The issue of God’s dealings with sinful leaders is addressed at various places in the Bible. One story particularly relevant to the issues surrounding the president can be found in the first Book of Samuel in the story of King Saul. In response to Israel’s sinful, yet persistent, request for an earthly king, God chose Saul to serve as Israel’s king. In the book of Samuel we read, ... When Samuel, (the prophet) saw Saul, the LORD told him, "Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall rule over my people."... Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said, "Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their enemies round about. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage. (1 Sam 9:17 , 10:1)
Yet Saul compromised his position as king over Israel by refusing to carry out God’s orders regarding a particular battle against the Amalekites. God had ordered that during the battle, all the possessions of the Amalekites be destroyed. The Israelites, however, convinced Saul that they should not destroy the Amalekites livestock, but save it ‘to sacrifice to the Lord’; and so the Israelites, with Saul’s permission ... took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things. When Samuel the prophet heard of King Saul’s breaking God’s orders, Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king."... "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. (1 Sam 15 )
After Saul is told by the prophet Samuel that the Lord has rejected him as king, Saul repents and makes verbal acknowledgment of his sin, saying to Samuel Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD." (1 Sam 15:25 ) And indeed Saul does then worship the Lord. Despite Saul’s request for his sin to be pardoned, God’s decision to depose Saul as king remains unchanged.
In the beginning of Chapter 16 the Lord again announces his decision to reject Saul as king over Israel, and also states he has already chosen a replacement king for Saul. The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." (1 Sam 16:1 ) As we are later to find out, God has chosen David the shepherd to become anointed as the next king over Israel and has also decided to destroy Saul’s reign, Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul,.. (1 Sam 16:14 ).
God’s destruction of Saul’s reign was a de facto act. That is to say, by deciding to remove his spirit from Saul, God made Saul an ineffective and tormented king. In so doing, God destroyed his reign. To the Israelites, however, they still called Saul king and treated him as such. To the passive observer Saul appeared to be king, but in the eyes of God, and in the historical understanding of the Jews, God removed Saul from being earthly king of the Jews when Saul broke God’s ‘rule of law’, even though Saul asked forgiveness for his sin.
While God chose to reject Saul as king, God did not reject all the kings that transgressed His laws. King David, for example; (the king anointed by God to replace Saul), had shortcomings of his own. One of the more famous of these shortcomings is his adultery with Bathsheba, (herself a married woman). It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her... Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am with child." (2 Sam 11:2-5 ) Later, in order to cover up his adultery, David has Bathsheba’s husband killed. David’s acts of faithlessness are not without consequences, God sees to it that David is punished for his transgressions. Yet despite David’s acts of wickedness and transgressions of God’s laws, God does not reject David as being king.
Saul and David, illustrate that, in his sovereignty, God deals with different situations differently. God is always willing to forgive the truly repentant sinner. Yet the Bible repeatedly illustrates to us that God’s offer of forgiveness does not mean that he will not enact a punishment upon the sinner for his or her transgressions. Which, if any, punishment God chooses to enact varies from situation to situation and person to person. Sometimes, it may be difficult for us to make sense of why he deals with a certain situation in a certain way. Yet God reminds us of something that, in the end, may be the words with which we must satisfy ourselves when considering the various issues involved concerning the president. The Lord says. “ ...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9 )
Praise be to our sovereign God.