong to the government.”  Now He was talking about taxes, but it has implications for voting, as well.  To give the government what belongs to the government means this, you owe your country your vote.  It’s a responsibility of being a citizen of this country.  And Jesus has commanded that you render what you owe.  So, to say, “Well, you know, God’s in control, so I’m not going to vote,” that’s the same things as saying, “God’s in control, and so I’m not going to work and take care of my family.”  You could use the same logic to say, “I’m not going to work.  God will just take care of my family.”  No, God’s given you a responsibility.  And in this nation, you have the responsibility and privilege of voting.  And so, don’t neglect he opportunity to vote.

Number three, third principle. (Is everybody with me?  Say, “Amen.”) Number three, seek God’s wisdom for your decision.  See God’s wisdom for your decision.  When Solomon became king over Israel, the Bible says he was a young man; he didn’t know what to do.  And God came to him and said, “Solomon, anything you ask Me I will give to you.” The Bible says in 2 Chronicles, chapter 1, verse 10, that Solomon prayed this way, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people.”  Look at the last part.  “For who can govern this people of Yours which is so great?”  King Solomon said, “God, I can’t govern these people.  I don’t know how to make these decisions.  I need Your wisdom.”  Well, in a very real way, your vote is part of your country’s governing process.  So you can pray the same way that Solomon did.  You can get before God and say, “God, I need Your wisdom for how to vote.  I need Your wisdom for how to vote from the top of the election ballot all the way down to the bottom.”  Ask Him to guide you.  Ask Him to guide other believers in this election.  He promises, just like He promised to give wisdom to Solomon, He promises to give you wisdom when you ask.  I already know beyond a shadow of a doubt, God will give you and me wisdom when we ask it, because He’s told us that.  James, chapter 1, verse 5.  He says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  And so, ask for God’s wisdom.  Seek God’s wisdom for your decision.

Principle number four:  vote based on policies, not personalities.  See, a lot of people are asking the wrong question.  A lot of people are asking who should we vote for?  The more important question is, how should we vote?  How should we vote?  In Acts, chapter 5, verse 29, The Bible says, “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.'”  That verse of Scripture tells us that obeying God’s principles is more important than our allegiance or our distaste for any person in leadership.  This nation is greater than any one man or woman.  We have to look past the names on the ballot and ask the question, what issues matter most to our God?  And that brings me to the next principle. And I’m going to camp out on this principle for a while.

Number five.  Stand for the sanctity of human life, biblical marriage, and religious liberty. If we’re thinking about the principles, if we’re thinking about the principles that matter most, stand for the sanctity of human life, biblical marriage, and religious liberty.  The next president will appoint up to five Supreme Court justices.  In the decades to come, the Supreme Court will make legal rulings about marriage, and also decisions affirming or denying the right to life of the unborn, and the religious liberty of tens of millions of evangelical believers. And I want to talk at length about how important the sanctity of human life is, and how important religious liberty is in our country; how important it is as we vote.

God’s Word is clear.  God stands for the sanctity of human life.  Human life, according to Scripture, begins in the womb before birth.  Isaiah 49, verse 1 says this.  This is the word of, the words of Isaiah, his own testimony.  He says this, “The Lord called me from the womb.  From the body of my mother He named my name.”  Then Psalm 139, verse 13, says, “For You formed my inward parts.  You knitted together in my mother’s womb.”  Over one million unborn babies continue to be killed each year.  And like many of you, I’m frustrated when politicians make promises to end abortion, and then allow the deaths of the unborn to continue.  But as followers of Jesus Christ, we still must vote for the rights of innocent unborn babies.  I would stand before you unashamedly and tell you that still should be the most significant issue to us.  And it really outweighs every other issue.  We’re talking about life and death and we’re talking about protecting innocent lives.

You know, recently I had surgery.  And when I was looking for a surgeon, I wanted some things in my surgeon.  I wanted a surgeon who had an office close by so his office would be convenient.  I wanted a surgeon who had a good bedside manner, who would take time with me and explain things to me.  But none of those things were at the top of my list.  At the top of my list, I wanted a surgeon who had a medical degree.  I wanted him to have some training in the surgery he was going to perform on me.  So no matter how much I might have like his bedside manner, or how convenient his offices were, those things were not weighed in the balance against whether or not he had a medical degree.  If he didn’t have a medical degree, he wasn’t an option.

