King Saul and President Bush

Some people around President Bush have implied or outright claimed that the Lord Himself chose Bush to be president and to act righteously in response to the atrocities of 9/11. Steven Waldman recently collected some of these statements in his article, Does God endorse George Bush? For example, “World Magazine, a conservative Christian publication, quoted White House official Tim Goeglein as saying, ‘I think President Bush is God’s man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility.'” Similarly, Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin stated, “Why is this man in the White House? The majority of America did not vote for him. He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”

Bush himself seems to have felt that he was called to be president, “Bush called James Robison (a prominent minister) and told him, ‘I’ve heard the call. I believe God wants me to run for President.’ ” After 9/11, President Bush indicated an even stronger sense of divine purpose, “Time magazine reported, ‘Privately, Bush talked of being chosen by the grace of God to lead at that moment.’ “

Now I have no special knowledge or insight in regards to whether President Bush was in some special sense willed by the Lord to be President at this time. But there is a conclusion that has been widely drawn among his conservative Christian supporters that is not at all warranted, even if he really was called. The usually unstated corollary to the claim that the Lord called Bush to be President is that what he has done as President has been what the Lord wanted done, that President Bush is even now doing the Lord’s will. But this is a leap that is not justified by the testimony of the Scriptures. The fact that the Lord appoints someone to an office does not mean that that person automatically succeeds in his mission. The scriptures are filled with kings, prophets, priests and even a Disciple of Jesus who were definitely called by the Lord but who then failed to do His will. Let us focus on one instructive example, the very first monarch of Israel: King Saul.

King Saul Was Called

The scriptures make it abundantly clear that King Saul was precisely the person that the Lord chose to be the first King of Israel:

Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him leader over my people Israel; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me." When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, "This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people." (I Samuel 9:15—17)

Samuel anointing Saul (

Samuel then anointed Saul with oil (Messiah, by the way, simply means “anointed one”) and foretold several very specific upcoming events that would serve as signs to confirm that Saul was indeed the one chosen to be King of Israel. After these signs confirmed the Lord’s hand to Saul personally, Samuel then called all of Israel together. After briefly reminding them that by choosing a King they had rejected the Lord (I Samuel 9:19), Samuel called out Saul’s tribe, then out of that tribe, he called out Saul’s clan and finally the Lord’s prophet identified Saul before all of Israel as their first King. There is no question that the Lord Himself chose Saul to be the King. If the Lord possibly, maybe called George Bush to be President, the Lord clearly, unmistakably called Saul to be King.

Note carefully, by the way, that having a monopoly government (a State) was definitely not what the Lord wanted for Israel as I have previously discussed. But once the Israelites stubbornly demanded one, despite the Lord’s strong warnings through Samuel that they would regret it, the Lord then chose who would be the leader of the new state. Understanding this seeming contradiction is, I believe, central to reconciling Samuel’s warning about monopoly governments in I Samuel 8 and Paul’s admonition in Romans 13 that the Lord establishes present authorities. Clearly, as with Saul, the Lord can establish particular rulers without endorsing the system of government as the ideal system. If Paul’s statement is taken as an endorsement of the present system as ideal then it becomes self-contradictory… How can the Lord endorse monarchies, democracies, anarchies and tyrannies as all ideal systems of government? All these forms of government have existed for lengthy periods of time since Paul wrote those words, and his teaching would presumably apply to all these situations.

King Saul Was Rejected

Saul Denounced by Samuel (Guy Rowe,

Just as surely as Saul was chosen by the Lord to be King, the Lord rejected Saul later when he failed as King. I Samuel 13 records how Saul disobeyed a direct order from the Lord and how Samuel immediately told him that his kingdom would not be established (his line would not continue as Kings of Israel) and also that the Lord had already chosen another to take Saul’s place as King. Though Saul continued as a sort of lame duck King for a while before David became King, the Lord’s blessing was no longer on him and he and his house came to a sad end.

Despite the fact that the Lord Himself chose Saul to be King, Saul still failed. The Lord often works through fallible people and sometimes these people do not do what the Lord intended for them to do. In a sense there is nothing really special in the fact that leaders fail. The story of humanity that the Bible tells is one of people failing, starting with the very first humans, to be what the Lord called them to be. If someone tells you that a human leader cannot fail, that he cannot lose the Lord’s blessing, then they are a fool. All of scripture and secular history testifies against them.

What Would Samuel Say to President Bush?

If you believe that George W. Bush was chosen by the Lord to be President at this time then, go ahead, give him the benefit of the doubt. But, ultimately, there is no excuse for giving the President a free pass on everything he does while in office. The Apostle John teaches, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God….” Jesus taught, “by their fruit you will recognise them” and also “be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Saying “I was just following orders from the leader the Lord called” doesn’t cut it.

My own assessment, for what it is worth, is that President Bush has shown himself to clearly not be doing the Lord’s will. Is it the Lord’s will that people should be lied into war, that thousands and tens of thousands of innocents should die? President Bush has borne false witness against Saddam Hussein to dreadful effect. He has ordered the continual bombing of a people who have done our country no harm. Does our Holy Father in Heaven who will allow no sin before him bless this?!