1 Samuel 8:5 | Not my President

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Leadership is a valued focus of the world we live in. Books on leadership are endlessly published. At the university level there are entire classes focused on leadership. The Kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter be held back not because she was deficient in the core academic competencies but because she was immature and lacked leadership skills. We spend billions every four years to pick a leader for the country.

In the Old Testament God laid out a very strange culture and government for the nation of Israel. It was a culture that was an anti-leadership program. The government was decentralized where families and communities lived their lives free of a King. As needed the Israelite life relied on judges. These judges were not voted into office. They did not come from prescribed class or family. Sometimes they were male and sometimes female. They were priests and they were average joes. Judges were chosen by God according to his will as they were needed. They were imperfect people with all their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable judges like Samson was hardly a model citizen. Deborah a woman. Gideon came from a small insignificant family. And Samuel served as priest as well as a judge. These men and women came and went. No family dynasties. No privilege was created to carry over into succeeding generations. This type of non government is outside of human nature and must have been very difficult for the populace to accept.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

This was not the first time the people wanted to install a king. Gideon had been so successful as a judge that the people tried to make him a king. They were desperate to install a family dynasty to rule over them.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Judges 8:22 ESV

It seems so very strange. But is it? History class told me that Americans wanted to make George Washington a king and he refused. Look at modern government today. If we had polling numbers how big would the percentage be that would want President Obama to be King and rule for the rest of his life? Or how many people would want President Trump to set up a kingship with his children to rule over us into the future? I bet those percentages would be more than expected. The desire I think is born out of insecurity.

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV

So why did Israel not have a King like “all the nations” around them? Both Gideon and Samuel answer that question and it is an answer that all of us living even today should take to heart. The reasons they provide apply just as directly to how we live our life and how we approach the world, church, and even our own governments.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 ESV

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:6-7 ESV

God organized the government into Judges because He is the King. God is the only King. The people did not need a king to rule them or to fight their battles. They had access to the very creator of the universe. When we cry out for leaders to rule over us (take ear evangelicals that are desperate for Trump to save Christianity from a liberal society! Take ear those who are woke and want government to lead society into the promised land of perfect morality and reparations!) we are rejecting the King of Kings. We are rejecting the true ruler of all things. We are clamoring for a god made in our own image and it is an evil selfish image. Salvation will not be found in books on leadership or the people who wrote them. Salvation will not be found in wall street or the mega church. Salvation will not be found in Republicans or Democrats. Salvation and true leadership will only be found in God through Jesus the King of Kings.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

Authority to Pray for Peace

Robert Jeffress is the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Texas. He is also one of the more vocal supporters of the Trump presidency. Jeffress made news by appearing to proclaim God’s favor on the idea that Trump might bomb North Korea. This happened at the same time the President set the world on edge with his now famous “fire and fury” tweet at the North Korean dictator. Jeffress, from the media perspective, is speaking for evangelical Christians and the fact that many seem to be approving of war. Quote from Jeffress…

“In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un,” Jeffress told CBN News.

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While shocking to hear a pastor speak like this in these terms on a national stage what Jeffress is saying on the face is true even if I personally am uncomfortable with how he said it. The fact that Jeffress is pulling from is Government has a unique role in regard to war. In an earlier blog post I wrote “Many want Government to replace the Church. They want Government to be compassionate and serving the community. The problem however is that Government has a unique authority to bring wrath and Governments have always had the authority to kill and to imprison”.

Trump as a man or as an individual does not have the authority to kill and wage war but as President of the United States he has a unique authority given by God wage war which involves killing people and sometimes innocents. I know this version of Christianity is shocking in the American age of separation of Church and State but find the following words from Paul to the early Church who were subjects of the hated Roman Empire.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-5 ESV

When Jeffress states Trump has authority to kill Kim Jong-Un the statement taken in context appears to be correct. As President Trump is a governing authority and God has given governing authorities the right to “bear the sword”.

So why is the quote and so disconcerting to so many Christians who already understand the role of Government and God’s Authority? Missing is a point of clarification to bring balance to the statement that Trump has the God given right to wage war. What is missing is the role of Christians in this high stakes drama. The role of the Christian is to pray for peace and to pray for the President in the way of peace. I fear that too many Christians desire war. It may be war is a given but for Christians the first desire until the very last moment should be peace.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV

God’s desire is for people to live in peace. Peace is a blessing to everyone. Prosperity is possible in peace. The president and the Church should not be belligerent, hateful, or escalating tensions with those around us.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 ESV

But know that if forced and if the time has come “if possible” is no longer possible then the President holding the authority of government has a mandate from God to wield the sword in a just and restrained manner. Do governments and men in power abuse authority? Of Course, and they will answer to God, it also means Christians must be all the more diligent in prayers for peace.