It is a constant struggle to believe we are making a difference, particularly when we feel a deep responsibility for the condition of our homes, churches, cities and nation. I wrestle with the constant sense that I fall so short of what He wants to do in me and through me that it seems doubtful He could use me for anything but a doorstop.
Can anyone relate to this dilemma? How do we indeed turn our nation? Who will lead us? How then shall we live?
Thankfully, I am reminded that it is the weak and the imperfect that God has used most visibly as His way of showing us that regardless of our pedigree, education, wealth, physical stature and attractiveness – all things the world reveres – He works the best with the least. Ancient Israel (as revealed in 1 Samuel 8) became faint-hearted as Samuel was growing old and had apparently more success as prophet than as father, so the elders came to him and stated, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (verse 5).
When Samuel took their request to God, he was told to abide by their wishes and not take it personally because, “… for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” Samuel then dutifully presented the first product warning label by describing what happens when we replace God with government. He said the kings would (verses 11-18):
- “take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.”
- “appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.”
- “take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.
- “take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants.”
- “take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.”
- “take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work.”
- “take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.”
Israel had been governed by the first democratic process in history by choosing their leaders from each of the 12 tribes and ruled by God directing through His prophets, with the authority for civil decisions and obedience to His laws resting with the people. They had freedom to live, speak, worship, produce and assemble under that arrangement – but fear caused them to reject both God and freedom.
To add insult to injury, when they launched “Israeli Idol” in searching of a king, the criteria was clearly looking for the most physically impressive rather than looking back to the character qualities for leadership they had followed and applied since the exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 18). Saul was chosen because “… there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.”
We know the rest of the story. Saul decided he could handle things without God and not only lost the throne but his life. Eventually, the wickedness of many of the kings of Israel and Judah brought death, destruction, slavery and exile for the people.
You talk about a bad election decision!
The leaders of the religious left, like Jim Wallace, who are still Obama’s strongest supporters, have joined the clamor for nationalizing energy, commerce and health care and long ago embraced government replacing God and parent in education. Much of the current cadre of evangelical pastoral and major media figures (I will not call them leaders) are following precisely in the footsteps of our faith ancestors by telling God He can’t take care of us, so we need King Obama.
There were certainly “good reasons” that the elders of Israel gave for their rejection of God. Similarly, many today are using crises that have been exacerbated if not created by ungodly, insane and corrupt government policies to do just what the elders did – take the authority of self-governing away from the people and put it in the hands of a ruling elite.
Please review Samuel’s list of warnings again. The “king” will take your children, your property and your freedom. Sounding familiar?
Fortunately, God raised up a King David (the youngest and the smallest of his family), a King Josiah (a child) and a few other righteous kings who did indeed govern in the fear of God. He looked at the heart, not the height. Even better, through the ultimate act of redemption, God the Son lowered Himself to become man, came and both paid the price and paved the way for our restoration to Him.
Pastor Rick Warren stated recently that, “Politics is always downstream from culture. If you want to influence culture, you have to change hearts. And, you can’t change a heart with a law.” He is largely right. Our government reflects the spiritual, moral and cultural priorities of those who take the time to participate, so bad hearts produce bad leaders who produce bad laws.
However, we cannot afford to ignore those bad laws and lawmakers we have chosen while we work to changes hearts and minds – pastors and parents must stand and fight on both of those hills simultaneously.
The good and bad news is that He has decided to use you and me to get it done – so what are we waiting for?