"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!"
In His Word, God instructs us concerning our response to governing authorities. We owe much to those who rule over us, but our trust is not included in that list. Scripture speaks of faithful believers who, even at great risk to themselves, placed their trust firmly in the Lord instead of trusting earthly rulers.
When King Hezekiah of Judah failed to pay the tribute required of him, the king of Assyria sent his army to Jerusalem. The Assyrian commander mocked Hezekiah's reliance on Egypt as a political ally and ridiculed the Israelite king for trusting in God. The commander asked, "On what do you rest this trust of yours?" (2 Kings 18:19b). When God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace, the Babylonian king was astonished at God's power and the rightly placed trust of the three smoke-free young men. The king praised the God of Israel, who "delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king's command" (Daniel 3:28b). When the apostles were forbidden to proclaim the Good News of the risen Christ, they, like Hezekiah and the three young men in Babylon, knew in whom they must place their trust. Peter and the apostles said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29b).
We too must answer the question asked by the Assyrian commander: "On what do you rest this trust of yours?" We know that we are often tempted to make idols of rulers and elected officials, but we must not worship them! The governing authorities "have been instituted by God" (Romans 13:1b), and we are told to be subject to them and to give them the obedience, respect, honor—and taxes—owed to them (see Romans 13:1-10, 1 Peter 2:13-17).
We give to rulers what we owe them, but we are not to put our ultimate trust in them: "It is better to take refuge in the LORD, than to trust in princes" (Psalm 118:9). Earthly rulers provide help in earthly matters, but in spiritual, eternal matters, their counsels are vain and useless. Only Jesus can help us "at life's last portal" because He crossed that portal Himself, suffering death and rising to life to overcome sin, death, and Satan, the powers of evil that sought to rule over us. No earthly ruler has done that for us! On what—or whom—does our trust rest? Our hymn gives us the answer: "Since mortals can no help afford, place all your trust in Christ our Lord!"
WE PRAY: Lord Jesus, I want to be a good citizen, but I place my trust in You in life and death. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "Praise the Almighty," which is number 797 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Do you find it hard to trust God in difficult situations? If so, why?
2. How can our faithfulness to God impact the attitudes of those who don't believe in Him?
3. How can obeying "God rather than men" simplify our lives?
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