God's Voting Record

A survey of great rulers in the Bible produces few “good” options. Even the best have major flaws that might have led us to cast our vote against them. But amazingly, God chose them. It’s amazing to see who God held his figurative nose to endure, for the sake of what God knew they could achieve.

What do you do with Samson? How can God use a sex addict? All he had going for him was Chairman Mao’s famous requirement for political power. To make matters worse, he led like a lone ranger. His tribe actually tied him up and surrendered him to Israel’s arch enemies to maintain peace with them. Would we have voted for Samson, or would we have surrendered him to our enemies?

True, Samson accomplished little in terms of deliverance. Yet the Bible seems to view him the way that Lincoln viewed Grant, after demands for Lincoln to fire Grant after the disastrous Battle of Shiloh. Lincoln reportedly said, “I cannot spare this man. He fights!” Sometimes, pushback may be better than failure to take action. Here in Israel’s history, God reportedly wanted pushback.

What about David? David had more against him than his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. His lies in 1 Samuel 20 caused the deaths of 85 priests. After the king of Moab takes in David’s parents as refugees from Saul, David returns the favor by making a large unspecified number of Moabite soldiers lie down on the ground and executing them. David treats his ten concubines heartlessly after they were sexually assaulted by Absalom (2 Samuel 20:3). And he takes Michal away from her second husband (who follows her weeping for miles), only to freeze her out of his bedroom (2 Samuel 3:14-16; 6:20-23). If the Bible did not give us the not-so-obvious information that David was a man after God’s own heart, I might throw him on the dungpile of holy history.

A vote for David must ignore a lot of dirt. At times, he does display an honestly passionate love for God. Unlike Samson, he was able to deliver the knockout punch to Israel’s toughest enemy, and was able to transform tiny Israel into a temporary world power. That takes uncommon leadership. But I find David’s character to be like a partly rotten orange, with good and bad sections. Can we eat such an orange?

The best leaders in Israelite government (with comparatively little dirt) were Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah – three, in 500 years! Add Deborah (Judge Judy of 1150 BC) if you like, and perhaps Uzziah and Jotham, but rarely do we find an effective leader on the ballot in the Bible who does not have serious moral deficiencies.

Then there’s Cyrus king of Persia, a pagan whom Isaiah 45:1 calls God’s “messiah”! Yes, it takes a real leader to knock Babylon out of power. And yes, Cyrus orders YHWH’s temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt. But Cyrus does so for over half a dozen foreign temples. Like a slick politician, he puts in a good word with everyone’s god, hoping to get divine help wherever he can get it. But in case he sounds insincere, the Bible says that he puts his money where his mouth is. He completely bankrolls the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. (Ezra 6:3-5, funded in full by Darius in Ezra 6:6-12.)

Let no one confuse Cyrus with God’s ultimate Messiah. But God says that even though he was a pagan, he was God’s anointed choice for the limited task to which he was assigned.

Imagine what lousy choices God’s people would have been stuck with if they’d had the privilege of voting for their leaders in Roman times! I have already explored what that would have looked like in my 2018 post in Biblical Words and World.

The scandal here is that God voted for leaders who had hideous dirt that God was amazingly willing to overlook, in order to achieve outcomes that God thought were more important.

How does that translate into the options on today’s ballot? Do gaps in character make a candidate unable to lead in the direction God wants? Does sterling morality necessarily translate into the ability to achieve results where needed? Who will do the most to help the poor with more than virtue signaling? Who is more likely to add to, or resolve, the moral confusion of our times? Who can best fulfill the purpose laid down for secular government in Romans 13: to be a terror not to good conduct, but to bad?

God made some baffling choices in political leaders. In many cases, those choices were different than the kind of people God taught us to choose as church leaders.