"Trust not in rulers; they are but mortal; Earthborn they are and soon decay. Vain are their counsels at life's last portal, When the dark grave engulfs its prey. Since mortals can no help afford, Place all your trust in Christ, our Lord. Alleluia, alleluia!"
"Trust not in rulers." In view of the political and military conflicts raging across the globe, would you agree with that advice? The hymn's wise counsel is taken from Psalm 146:3, "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation." We are not to place ultimate trust in earthly rulers, but not because of any particular political views they might hold, or because of their leadership skills or lack thereof.
We are not to trust earthborn princes because, as the hymn reminds us, "they are but mortal." Many rulers serve well; they enforce laws and protect their citizens. We are to be subject to the governing authorities, giving "respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Romans 13:7b). But we are not to place ultimate faith in them because those authorities "are but mortal." At some point they are going to die. Earthly rulers may defeat opponents in the political arena or on the battlefield, but they cannot conquer death—for themselves or for others. "Vain are their counsels at life's last portal, when the dark grave engulfs its prey." Earthly rulers are powerful, but their power extends only so far. When it comes down to death, they are no help at all.
Where do we turn for answers when faced with the big questions of life, questions of death and life—eternal life? "Since mortals can no help afford, place all your trust in Christ, our Lord." According to Psalm 146, our Lord reigns with authority and power that no earthly ruler could ever command. Our Lord "executes justice" and "gives food to the hungry." He sets prisoners free and gives the blind sight. He upholds the widows and fatherless. His reign will endure forever, a claim some earthly leaders may make but can never fulfill.
Only our mighty Prince, our Lord Christ, can help us "at life's last portal," because He too once crossed death's threshold, suffering the penalty of death for our sins. The "dark grave" engulfed Him, as it swallows earthly rulers, as it will swallow all of us. But then our Lord did what no earthbound leader could ever do. He shattered death's prison and rose from the dead! Elected earthly leaders do not always keep their promises, but the Lord in whom we place our trust has promised that because He lives, we too will live. When we come to life's last portal, our Prince will be waiting there to lead us through to eternal life.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, bless our earthly leaders. Grant them wisdom to make just decisions. Rule over us with Your love and grace and power until we reach life's last portal. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Praise the Almighty," which is found on page 797 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Who was the last significant politician or world leader you were sorry to see die?
2. How does your view of life differ now from when you were younger?
3. How do you balance believing in or standing behind a leader and placing your trust in God?
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