"Hope Not in Politicians"#83-51
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 21, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:How Do You Trust in the Lord and Lean Not on Your Own Understanding?)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Isaiah 31:1-3
Listen to the sermon by Dr. Hoffmann, originally aired November 10, 1968
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord! And yet he is wise and brings disaster, he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together (Isaiah 31:1-3 RSV).
Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah!
Put three men together on a desert island and it won't be long before they are holding elections and organizing themselves for living together. Either that will happen or one of them will try to gain dominance over the other two in any way he can, organizing things as he sees fit. Man is political and he can't get away from it.
Probably never before in the history of the world have people been so aware of politics and politicians as they are today. More people have more opportunities today to take part in direct elections than at any other time in world history. Furthermore, people everywhere have seen how power can be exerted if enough of them get together and express their opinions. The development of transportation and communication has made politics almost an international game played by people within nations and by whole nations within the family of nations.
At the center of this picture, then, is the politician. He is the newsmaker. Millions of people watch as he or she raises their arms in triumphant gestures in response to a cheering crowd. They can become the center of an emotional frenzy, either for good or for ill. They are the people on whom the average person pins their hopes and their dreams.
In fact, if you ask people today to list the ten most important people who come immediately to their minds, that list will consist mostly of politicians-not scientists, not educators, not musicians, not industrialists, not artists, not even clergymen-but politicians.
It is easy to see how people get so excited about the election or defeat of a political candidate. Politicians seem to stand at the center of things. Their decisions and actions alter the course of history. They exercise power; and power is an enormously fascinating thing in this world of ours. When an election is over, some people are in ecstasy and others are down in the dumps. For some, their dreams seem to be on the way to accomplishment, and for others, their hopes have been blasted. It is just as if everything depends on the politician; it's as if he or she has the whole world in his or her power.
Politicians, they know better than that, or at least they should. People ought to know better than that, too. Nobody has got the whole world in his power, except One. Once in a while we have to be reminded of this fact, as the Psalmist reminded his people. He said it this way: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes."
Politicians are the princes of our day. They are not all bad, and they are not all good. They are just like the rest of us. Because they are just like the rest of us, the Psalmist said: "it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in politicians."
This is not a call to cynicism about politics and politicians. There is too much of that around, as it is. It is assumed on every side that politicians are crooks; they have to be crooked to be politicians, right? Actually, politicians, as a general rule, are no more crooked than the people who elect them. If there is greed around, you will find it among politicians. If there is selfishness around, you will find it among the politicians. If there is a disposition to throw one's weight around, politicians will have that too. If there is a tendency within a nation toward delusions of grandeur, politicians are bound to be affected by it. Some will yield to the tendencies of the time altogether, others will stand against it at the peril of their political lives, and still others will try to compromise and muddle their way through.
Politicians are no worse and no better than other people. Because they possess power, however, people have a tendency to look to them for salvation. When it comes to that, the Psalmist had a word for the whole world, one that should be heeded especially today: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in politicians."
Why, because politicians come and go, but the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting and His kindness to children's children, to such as keep His covenant and remember His commandments to do them. The prophet Isaiah reminded his people of this fact at a time when they were playing a dangerous political game, putting all their eggs in one political basket-an alliance with Egypt.
Egypt was a powerful country, and it seemed good to the people that they should ally themselves with the center of power. Power gets through to people. They can understand that kind of language. Politicians fed this flame and they urged Israel to put all of its hopes in the politics of Egypt of that day.
Isaiah had something to say about that. "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!"
The deliverance of a nation from its troubles lies not in the schemes of politicians nor in the alliance of power structures, no matter how potent they may be at the moment. The salvation of peoples and of nations comes from the Lord alone. If He is not our defense, said Isaiah, we have no defense at all.
The prophet, now, was not against politics, but he did speak for the Lord against all of those grand designs by which politicians take people in, putting themselves forward as the hope of the world. This has always been the temptation of politicians, to portray themselves as the saviors of mankind. That kind of stuff is a challenge to the Most High and He will not stand for it.
The fact is that Isaiah, himself, was a statesman. He understood politics, and he could see the folly of the thinking that was going around in his time; that God, if He can do anything at all, can only judge history after man has made that history. He saw the futility of diplomacy divorced from faith in God, and he recalled the disasters brought upon the world by master plans when men no longer felt the need to pray to God so that He would bless them.
Politicians are not running a world which once happened to belong to God but now belongs to them. This is still God's world. Events taking place here will always be greater than the politicians who ride the surface of the waves. "God is wise and He can cause disasters nobody ever dreamed of. He does not go back on His Word, and He will arise against the house of the evildoers who disregard Him, and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. When the Lord stretches out His hand, the helper will stumble and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together."
The problem of Israel at that time was a strong nation on the northern border, the great power of Assyria. Threatened by the might of Assyria, Israel turned not to the Lord but to Egypt. People gave no thought to their own mistakes and ignored the corruption which had weakened their resolve. They were not willing to say to themselves, "we are a sick society and we need help to be cured." They refused to clean house, but instead turned for help to their traditional enemy, the great power to the south, Egypt. The prophet himself warned, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help...but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord."
When are the peoples of the world going to learn that politicians, good or bad, competent or incompetent, do not have the fate of the world in their grasp?
Politicians have had their chance for thousands of years, and still the world is in a mess. Why this continued poverty? Why this starvation in the streets of great cities? Why this constant conflict and strife? Why this pride of race that causes nothing but hatred and violence? Why haven't the problems of the world been solved? Why do they only seem to grow worse as time goes on?
A change of administration, a new lineup of politicians, is not going to solve the problems of the world. Politicians can do nothing when people have lost their sense of purpose, and their sense of destiny. Politicians can't do anything about the problems of the world when people regard their purpose as simply the acquisition of things until they die or look upon their destiny as in the control of others for their own selfish purpose. When people become irresponsible, politicians are going to be irresponsible too. When people act like animals crowding one another away from the feeding trough of an advanced technology, politicians are going to go along with the whole process. The end of that process, according to the Scripture, is death.
"Put not your hope in politicians." That's the prophetic word to our generation. A profound and fundamental change must take place in the hearts of people, a change of attitude and spirit, a grasping of a new hope. That hope, if there is to be any hope at all, will have to be in the Lord.
This is what Isaiah said to his people: "Like birds hovering so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem; He will protect and deliver it, He will spare and rescue it. Turn," said the prophet, and so I must say to the people who listen today, "turn from the idols of the things that you have made for yourselves and turn to the living God."
Hope in the Lord. The guarantee of hope in the Lord is God's own Son, Jesus Christ. If Christ had not come, if Christ had not lived and died, if Christ had not been raised from the dead by the glory of His Father, the world would not have any guarantee of hope at all.
But Christ has come, Christ has lived and died, Christ has risen from the dead, and Christ is Lord of all. He is part of our own history, and no one can say that God has forgotten His people or that He does not care.
God does care. What is more, He does forgive the mistakes that we have undeniably made. He does have a heart for people whose hearts have been broken and whose hopes have been blasted. He is the Lord, powerful and mighty to save. He can be trusted, as no one else can be trusted.
My friend, you are important to God. The Son of God gave His life for you. God is reaching out to you right now, calling upon you to have faith in Christ the Lord, to put your trust in Him. No matter what hits you, He will carry you through. He has the power to protect and deliver, to spare and to rescue. Turn from your own way and go His way. Turn and live. What He says to people, He says to nations: Turn and live.
It is high time that people put their trust in the Lord. It is high time that politicians, who are people just like the rest of us, put their trust in the Lord, too. No alliance is more important than an alliance with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
We live in a time of great upheaval. Things are changing all around the place. As some character in Green Pastures put it, what's been fastened down has been busted loose. At a time when things are busting loose, it is high time to trust in the Lord-to remember Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
People who put their trust in the Lord are the best citizens any country can have. Their citizenship, said St. Paul, is in heaven. They know what's what, that life has purpose and that this world has destiny. The great God of heaven has provided a Deliverer and He rescues from the force of His own judgment those who put their trust in Him.
With citizenship in heaven, followers of Jesus Christ work at their citizenship here on earth. They are not escapists, running away from the problems of the world. They have been put into this world to be salt, a preservative to hold back corruption and a flavor to give new taste to life. The followers of Christ cannot just go around minding their own business, staying out of trouble and bothering nobody. Our Lord did not act that way and His followers can't either. They have to be like the man who saw the traveler beaten up and left half-dead in the ditch. The man did not go by on the other side, but he stopped to help.
The followers of Jesus Christ have respect for political authority as well. They know the purpose of that authority and they also know its limitations. They don't put their trust in princes or in politicians, but they do respect great-hearted service on the part of politicians to the people and they do support whole-soul participation in the political process. They won't stand for brutal and sadistic actions on the part of the policemen, but they do respect the sincere efforts of policemen to help provide conditions for law and order. They do this, because they fear God and fear no man.
