This post is part of a series looking at misquoted verses of the Bible. Click here to see others.
I’ve been hearing an idea a lot this week. “God is on the throne!”
This comes from Psalm 47:8, and I’d like to suggest it as a misquoted passage: “God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne.” NLT
We often reassure ourselves that “God is on the throne” when the candidate or party we voted for loses. We throw up our hands in despair but encourage one another that this new leader we don’t like can’t do that much anyway.
Or, we use it to separate ourselves from the results. As in, “Who really cares who won, God is on the throne.” This particular usage relies heavily on privilege and the assumption that we are above the consequences of the election. It’s also a coping mechanism that often downplays how we really feel.
Neither of these uses captures the intent of Psalm 47:8.
The fact that God is on the throne does not mean that the people who sit on worldly thrones have no impact. It does not mean that God doesn’t care who sits on the thrones or what they do with the power they have.
I’d like to suggest that the phrase “God is on the throne” is probably more applicable to the party who wins. As Andre Henry recently said, “‘God is on the throne’ should mean accountability for the powerful, not passivity from the people.”
In light of Psalm 47:8, you may be surprised to learn that Jesus referred to Satan being the “Ruler of this world” three times (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The apostle Paul called Satan â€œThe god of this worldâ€ (2 Cor. 4:4). This is why Christians should never put their primary hope in a government or view their primary allegiance to a nation. None of them embody the Kingdom of God. This is an easy reality for Christians to accept when their candidate loses. It’s trickier to believe this when their candidate wins.
God is aware of what we do and God’s heart beats for justice, especially justice for the oppressed. True, each nation may make their own laws and rules, may decide what is normal for its people. But God ultimately works for the flourishing of all.
It’s a reminder that the results of an election matter, especially to the vulnerable among us. If God is on the throne, we have work to do whenever the throne of our land doesn’t take care of vulnerable people. Not all governments take care of marginalized people in the same way, nor do the leaders themselves. As Christians, our commitment to the vulnerable includes all people, of all ages, of all ethnicities and backgrounds, rather than singling out those whom our political party chooses to highlight (see: The Most Profound Question for Voting). We answer to a higher throne.
If God were NOT on the throne, earthly governments may have the last word. Earthly kingdoms would rule unchecked by any other authority. Although God’s throne doesn’t override worldly thrones, it does supersede them.
And in case you are wondering, this idea applies whether a Democrat or Republican or any other party of any other country is the one in control. God was on the throne in Nazi Germany and God was on the throne in Stalin’s Russia. God has also been on the throne for the best versions of government the world has seen as well (defined by how they worked toward the flourishing of all people). God has been on the throne for all forty-five Presidents of the United States.
God allows nations to lead separate from His direction, but that does not mean He no longer cares what happens. For any person who would follow Jesus, we are responsible to the vulnerable around us precisely because we know… God is on the throne.If God is on the throne, we have work to do whenever the throne of our land doesn't take care of vulnerable people. Click To Tweet
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