Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t tell us how to vote. I know it’s a shocker that a 2,000-year-old text has little to say on modern American politics, but if you’re an undecided voter who wants to know which candidate to support in November, you’re probably not going to find an answer in this column, or in scripture for that matter.
The Bible does however have a lot to say about authority and where are leaders should look for guidance. Like politicians today, many rulers in the Old Testament used advisors for their administration, and one particular story in the book of Daniel reveals how God used a political advisor to demonstrate what makes a good leader.
Daniel 4 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful ruler of Babylon who had conquered Israel. One night, the king had a terrifying dream where he was a large tree that provided shelter and food for many animals. Then there was a loud voice that said to cut down the tree and bind the stump of the tree with shackles. The voice also said for him to be covered in dew and to let his mind be like the mind of an animal. Then finally it said, “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all the kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’”
The king asks his advisors to tell him what his dream means. Nobody can, except Daniel, a wise Jewish man, who tells Nebuchadnezzar his dream is a message from The Most High, the God of the conquered people of Israel. The message is that unless the king bows his knee to acknowledge the Jewish God and becomes a more just ruler, he will be driven away to live with animals and eat grass like cattle. Daniel tells him his power will only be restored if he acknowledges his authority comes from God, but the king disregards Daniel’s advice and continues to rule with arrogance.
Soon after, Nebuchadnezzar lost not only his power, but also his sanity. The dream came true and suddenly the once glorious and powerful king went mad and began living in the countryside like an animal, eating grass and sleeping outside. It wasn’t until he recognized God as the true ruler and giver of authority that Nebuchadnezzar’s power and sanity was restored.
The story doesn’t end here. After Nebuchadnezzer, Babylon is ruled by his grandson, Belshazzar, who is arrogant like his grandfather. He lives in pride and refuses to honor the Most High. When the Persians surround Babylon and are about to attack, Belshazzar is so self confident, he throws a big party to taunt the Persians. He not only mocks them, he starts mocking the Gods of all the nations Babylon has conquered, including the God of Israel. It was a way of telling the Persians, “You and your gods are next.”
Have you ever used the phrase, “The writing is on the wall?” Well, what happens next is where the phrase comes from. In the middle of this party put on to mock God, a hand appears and literally starts writing an indecipherable message on the wall. Racked with fear from what he just saw, Belshazzar calls his grandfather’s old trusted advisor back out of retirement to interpret the words of this mysterious hand.
The message isn’t good. Daniel tells Balshazzar that because of his arrogance, he will be stripped of his throne like his Grandfather, but this time it’s permanent. That very night, the Persians overtook Babylon and the king was executed.
What we can take away from this story can definitely apply to our president and political leaders. It can also apply to us and every day people in seemingly inconsequential roles of leadership. The lesson taught to a king of a powerful empire can also apply to a teacher, a parent or a boss.
The first thing to remember is that God is sovereign over any authority of men and gives authority temporarily to anyone He wishes. This means that those in authority are stewards of what inherently belongs to God and we are always accountable to him for the way we use that authority.
Whether you run a country, manage a few people or just take care of your own family, looking to God as the source of all authority will change the way you treat those you lead. When you realize that any position of power you have actually belongs to God, you’ll have no choice to but to lead others with humility, compassion and fairness.
If you are in leadership and have the courage to recognize Him as The Most High and that He allows you to lead those you lead, you will begin to see them differently. You will realize you are accountable to God for how you lead them. You are here for their sake, not your own. In that moment, when you realize you are accountable, you will become a different, a more humble and just leader. So whether you are leading two people, or 2 million people, you will become a better leader when you recognize that your power is on loan.
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.