The followers of Jesus Christ take their civic responsibilities seriously. They respect the opinions of others, even though they may disagree. They love their country enough to do for it what is right and good. They give honor to those who bear the burdens of power, but they do not put their ultimate trust in them. They pray for those who are in authority, not because they have to but because they want to. They pray that the will of God will be done in the world by people everywhere, and also by politicians with a sense of duty to the people whom they serve.
What is needed in this world of ours is a change of heart on the part of the people and the politicians. The mood of people is far more important to the world than the clever ploys of bureaucrats. Unless the mood of people is influenced by Jesus Christ, our world will continue to go down the same old dreary paths of fear and frustration that cause people in desperation to put their trust in some earthly power to save them, in those altogether human and often much maligned politicians who have no more power to save the world than the princes of old.
In the Lord there is strength-strength to deliver, to rescue, to save the world. Since that is true-it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better-should I say much, much better-to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in either princes or politicians or even ourselves. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Action in Ministry for August 21, 2016
Guest: Jim Likens
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is the part of our program called Action in Ministry. Pastor Seltz, that was a timely and powerful message today in light of all of the commotion and turmoil of this election season.
SELTZ: Absolutely. It's crucial that we trust in Christ and not in politicians or in our political system to rescue us. That message comes to us directly from God's Word, though, the Bible. To be frank, in view of many, the Bible has been and is still on trial.
ANNOUNCER: To help us flesh out some of these questions concerning the reliability of Scripture, we have an online resource for you titled: The Bible on Trial. Our colleague, Jim Likens, is the producer of that project. He joins us now to give us a look behind the scenes and also provide some insight into this topic. Jim, welcome.
LIKENS: Thank you.
SELTZ: Jim, as it states in the opening of the video, the Bible has been cherished, loved, banned, burned; 100 million copies are still sold each year and yet the truth of the Bible is still debated. So how does this project address this issue?
LIKENS: Well, Greg, originally we wanted to re-edit our most popular program, How We Got The Bible.
LIKENS: After looking at it we made a decision that instead of doing that, let's put the Bible on trial. Let's use the legal method to determine is this a book that can be trusted. Now while believing the Bible is a matter of faith, realizing that the Bible is historically viable is essential. So, I went downtown to the courts and I got the biggest courtroom that they had in the court system and then we found Craig Parton, who is a trial lawyer in Santa Barbara, California, and who for years has been involved in Christian apologetics, that is defending the faith. It was his expertise in presenting this as a trial lawyer, I think, that gives it a lot of the power. It's very, from his standpoint, very objective.
SELTZ: This video brings together a wealth of knowledge and insight from various fields: from theologians, like he said to the attorney, to the archaeologist, and to the historian. Tell us a little bit about who we're going to meet in this study and what they bring to this discussion.
LIKENS: We also have Dr. Paul Maier; a noted author, college professor, Lutheran pastor, the son of the first Lutheran Hour Speaker. We also have Dr. Jeff Kloha, who is professor of New Testament at Concordia Seminary here in St. Louis. Also, Joel Lampe, who is the international director of the Bible Museum in Goodyear, Arizona. Also, Dr. Randall Price, who is a noted archaeologist and also an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
ANNOUNCER: How does this resource help us to understand how history and archaeology work together?
LIKENS: You know, Mark, for many years liberal theologians, scholars, and whatever, said there is no evidence that there was ever a crucifixion in Judea. The Romans didn't do it. And yet Dr. Kloha points out that in 1968, while digging for an apartment foundation, a bone box was found. In that box was the skeleton of a young man, around 20 years old, who had a 7-inch nail sticking through his ankle still attached to a board. Only one percent of the Holy Lands have been excavated. I'm sure with every shovel that goes in the ground; more and more evidence of the truth of Scripture will be exposed.
SELTZ: Well, Jim, the study concludes with a look at eyewitnesses who wrote the Bible and how it all fits together. How were you impacted by these testimonies; seeing that evidence presented to you by these experts?
LIKENS: In a conversation off camera Dr. Maier said, "There are those people who say, 'God said it; I believe it; that's it.'" But in this program it shows that we have a reason to trust the authenticity of the Bible by the evidence presented and due to the standards in examination that it's put through; personally, I think this is one of the most significant programs that I've been involved in since I've been here at Lutheran Hour Ministries.
