Isaiah 11:3 | Justified before the King

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There is an interesting, and scary, shift in government power when it comes to application of the law. For the most part in America what you think or say is not a crime. Crime is based on actions. For example, I could say out loud that I want to rob a bank but unless I actually attempt to rob a bank the police cannot arrest me. I could be a gross, nasty, evil person but unless my evil is converted into some outward action then government would leave me alone.

While that has been historically true there is political pressure for government, and even social media companies to police what people think and say. Kevin Hart was removed from hosting the Oscars because of tasteless jokes that were quasi acceptable 10 years ago that have now been deemed offensive today. Political parties want to make even having certain thoughts a crime. A first attempt at policing thoughts takes on the form of “hate crime” laws. If someone vandalizes a building there are laws against damaging property. However, if someone vandalizes a building and it can be proven that the intent was born out of discrimination then hate crime laws would allow for conviction of even more time added to the sentence because of thoughts and evil intent.

Beyond the problem of tying to prove what people are thinking a problem with Governments having policing power over thoughts is that acceptable think today might be wrong think tomorrow. Laws on action are almost never retroactive when changed but wrong thinking is almost always retroactive requiring those who held the now outlawed thoughts to apologize and even then, that apology may not be enough. Anyone who gains a public spotlight will have their past media history searched for any spoken offense.

The second coming of Jesus is predicted in the Old Testament as a powerful king that will rule over the people. As any king or government Jesus will have the power judge and make laws. Will Jesus judge based on actionable crimes or will he also judge our thoughts like many want government to do now?

And his [Jesus] delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear Isaiah 11:3 ESV

God’s judgment will not be based on actions. His judgment will be based on what is inside the heart of people. Yet unlike earthly governments who judge on the whims of social right and wrong Jesus will judge on an unchanging law that is written into the hearts of his creation. He knows all things so when he looks into your heart what will he find to be true?

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV

The wicked seem to always gain power and influence in governments. President Trump is under endless investigation. The rival candidate Secretary Clinton was under investigation and even today the opposing crowds of voters chant “lock her up” at rallies. Yet people want government to function in the role of God administrating justice as seen fit by those in power. When the judge is corrupt then how can there be justice? God through Jesus however will judge will full knowledge even of intent in the heart of man. God unlike man is not corrupt and his justice will be perfect.

None of us can stand to such perfect justice because it knows our hearts. That is why Jesus took on our crimes and took on the punishment of that righteous judgment. The Bible word for what Jesus did for his children is “justification”. God is who is just is also loving and has provided justification to those who desire to be made right before God. I deserve punishment for my crimes before the king but Jesus who is perfect took my punishment making me justified before the king.

22 That is why his [Abraham] faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:22-25 ESV

Judges 9:14 | Vote for Brambles

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Gideon was asked to be King and he refused reminding the people of Israel that their King is God and God alone. After Gideon’s death one of his 70 sons wanted to take the people up on the offer to be king and so he made a power move to achieve that. This power move was financed by with money collected at an idol’s temple by naive family and involved associations with worthless characters in society.

4 And they gave him seventy pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. Judges 9:4 ESV

The final power grab was cemented by the murder of all of Gideon’s sons just like any new king would do in the pagan countries that Israel has removed from the land. Gideon did not want to be King and he did not want his sons to be king yet they were all murdered as if they were rivals to a throne. One son Jotham Gideon’s youngest escaped. Jotham if he was seeking a kingdom could have mounted an army to fight his brother for power but like Gideon he wanted no King for Israel but God. So before he fled he told a parable that included a curse on the people who supported the evil acts of his brother.

8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’ Judges 9:8-15 ESV

Christ used parables extensively in his teaching and it should be no surprise to see God speak to the people in parables in the Old Testament as well. Here Jotham speaks even to contemporary society as we vote and install leaders. Each of the trees that were asked to be king refused because they would need to give up the blessings that they provided to everyone. The olive tree would stop providing oil, the fig tree would stop providing sweet fruit, and the vine would stop providing the wine to cheer the hearts of men. Finally the bramble is asked to be King. Unique among these trees, vines, and bushes is the bramble because he would be able to provide an authority and cover between other nations or God and the “trees” that called the bramble to be king. “Come take refuge in my shade” the bramble tells them, but the bramble warns that his shade will only be of benefit if the leaders called him in good faith. In contemporary society leaders are called to protect borders and keep order. They are needed. But some people want leaders that will provide for them with money or power. How can they manipulate the system to provide a benefit to themselves? People and corporations make a regular practice of this in today’s society. Votes are given to those that will do the most for a particular class, or culture, or type of person not what is best for society as a whole.

When you vote why do you vote for the person running for office? Abimelech wanted power and the people who voted for him wanted to share in that power. Abimelech killed all of his brothers because of a lust for power and money. Cain killed a single brother because of jealousy and God in mercy let him live. What can be said for a man who kills 68 of his own flesh not for passion but because of a lust for power? What can be said for the leaders who supported such naked evil?

All people are sinners so looking for a perfection in any man is a waste of time. Trump and Clinton are not saints so the question then is are you voting in good faith for one of these brambles to lead this country or are you supporting them because of a lust for power and you don’t really care if they unfairly crush the enemy to your side of the argument? As a conservative Hillary is a nonstarter for me to support. Her world view in regard to how government should be used does not align, she actively supports abortion which is the murder of children up until the day of birth, she lied about what happened in Libya to protect herself politically, and she sees herself so above the laws that should apply to all men when she kept her own email server for what could only be to hide conversations from the freedom of information and future historians. Trump on the other hand is a wild card. He does not care about ideological things like abortion but only to champion his own name “Trump”. He says he will build a wall to keep immigrants out of the country and he says he will ban Muslims from entering through visa programs to the cheering of Middle America. Racists and bigots have come out of the woodwork to attack anyone that does not support Trump. Would my vote for him lend credibility to the evil that surrounds this billionaire?

For the leaders that supported Abimelech it was a clear cut condemnation. A king was not needed and it was not Gideon’s wish that any of his sons would be king. The way power was consolidated with the blood of many men is one of the most shameful acts in the Bible. Jotham’s rebuke and curse is plain to see in that the shade provided by the bramble would also be used a trap and fuel for an all-consuming fire to the people who sought to install him in power. Paul puts it this way to the church in Rome.

2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2 ESV

These people that supported and put Abimelech into power must now submit to his rule. When he becomes a tyrant and evil King that generation has no say in having him removed. In fact in just a few short years they grow tired of his oppressive ways and try to have him removed.

22 Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, Judges 9:22-23 ESV

God is just and what was done to Gideon’s family would not stand so just as Jotham proclaimed the bramble became a trap of complete destruction.

45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt. Judges 9:45 ESV

As a Christian we must submit to the governing authorities in whatever land we live and if we are fortunate enough to have some degree of choice in our leaders then we should pray for them and take the vote seriously. However do not turn to politicians and government to save because they are always a bramble that can be the tinder in any fire just as quickly as they can be a shade and protection from the outside forces. Put your trust completely in Christ and weigh your motives when voting.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:15 ESV