Do we have a right, therefore, to expect of those who invoke the help of God in the performance of their civic duties that they should be people of faith? That they should take seriously such disciplines as prayer, fellowship with other believers, worship, and meditation in the Truth of God? How shall our rulers know the presence of God with them in their law-making, policy-setting, or judging capacities if they do not practice His presence with them in all their daily activities?

Here again, by prayer and continuous encouragement we should come to the aid of our public officials who have sought the help of the Lord in fulfilling the duties of their office. By reminding them of their words and pointing them to resources and people who can help them in their daily walk and in the conduct of their offices, we may be able to guide them to a richer and more meaningful experience of the presence of the Lord in their lives and work.

Fear the Lord

Jefferson once reflected with trembling on the implications of God’s justice for a wayward people such as Americans tend to be. He was right to voice such concern. Jehoshaphat insisted of those who accepted the call to public office in the name of the Lord, “Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you.” In the Scriptures God is clear about His attitude toward those who scorn His Law and ignore His will in the performance of their duties and the conduct of their lives. God hates sin; He hates it even more when public officials breed sin into the systems by which they govern their people. Those kings and rulers—like Jehoshaphat—who truly feared the Lord were well aware of the fact that He is no remote or disinterested deity. He watches over the affairs of men and nations and prefers His own counsel to theirs (Psalm 33:10-12).

They who call upon the name of the Lord at the inception of their public service must nurture the fear of Him as the ground for their lives and duties. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). The fear of the Lord encourages a close walk with Him, nurtures deep and abiding love for Him, and leads to faithfulness in His service (Deuteronomy 10:12,13). Unless public officials fear the Lord they will not be inclined to seek Him or follow Him as He accompanies them in the fulfillment of their duties.

Be careful in all they do

Finally, Jehoshaphat instructed the rulers he appointed over the people of Judah to “be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” Rulers must be expected to act in a circumspect manner, with regard for the will of God and the common weal, before they make any decisions or take any actions. They must resist every self-serving inclination or opportunity lest they fall afoul of the justice and goodness of the Lord. They must “deal courageously” (v. 11) in following the way of the Lord in all they do, trusting that He will be with those who act according to His goodness and truth and will bless both them and the people they serve.

Those who invoke the help of the Lord in taking up the call to public service should not expect to have God as their Servant, to do all their bidding whenever they may choose to consult Him. Nor must they renege on their oath in the performance of their duties; the taking of public oaths is a solemn affair, and must not be trivialized or transgressed. If our rulers want us—and the Lord—to take them seriously, then they must seek and receive the help of the Lord according to the guidelines He Himself has provided in His Word.

Mere talk?

Are these words of advice to rulers mere talk? Are we kidding ourselves to think that we could expect our rulers to take their own words seriously? Does Caesar really owe anything to the God he invokes upon taking up the duties to which he has been called? What about separation of Church and State? Are we seeking to establish a theocracy in America? As Paul might have said, “May it never be!”