In the verses that you were directed to read you discovered the formula for disaster.
Israel had no king + Everyone did as he saw fit = Disaster
No King. Was this a bad thing for Israel to not have a king? We will find out later in 1 Samuel that it would actually turn out to be a bad thing for Israel to have a king. So why was the fact that Israel had no king a problem? The real problem is found in the second phrase, “everyone did as he saw fit.”
The problem with Israel in the book of Judges is that they had no center. There was no unifying, centralizing core to the society. You may be thinking, “hey, wasn’t the Law of Moses supposed to be the central, unifying aspect of the society.” Yes it was. The problem was that the people chose to abandon the Law and follow after the pagan religions of the neighboring Canaanites. Without a common morality based in the Law, and without a central person to give leadership to the nation, the Israelites were spinning wildly out of control.
Here is a truth about society in general. When a society shares a common value system there is little need for a large government to rule over it. If each member of society lived according to the shared values, then the people would govern themselves. When the society does not share a common value system, when what is right to one person is wrong to another person, then it becomes very difficult for people to govern themselves. At that point there becomes a need for a ruling government to impose a standardized value system upon the people and then to enforce that value system through legislation and punishment. This becomes an inverse relationship; the larger and stronger the common values, the smaller the government; the smaller and weaker the common value system, the larger and more necessary the government.
God’s desire for His people was that they would circumcise their hearts, fully internalize the heart of God’s Law, and walk according to the spirit of that Law. If the people had actually done this, then there would be no need for a king. Sadly, the people merely circumcised their flesh, viewed the Law of Moses as an external list of do’s and don’ts, and quickly abandoned this value system. By turning to the neighboring pagan faiths, each tribe evolved into its own unique distortion of God’s truth, resulting in confusion and animosity within the family of Israel. Without a common law and without a king to rule over them, Israel was doomed.
The formula we are discussing is true for all societies, including our own. The Western World and the United States in particular, is fully steeped in a pluralistic society. That means that there are many, many different people groups in our society, each carrying very different sets of values. Many of these people groups own values that are diametrically opposed to one another. One group says that you can abort your child, the other says you cannot. One group says that there should be same-sex marriage, another says you should not. One group says there is no difference between male and female and all people should have equal access to all levels of authority, another says that men and women are different and should be limited to gender-specific roles. The list of diametrically opposed value systems in our society could fill several pages.
What does this mean? It means that our common values are drastically diminished, necessitating a large government. As people left to ourselves, we can’t get along. Knowing that this internal distress will rip our nation apart, the government becomes larger each year, passes more and more laws to regulate our “morality”, and thus is taking more and more freedom and control away from people. The more freedoms that are taken away from people the more people will buck against the government and strive to gain identity.
As the commonly shared values decrease in our country, the power and control of the government will increase. Being a “democratic” society, the government will be persuaded to make legislation based upon the loudest lobbyists and the deepest pockets.
The point of this is that our society cannot continue much longer on the trajectory that it is on. Eventually something is going to give and the bubble is going to burst. As we have already stated, society needs one of two things to get along. It either needs a commonly shared value system or a powerful, authoritative government that is not afraid to enforce its own value system upon its citizens. Either way there will eventually emerge a dominant value system that will oppress and eliminate its competing systems in order to bring “peace” to the society. Just study history and you cannot deny this inevitability.
At this point some Christians reading this may interpret these words as a call to arms for the Christian activist to “reclaim America” for Christ. That is not the message. In human systems, the only way to “win the day” for your value system is through force. As wonderful as the democratic system is, and no matter how many Christians turn out to the voting stations to shoot down immoral laws and fight for what’s right, you cannot legislate morality. Let’s say that the Christian world view won the legislature and biblical laws were established in our country. If the people of the country do not believe in the values that created the laws, then the only way to enforce those laws would be through a strong-armed government. Is having biblically based laws that are enforced by militant police really what we mean when we say we want to “Reclaim America?”
As Christians we need to always remember some important points:
- If the church is going to be healthy then it must remember that we do have a central value system and a central ruler; Jesus Christ. Jesus fills both of these roles. That is what He meant when He said that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. The center of the church is the person of Jesus Christ. The strength of the church is a twofold unity. First a genuine unity with Jesus in a personal relationship. And, secondly, a unity between the members of the body that flows from the unity each individual has with Jesus. We must stay focused, not be distracted, and stay filled.
- The church’s purpose in the world is not to conquer it with the sword of politics and impose the law of Christ on others. The church’s purpose is to BE salt and light in the world. We are to demonstrate to society that the law of Jesus actually does bring peace to humanity. The Kingdom of God is the better way of true love. We will make a far greater impact on the world if each individual believer and each individual local congregation actually walked in the Kingdom of God and loved everyone around them, regardless of race, religion, or social status. It is the unity of the body and the love of Jesus that will be the salt to make people thirsty for Jesus and the light to guide their way to Him.
- Our King was physically crushed by the humanly constructed political systems of His day. As scary as this may sound, it is most likely that the United States will not go in favor of the values of the Kingdom of God. Our government will probably be overtaken by the loudest value system of the day. It is very probable that the church may come under persecution in order to “maintain peace” in our society. While that may be scary to our flesh…it’s OK. We are not citizens of this political system. We are citizens of Heaven, brothers and sisters with people from all nations, who bow the knee to the King of Kings. No matter what happens in our world, Jesus will always rule!