Saturday, 10 October 2015

Lawful Christian Resistance, Part VI

We Are Not Playing Tiddlywinks

Lawful Christian resistance to tyranny lies not in the hands of private individuals.  This duty lies in the hands of those who represent the people.  God made this plain throughout the history of Israel, particularly in times of the monarchy--and most pointedly at the time when Saul, the first king of Israel was inaugurated into office.

The people had asked for a king.  Samuel (representing God) told the assembled nation "the rights and duties of the kingship; he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the Lord."  (I Samuel 10:25).  Some time after Saul was chosen, Samuel again summoned Israel to "renew" the kingdom.  Then follows a remarkable passage in which God lays out the duties of the people with respect to the king.  These duties are not defined in terms of obeying and serving the king. They are defined in terms of the people obeying and serving God and following His law and His commandments.

If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” [I Samuel 12: 14-25]
In the appointment of a king or a prime minister, or a president, God always makes two covenants.  First, the highest authority (be it king or president) is His appointee and servant.  The king or president answers to God.  If the authority obeys God and does well, he will prosper.  If not, he will be swept away.  But, as our passage above makes clear, God at the same time makes a covenant with the people.  If the people rebel against God and turn away from His law, God will set his heart against both the people and the king.  "But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king."  With the enunciation of the Great Commission to go and disciple the nations, these obligations fall upon every people on earth.  They particularly apply to nations which have fallen under the sway of the Gospel and laws of the King of kings--Jesus Christ.  

Consequently if the representatives and rulers of the people do not hold the lusts of the people in check, the whole nation will be judged.  In exactly the same way, if they do not hold the lusts and disobediences of kings, magistrates, presidents and prime ministers in check, both leaders and people will be swept away.  

Subordinate magistrates, officials, and representative of the people have a covenanted duty to God to hold the higher authorities to account so that they not do evil nor act wickedly.  Theirs is a public responsibility.  If they fail to do this, the whole nation will be deconstructed.  We see this divine pattern at work in Scripture when the high priest, Jehoida enters into a covenant with the commanders of the people and the levitical authorities to conduct a coup against Queen Athaliah in Judah--a worshipper and servant of Baal.  The lesser authorities have a duty to restrain and resist the unjust king or higher authorities.  [II Chronicles 22,23].
Junius Brutus put it this way:
. . . if Israel forsake their God, and the king makes no account of it, he is justly guilty of Israel's delinquency.  In like manner, if the king follow after strange gods, and not content to be seduced himself, seek also to attract his subjects, endeavouring by all means to ruin the church, if Israel seek not to withdraw him from his rebellion, and contain him within the limits of obedience, they make the fault of the king their own transgression.   [Junius Brutus, A Defence of Liberty Against Tyrants (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1963),  p. 91 (Emphasis, ours.)]
To apply this to modern times--in the United States, for example, if state governors, legislatures, federal officials, Congress, and the President do not rise up against an aberrant Supreme Court to strike down its recognition of homosexual "marriage", the whole nation becomes guilty of this monstrosity and must bear the consequences.  So much for "going along, to get along".

In New Zealand there was a famous moment when a rugby player was penalised for "aggressive play" and complained, "We are not playing tiddlywinks, ref".  When people are elected or appointed to public office they, similarly, are not playing tiddlywinks.  By their actions, reactions, and application to their tasks and duties they are holding either the vindication or condemnation of the people in their hands.  Similarly, when the people can appoint representatives by vote, they also hold the future and prosperity of their nation in their hands.  If those representatives do evil, and the people consent by continuing vote them into office, the guilt of that evil falls upon all. 

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