3 Reasons Why Christians Should Trust in God, Not Earthly Rulers


It’s a fact of life: political leaders will disappoint. I don’t have to know any particular leader to say that.

All I have to know is that he or she is a human being, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is why the Word of God warns us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3).

It is easier to agree with this command abstractly than to apply it concretely. We can affirm the fallenness of man, but then build our plans on or place our hope in the success of this party or those candidates or that political program. By their very nature, earthly governments court and demand our respect and allegiance — sometimes to the exclusion of our higher allegiance to God.

Oftentimes, the pressure to put our trust in earthly rulers (of both monarchic or democratic varieties) is subtle and deceptive. Jesus himself warned that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

John and Daniel received apocalyptic visions of just this sort of blasphemous ruler, portrayed as a beast, who deceives the nations and seeks to usurp the authority that belongs only to God (Daniel 7:15-27; Revelation 13:1-18).

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Over the past 2,000 years, many Christians have noticed the parallels between these passages and their own historical contexts, suggesting a pattern: that false christs will continue to arise, even in our day, until the end. Therefore, Jesus’s opening warning from the Olivet Discourse is still relevant today: “See that no one leads you astray” (Matthew 24:4).

Of course, it takes more than a negative command to keep our hearts from placing their trust in earthly rulers. We should trust in something else instead; our trust should be in God. The psalmist continues, “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

The word “blessed” signals that this statement (as well as the entire psalm) is providing a general statement of biblical wisdom. So, instead of reducing this statement to a formula (“Hope in God, you’ll receive a blessing”), we should inquire into the larger biblical principles that make this statement true. The psalm itself provides three reasons to trust in God, not earthly rulers.

1. God is more powerful than men.

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The psalmist’s first warrant for trusting God rather than men is their comparative power. No one is more powerful than the Lord God, “who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Psalm 146:6), and no one will ever pose a challenge to the power of the one, eternal, unchanging God.

By contrast, every human ruler is destined to die, after which he can accomplish nothing. This reality is pressed into Americans’ consciousness as they contemplate a presidential contest between candidates who are 81 and 78 years old.

But human mortality does not only apply to earthly rulers in their dotage. President John F. Kennedy, who won election at least in part by appearing younger and more energetic than his opponent, was assassinated at the jarring young age of 46.

“When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish,” writes the psalmist (Psalm 146:4). This statement deliberately recalls the creation of man, when “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7).

God created each and every human ruler. He existed before them, and He will outlive them. By contrast, no man created himself. No man can control the day of his own death. And no man can control what happens after his death. Put not your trust in mortal princes.

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2. God is a faithful and just savior.

The psalmist next turns to consider God’s character, as revealed through His intervention in the world.

The “God of Jacob,” who made magnificent promises through Abraham and his descendants, “keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:5-6). Political leaders may make promises and then break them. They may avow certain policy stances in one election and veer away from them in the next.

They may, like David, show great piety then commit heinous sins. But, “though every one were a liar,” God is still true (Romans 3:4), and He never breaks His promises. “The Lord of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand’” (Isaiah 14:24).

Among other things that God has sworn, Jesus declares, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11). This expresses a principle of just reversal, found throughout Scripture from Joseph to Hannah to Hezekiah, whereby God helps the humble poor who trust in Him and opposes the mighty proud. Indeed, this principle is at work in this very psalm.

The psalmist testifies by the Spirit that God is the one “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. … The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless” (Psalm 146:7-9). To each one, God will give the help that “your heavenly Father knows that you need” (Matthew 6:32) — salvation, help, and, above all, justice.

The distinction between these two classes of people — those God aids and those He opposes — is not simply between the “haves” and the “have-nots” or the “privileged” and the “under-privileged,” as attempts at Marxist syncretism erroneously suggest. No, the distinction is a moral one.

“The Lord loves the righteous … but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:8-9). The Psalter makes this clear from its opening song, “the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6). God justly saves the righteous and ruins the wicked.

Not that anyone can achieve their own righteousness in the eyes of God. “There is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Rather, as Paul convincingly argues in Romans 4, old covenant believers were always saved by grace through faith; even Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). The distinction between the righteous and the wicked — those God aids and those He opposes — is between those who repent of their sins and trust in Him (and now, with fuller revelation, in the person and work of Jesus Christ) for salvation.

This salvation is most fundamentally in the final judgment because salvation from God’s final wrath is the most important kind, but God still watches over and delivers His people in this world, too.

3. God is the true ruler.

The third reason the psalmist offers for trusting God over earthly rulers is that God is the true ruler. “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 146:10). Behind and above every human government sits the Almighty Lord of the universe (Romans 13:1). “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

So, if you think a politician, party, or governing official is powerful, God is more powerful still. If you think a politician, party, or governing official is using their power poorly, remember that God has instituted them. Remember too that He can sweep them away in a moment.

Remember how Paul applied these biblical principles, instructing politically powerless Christians to pray for their rulers, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).

You may not have noticed, but the psalmist’s three reasons cover the past, the present, and the future. Why should we put our trust in God and not in earthly rulers? God made the world in the past. He continues to watch over His people in the present. And He will continue to reign over all, until the end of time.

A Simple Application

These reflections provoke the psalmist to end his song the way he began, with praise for the God who is worthy of all our trust and devotion. “Praise the Lord!” he declared. “Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:1-2).

When we’re tempted to put our trust in princes, let us follow the psalmist’s lead and praise the Lord instead.

This article appeared originally on The Washington Stand.

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The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview.