the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
One benefit of localized representative government is a multiplicity of civic leaders. In last week's article I said the Bible teaches self-government under God and that this requirement is met in the body politic through the participation of individuals in selecting civil leaders. The individual “must participate in the selection of his civic representatives” because “without involvement in the process, his God-given duty of self-government is undermined.” Moreover, the presence of numerous civil magistrates helps preserve the right of self-government under God by creating barriers between the individual and civic power. According to the biblical model it is the responsibility of lesser magistrates to stand in opposition to the oppressive power of greater magistrates. In last week's article we called this the right of resistance. But what we need to understand is that the right to resist does not (generally) reside with the individual but with leaders selected to represent the corporate body.
In the text cited last week, “the people” saved Jonathan from the consequences of Saul's misguided oath. What we need to realize is that the people who resisted Saul's demagoguery were not a disorganized mob of rebellious soldiers but were the officers of the army (1 Samuel 14:38). Furthermore, the army officers were leaders in civilian life as well.
In the military of ancient Israel, officers were not professional soldiers but men appointed by the genealogical scribes (Deuteronomy 20:5-9). The scribes were familiar with the families, clans and tribal organizations and knew who had been chosen by their fellows as civil authorities. Having access to the lists, they would appoint previously chosen leaders who had distinguished themselves in civilian life (Deuteronomy 1:13-15).
Therefore, the salvation of Jonathan is a demonstration of the scriptural principle of rulers opposing rulers. This is a key precept in the Bible and so is portrayed for us time and again. Consider Ehud, elected to represent Israel in delivering tribute to Eglon king of Moab - who gave the king more than he bargained for (Judges 3:21 – 22). Think of Samson, used by God to move against the Philistines who had dominion over Israel (Judges 14:4). Likewise, Daniel, a high official in the Persian Empire who stood against the ill advised legislation of Darius (Daniel 6:10). Even the misunderstood Esther and Mordecai utilized positions of authority to countermand the evil intent of Haman, prime minister of Persia (Esther 2:11, 17, 19, 21).
Even among the ungodly grievances against established authority are normally presented through the agency of a popular representative. Those times in history when the godless mass has risen in an anarchical explosion, the leaderless multitude soon gives way to a Napoleon. Indeed, it seems the custom of rulers opposing rulers in civil society is more readily embraced by the ungodly than by the regenerate. This is not to say Christians tend toward anarchy but that believers are often too timid to insist their elected officials take a godly stand against the encroachment of centralized power. It is time we rectify that fault.
This brings us back to the fundamental responsibility of every Christian to bring their arena of activity under the authority of Jesus Christ. As we are faithful to the Gospel of King Jesus over generations, we may expect the eventual emergence of a majority in favor of godly government. From this majority, city, county and state leadership will arise, educated in principles of biblical civil government and tutored in the application of God's law to modern society. This is the mustard seed becoming a tree. This is the yeast working through the lump of dough. This is part of the self sacrificial service of Christians filling the world with the marvelous aroma of fresh baked bread.