Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Here we could think of the marriage of King Xerxes to Esther. It seemed to everyone as if Xerxes was simply doing what he wanted, when he chose Esther to become his wife. But it was all part of the Lord's plan to save his people from Haman’s planned genocide. As easily as a farmer directs a little stream of water, so the Lord directs the hearts of the mighty rulers of the world. He makes them part of his plans to save or to judge his people.

The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to make his own glorious power known (Exodus 4:21; Exodus 14:4). He used the mighty Assyrian, King Tiglath-Pileser, as a rod to punish Judah with (Isaiah 10:5). He let Nebuchadnezzar take the people of Judah into exile. Seventy years later, he moved the heart of King Cyrus to send the people of Judah back to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1–11). He let Augustus hold a census, so that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1; Matthew 2:6; Luke 2:1–52). Without knowing it, all of these powerful men were actually executing God’s own plans. The same is true of all leaders today, whether great or small, good or evil.