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Faith One Blog

God as King

An interesting lesson in government can be found in the history of Ancient Israel. In the early years of this nation there was no visible governmental structure. Almost all government was family oriented. There were family and tribal elders that were recognized and acted as judges and leaders but their power was limited by how the people responded to them. The only restraint on the citizenry was their voluntary obedience to the Torah—God’s law as written by Moses. They were a free people.

A few centuries after Moses though, they had almost completely departed from living by that law. They had descended into near anarchy where “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). They went to Samuel the prophet, their recognized spiritual leader, and asked him to anoint them a king:

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways:  now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.   6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us.   And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.   7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee:  for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.   8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. (1 Samuel 8:4-8)

God’s answer to this plea is telling: He said, “they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” God saw Himself as their rightful King! But in what way was He their King? Why through His law of course. A king is a king only to the extent his law is obeyed. Those Israelites rejected God, not just by asking for another king, but by their disobedience to Him. He had given them a law that would make them a powerful nation had they believed and obeyed (Deut. 4:5-9); but they threw it all away because they didn’t have the faith to live by that law. Their disobedience, followed by their desire for a physical king demonstrated their lack of faith in God. Here is the rest of God’s response to their request:

9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice:  howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.   10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.   11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you:  He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen;  and some shall run before his chariots.   12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties;  and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.   13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.   14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.   15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.   16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.   17 He will take the tenth of your sheep:  and ye shall be his servants. (1 Samuel 8: 9-17)

This truly free people, perhaps the only such nation in the pre-Christian world, chose to give up the great freedom they had and become the servants of a king. It seems incredible that they would do so but such is the hatred of God’s law for those under Satan’s bondage, those that have not been liberated by the Holy Spirit.

What can we learn about government from this passage today? As Christians, should we continue to live under the kings of this world or should we rather seek to have God be our King (Matt. 6:33)? Is this unrealistic in our modern world? This is what the ecclesias (early churches) did during the hegemony of Imperial Rome. These Christian assemblies, structured along the lines of the Jewish synagogues, were truly self-governed. Other than the apostles and their successors (that were teachers and not rulers), there were no higher level bodies; nor were there any local offices as such. They were governed by the families through their local elected elders (presbyters). These elders were public servants and not rulers in the true sense of the word. Government was in the hands of the participating family heads and it was Christ that governed them, through God’s law. They conformed to God’s authority structure (1 Cor. 11:3) and were a reflection of early Israel when God was their King.

These independent, self-governing ecclesia assemblies abdicated from Roman law by declaring Christ and not Caesar to be their Lord and lawgiver. This was more a political than a religious act. They were persecuted for it but survived and prospered to the extent that, by the third century, the emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of Rome. Later on, Justinian revised Roman law to agree closely to God’s law. The body of Christ through faith and obedience to God’s law had conquered the Roman world!

Is this an impossible dream for today? Only if God is no longer sovereign and Christ does not really have “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt.28:18). What God promised His people of old He promises us today. One day a generation will arise to this challenge and will conquer the world for Christ. Do we just leave it to them or should we start now? There may not be many today that have the faith and dedication to take this step but take heart, God has His seven thousand. It will be enough.

Lou Poumakis