In the same way, because human life is sacred to God, if should not be just another issue that we weigh in the balance with other things.  This isn’t like defense policy or economic policy or anything; this is a first issue.  If the answer’s not right on this, it doesn’t matter what the other answers are.  And so, that is still an issue.  A long time ago, I made a commitment that when I vote, the first question I ask is this:  does this candidate support the sanctity of human life?  Because the Bible is just so clear; the Word of God is so clear.

God’s Word is also clear about religious liberty.  Religious liberty means that government leaves us alone to preach the gospel, to follow Jesus, to tell people about Christ, and to live out our beliefs.  That’s what religious liberty believes, religious liberty is about. And the Bible really talks about that in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 1 and 2.  I want you to notice what Paul wrote.  He says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people; for kings and all who are in high positions.”  Now here’s why. Here’s the reason he said, “I want to make sure we’re praying for everybody, and especially for kings and those who are in high positions:  that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  The reason that Paul tells believers to pray for those in authority is so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.  We need leaders who will protect our liberty as Christians to follow Jesus Christ without restriction.  Religious liberty, freedom of conscience, is under attack in this country.

Several years ago I read a story about  Dr. Eric Walsh, a former member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on HIV and Aids.  A few years ago, around 2014, Dr. Walsh accepted a job as a district health director in Georgia.  Now Dr. Walsh is a devout Christian, and he occasionally preaches in his church and other churches in his spare time.  When officials from the Georgia Public Health Department listened to some of Dr. Walsh’s sermons, they fired him.  They left a voicemail, and they fired him.  And what they didn’t know was that the voicemail system had not hung up, and you can hear them laughing about firing them, firing him after they fired him via voicemail.  As part of an ongoing lawsuit, the state of Georgia demanded that Dr. Walsh turn over his sermon notes and his preaching Bible.  Thankfully, after public outcry, the request for him to turn in those materials was withdrawn.  But make no mistake: religious liberty increasingly is at risk in this country.

You say, “Well, what was he preaching about?”  Can I tell you something?  It really doesn’t matter what he was preaching about.  He was preaching about things that were deemed politically incorrect.  He was talking about what the Word of God has to say about human sexuality and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, and those kinds of things.  But religious liberty means that government leaves us alone to follow Jesus, teach the Word of God, and tell people about Christ.  And how we vote can affect whether we have the freedom to teach the truth of God’s Word, and to share the gospel with others.  And so, remember to stand for the sanctity of human life and biblical marriage and religious liberty.

Number six.  Pray, pray, and then pray some more. I’m putting this near the end of my list, but praying for our nation should be our first response as followers of Jesus.  Pray, pray, and then pray some more.  2 Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14 says this, “If my people,” this is God speaking, “If My people who are called by My name humbler themselves, and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  Now that promise was given to Israel, but it has implications for God’s people today. Then, as now, the key to God’s blessing on our nation, or any nation, is prayer.  And God wants us to do more than say “amen” to prayer.  God wants us to do more than just to affirm that we think prayer is important.  Prayer only becomes powerful when you pray.  We listen to everybody and everything.  We talk about the issues that are going on to our families and to our friends.  We argue; can I tell you something?  The power for change is in none of those places.  The power for change, supernatural change, spiritual change, for this nation or any nation, comes when God’s people turn to God in prayer.

A friend of mine told me about a time that he was hosting a well-known pastor who was preaching in his city.  This pastor was very old; he was nearly blind.  And in the hotel, as that old man got ready to go out, my friend could hear this pastor sort of mumbling underneath his breath.  And my friend said, “Doc, are you trying to tell me something?”  The old preacher said, “No, I’m just praying about what I need to wear today.”  They got to a restaurant, and as the old preacher looked at the menu, he was mumbling again.  My friend asked, “Doc, is everything okay?”  The old preacher said, “I’m just praying about what I should order.”  It was like all week.  Near the end of the week, my friend asked the old preacher; he said, “Doc, I’m young and I’m just starting out.  Could you give me some advice?  Just tell me anything; just tell me something.” The old man leaned in close to him, and said, “Okay, here it is.  You ready?”  He said, “Yes.”  He said, “Pray about everything.”