SELTZ: That's high praise.
LIKENS: This program really answers the question, "Can I trust the Bible?" Now it's my hope that those who trust the authenticity of it will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe it.
SELTZ: Jim, thanks so much for sharing all this with us and I'm telling you, after listening to this, I want to watch this again too. Thanks for being here.
LIKENS: You're very welcome. Thank you.
SELTZ: And that's our Action in Ministry segment for today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: Once again, the title of this resource is The Bible on Trial. You can view or download this content for free at our website. Go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry. That's lutheranhour.org. Or call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 21, 2016
Topic: How Do You Trust in the Lord and Lean Not on Your Own Understanding?
ANNOUNCER: And we are back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz responding to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, there is this verse in the Bible; it's Proverbs 3:5, it says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Our listener says, "I'm not so sure I know how to trust in the Lord."
SELTZ: Mark, let's unpack this first then. The first issue in this verse is the question of who deserves trust. Proverbs 3 pits two things in opposition. On the one hand we are told to trust in the Lord. On the other hand there is this temptation to trust in our own understanding alone.
ANNOUNCER: I take it from that that God and our understanding are somehow opposed to each other?
SELTZ: No. That's not really what I'm saying. But it is important for us to remember which one is ultimately trustworthy.
ANNOUNCER: Well, are you saying we can't trust our understanding? Many people today would say that experience is the only sure way to know for sure how to make a good decision.
SELTZ: Well, God has given us our intellect and He wants us to use our brains. But we don't put our ultimate trust in our own understanding. I mean, our view of things is always limited and the Bible tells us that God created all things. He has redeemed us through His Son. His viewpoint is much more trustworthy. When comparing God's view with ours, to those who say, "they don't need Him for wisdom," I heard a quote say it well; "I'm not sure why you, a mere speck of a person on a speck of a planet in a tiny universe located in an infinite heaven full of stars and universes, can so confidently hold so improbable a view.
ANNOUNCER: Okay. So, what does God know that we don't?
SELTZ: God knows everything, we don't and this verse isn't really about who is smarter. This verse helps us, though, with our faith.
ANNOUCER: How does it do that? The word faith doesn't even show up in the passage.
SELTZ: The word trust; that is a faith word. We trust in the thing or the person in whom we have faith. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust in God alone and not in ourselves. You know, it is very prevalent in our society to have faith in yourself or to believe in yourself alone. We often talk this way; but Proverbs 3 teaches us the exact opposite. When it comes to faith and trust, we should look to God alone and not ourselves.
ANNOUNCER: I see that's what it says, but again, why? Why should we trust in God? Why shouldn't we trust in ourselves?
SELTZ: Let's start with the second question. That will lead to the first. We should not trust in ourselves for two reasons. First of all, we shouldn't trust in ourselves because He's God and we're not! We're not the ultimate authority on anything.
ANNOUNCER: True enough. I think we have to be humble enough to remember and believe we are not God.
SELTZ: Right, but that is actually harder for us than most people would want to admit; which leads us to the second reason we can't rely on our own understanding. We are sinful. We inherited sin from our parents and we continue to sin in thought, word, and deed. Because of that pervasiveness of sin, all of our thoughts and inclinations are tainted with sin. We are inherently selfish and turned against God's truth.
ANNOUNCER: Which is why we have a hard time accepting that we aren't God.
SELTZ: Exactly. And because we aren't God, we don't really know what is best for us and for other people in our lives. But again, God does. He is God. He loves us. The Bible even says He is love. His will and His truth are really what's ultimately best for us.
ANNOUNCER: If we are to trust in God, how do we know what He says or what we are supposed to do, what we're supposed to think?
SELTZ: That's where the Bible gets very specific. If you want to know about God, Who He is, what He thinks about you, look to Jesus Christ, Who He is and what He has done for you!
ANNOUNCER: All right; in Christ, then, Who is God?
SELTZ: God is love. Jesus taught that and literally lived that out. Jesus is God's love in action for you. Through Jesus, God shows us that He loves us, that He saved us. That is why we can trust Him. He is God. He is love. His love for us means that along with Jesus, God will incredibly give us all good things.
ANNOUNCER: So how do I know in whom I should trust?
SELTZ: God gave us the Bible so that we can know and believe in Jesus, and so that we can know God's will for our lives. There is plenty in the Bible to learn, to grow in so that we can learn of God's understanding and what really matters then in our lives!
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"A Multitude Comes from the East and the West" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)