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Trump, the chosen?

President Donald J. Trump disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 21, 2019.
President Donald J. Trump disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 21, 2019. | (White House/Tia Dufour)

“I am the chosen one.”

Thus was the declaration of President Donald Trump on August 21, 2019.

The statement was made in a miasma of utterances from others as well as the president. The tangle of tweets obscured the context of Trump’s initial declaration and forced even some left-tilting journalists to dig out Bibles, wipe off the dust, and become students of the Word, for the moment, anyway.

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The strict context that has been lost in the swirl had to do with China trade and the imbalances in current policy. Somebody, said Trump, had to deal with it, and “I am the chosen one.”

As he made that assertion, Trump made the mistake of gazing up at the heavens. For many, Trump was implying that he himself was the singular chosen of God in this hour.

To compound the mish-mash of wrong impressions and unfortunate implications, Trump’s declaration of his chosen stature was voiced in the midst of controversy over a comment by Wayne Allyn Root of Newsmax who said that “the Jewish people in Israel” love Trump “like he’s the king of Israel... like he is the second coming of God.”

Trump’s mistake was in retweeting Root’s statement rather than disclaiming himself as “king of Israel” and “second coming of God.”

But wait; there’s more.

There is a sense in which Donald Trump is “chosen” of God (and I would be making the same claim had Hillary Clinton won in 2016). Those who take a conservative view of the Bible—that would include me—take seriously words in Daniel 2:21:

“It is He (God) who changes the times and the epochs;

He removes kings and establishes kings...”

In the New Testament, Simon Peter writes to people living under cruel Roman emperors:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:14-15)

This and other passages show that two facets of the perfect will of God are at work here: the intentional and the permissive. The ultimate intentional will of God is that there be no rulers—no presidents, kings, emperors, governors, mayors, constables, or whatever. God’s ultimate will was that all people manage themselves by living under His direct governance through the lordship of Jesus Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  James Madison, regarded as the “Father of the American Constitution,” grasped this principle. “If men were angels,” he said, “no government would be necessary.”

The existence of government in which human beings reign over other human beings is a concession to our fallenness.

The fundamental struggle in the fallen world is between cosmos—God’s Kingdom order—and chaos, the fragmentation wrought by evil. God grants government for the restraint of this chaos. In fact, it is when the “restrainer” is removed that the “man of lawlessness” becomes fully manifest, writes Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Therefore, in the broadest sense Donald Trump was chosen by God for national leadership at this stage of history. But he will make a disastrous misjudgment if he assumes he is the only or highest one chosen of God.

Rather than retweeting the praises, Trump must avoid jumping on the bandwagons of those ready to grant him a godlike status. King Herod one day dressed himself up in a gleaming costume that prompted a group of visitors to acclaim him as a deity. Herod, rather than denying their adulation, accepted it. The immediate result was an ignominious death that soiled his silver outfit in the very presence of those sycophants.

Years ago, in occasionally being with groups in the Oval Office, I was shocked by the ease with which one could fall into a hubristic trance within its walls. This is of especial concern when the chief occupant does not acknowledge that he (or someday, she) is a sinner like all the rest of us, and by no means “a second coming of God.”

Hubris is a constant temptation in any center of power. The principalities and powers of darkness cluster around concentrations of power. The greater the measure of power, the more intense the hubristic pull. It takes a leader with the humility and self-honesty of a Calvin Coolidge to resist the gravitational pull of presidential hubris. Usually, the Oval Office is sought and occupied by people with massive egos. The more dense the object, the more intense the gravitational pull.

Donald Trump, then, is chosen for leadership in this “season” as much a Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar was in his. Nebuchadnezzar had to lose his mind to find God. His biggest discovery was that he was not God. Knowing that distinction is the essence of all sanity.

May Donald Trump come quickly to that realization through this tempest if he hasn’t already.

Wallace Henley is senior associate pastor at Houston’s Second Baptist Church. He is a former White House and congressional aide. Henley’s newest book is Call Down Lightning (Thomas Nelson), a study of the Welsh Revival of 1904-5 and its implications for our times.

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