Yesterday I told my wife that story.  To be honest with you, at first we both thought it was a little bit too much to pray about what to wear or what to order at a restaurant.  Then we went out to eat lunch yesterday, and in the afternoon Michele looked at me and said, “I’m not feeling that well.  Do you feel okay?” I said, I said, “I’m not.  I feel awful.” And Michele laughed and said, “We should have prayed before we ordered.”

Whether or not you should pray over your menu or your clothing choices, I promise you this, we need to pray for our nation.  We need to pray for our election.  We need to pray for our leaders.  Too often, we say prayer changes things.  And then we act like politics can change everything.  We need to pray.  So pray for our president.  Pray for our presidential candidates.  Pray for other leaders, and other candidates.  Pray for them to be redeemed and transformed by the gospel. Pray.  Pray for them to make wise decisions that will honor God.  God can turn the hearts, even of those who don’t know Him or acknowledge Him.  He can do that.  Pray for God to put counselors around them who follow Jesus.  I would challenge you, every day between now and the election to get, physically get on your knees somewhere in your house every day between now and election.  Just get before God and pray.  Pray, pray, and then pray some more.

Number seven. Remember that Jesus is always our ultimate hope.  Always.  Psalm 33, verse 12, says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage.” God has forever settled this issue.  A nation is blessed whose God is the Lord.  When we look to Him, we’ll have hope.  When we look away from Him, it becomes hopeless. And even if a nation abandons God, God will still bless individuals who make Him their Lord.  We place our hopes in a political candidate, our hopes are misplaced.  Whether our candidate wins or loses, your hopes are misplaced if you’re looking to a man or a woman.  Humans will fail us.  And our disappointment can turn into despair when we forget that our only hope is in Jesus Christ.  Remember than Jesus is always our ultimate hope.

It was March of 1775.  His name was Reverent William Emerson.  He was 32 years old.  He wound up becoming the grandfather of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. But William Emerson was the pastor of a congregation in Concord, Massachusetts.  For a long time, he really wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around him beyond his community.  He thought about the needs of his congregation, and he preached the message of Jesus Christ, and that’s what he was focused on.  But in March of that year, William Emerson learned that spies had infiltrated his town, and that they had informed British General Thomas Gage about a group of American patriots known as the Sons of Liberty.  Many in Concord believed that General Gage was planning an attack, and they feared for their lives.  On March 13, Pastor Emerson stood before his people, including members of that militia, the minutemen, and he preached a sermon to the people of his town.  It was the most momentous sermon he had ever delivered.  He was wrestling with this question: what was God’s Word for his people that day? Pastor Emerson climbed the steps of the pulpit and he opened his Bible to 2 Chronicles, chapter 13, verse 12, and he read, “Behold, God is with us at our head.  O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”  Never would he deliver a more serious message.  Many in attendance would be called upon to make real sacrifice.  And the question was, were they ready?  As he preached, Emerson reminded them that real readiness depended not on skill or weapons, but moral and spiritual resolve.  The road ahead would be difficult.  To be successful, he told them, patriots had to hope in God’s power and God’s power alone to uphold them.  Otherwise, they would scatter in fear.

A month later, April 19, 1775, 800 British troops marched on Concord to destroy the patriots’ supplies.  Warned by Paul Revere, militiamen rushed to defend their town.  And Reverend William Emerson arrived first.  A shot was fired – that famed shot heard round the world – and in the moments that followed, three Americans and twelve British soldiers were killed or wounded.  America’s war for independence had begun.  American patriots fought valiantly.  Courageous in the truth of God’s Word that still stands today, and that truth is, “our hope is in the Lord.”

And today, I just want to remind you that in the middle of everything we’re in, some will trust in God, some will fight against God, but God will protect and prosper those who place their hopes in Him.  So let’s vote what the Bible tells us to vote. Let’s seek God’s will and God’s wisdom.  Let’s pray, pray, and then pray some more.  Because when we place our hope in God, His hope never disappoints.

Stephen Rummage is Senior Pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida