Every nation gets the government it deserves.
~ Joseph de Maistre
The above quote has been misattributed to Lincoln and Tocqueville at various times. Still, is it biblically true? What does the Bible say about this topic?
24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
25 But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.
Samuel gives the people a warning in 1 Samuel 12. They asked for a king, which displeased Samuel and God greatly. He warns them to not turn aside from serving God wholeheartedly, else both they and their king would suffer the consequences. He is not warning the governor; he is warning the governed!
We often read of the accounts of the kings of both Israel and Judah, and we read how so-and-so was more evil than his ancestors, but do we stop to think why? Do we consider that God gives people over to the fates they deserve, which includes who will rule over them?
4 This is what the LORD my God says: “Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. 5 Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the LORD, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them. 6 For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the LORD. “I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbors and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue anyone from their hands.”
Zechariah prophesies that people will be turned over to one another as well as the king over them. This is speaking of division and internal strife.
14 Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.
The staff of the Shepherd called Union or Unity was broken, thus severing ties, i.e. causing division, between Israel and Judah. Again, it was due to the sins of the people.
As we have previously discussed on this blog, division is caused by arrogance, ego, doing what is right in our own eyes and a scornful attitude. In many cases, the division and spirit of discord starts at the very top!
Yet, when isn’t the type of leadership in place not reflective of the collective character of the governed? Why did God break the staff of unity?
8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.
The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them
Could it be any clearer? We are seeing Israel’s attitude before having a king. God rid them of the foreign oppressors. He freed them from Egypt, the Canaanites and the Philistines, but in return He received only hatred!
There are many passages that bring out the general principle that the wicked have their own evil returned upon their own heads. Just one example of this is found in Jeremiah:
19 Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the LORD your God
and have no awe of me,”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.
This works individually, but remember that Jeremiah was a prophet sent to warn all of the people in Jerusalem (v 2). They would be punished for their collective wickedness!
Likewise, Isaiah prophesied of a time when no one who is worthy would want to be a ruler of the people.
6 When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
7 In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.
8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
It would be their reward to have children as princes and babes as kings (v 4). As a result, oppression will be the order of the day (v 5).
It is true that God sets up kings and throws them down. However, it is important to realize that is the character of the people that determines the type of leader that will be set over them by God. Notice that God chose Saul by lot to be the first king. However, God makes it clear that it was Israel who chose the king.
13 Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you.
Yes, God set Saul over them, but it was the type of leader they desired! God knew their hearts and wanted their king to be a reflection of their own ambivalent attitude towards Him!
Isn’t that just one example of how God works in people’s lives? He puts people in our path all the time that are there to teach us something about ourselves. In a sense, they become mirrors to what is going on in our own hearts and minds.
19 You see your face in a mirror
and your thoughts
in the minds of others.
If nothing else, from whence come a nations leaders? Do they not come from among the people who live in the society and are influencing and influenced by the mores, laws and traditions that surround them? Leaders reflect the society because they are a part of it!
Christianity focuses a lot upon the individual, and that is understandable. God’s Church is there to train individuals to reign, judge and rule in the world tomorrow. However, we should not forget that God also deals with people in a corporate manner as well. He has dealt with entire nations in the Old Testament, and He kept His promise to Abraham’s descendants in a corporate manner as well.
I believe God deals corporately with church organizations as well. Witness how Christ addressed each of the seven church organizations in Revelation 2 – 3. He calls upon individuals within each group to do the right thing all the while giving a general judgment upon that particular church.
We are individually responsible for our own actions. However, groups are made up of individuals. Together, individuals create a group that has a personality reflective of those who make it up. It should be no surprise that God still deals with us not only individually but collectively as well.