Friday, January 20, 2017

Who Is Our King?

As I sat down to write this, I knew I was running a risk. Donald Trump is a very polarizing person, and some people are dedicated to seeing him as either savior or tyrant. And though I am on record as having a negative view of him, I do not fall into either of those extremes. Therefore, neither side is likely to be totally happy with what I am about to say, and that could lead to anger. On top of that, the warning I am trying to give could also be turned back on me, if a time comes when I am guilty of hero worship or fear mongering.

I am willing to run the risk, though. This feels like a necessary reminder, even though I do not expect the worst to come to pass. And as for what goes around coming around, I have to be able to accept it. When I look to men instead of the Lord, I want to be corrected. I hope to have the humility to receive the correction. But the one thing I wish I could avoid is angering anyone by what I have to say. I am not trying to condemn. This is not aimed at anyone in particular, and in fact, most of the people I know are well aware of what I intend to say. Also, it is not a perfect comparison. My purpose, very simply put, is to call us to watchfulness. I hope I will be heard in that spirit.

The 2016 Election

Today is the Inauguration Day of Donald Trump. A few months ago, we had our Presidential election, and the majority of the states chose him to fill the office of the chief executive. His campaign relied heavily upon the support of evangelical Christians, without whom he could not have won. I have been very clear in the past about my disappointment on that score, and of my inability to vote for him myself. At this point, however, it would be sour grapes to criticize those who did not share my point of view. I do, I believe, understand their reasons. And so far, I have little reason to complain. There have been a few hiccups, but Trump has handled the transition fairly well. I hope he continues to do well. I certainly will be praying for his success, and ask you to do the same.

If you look at Trump’s election as a victory, you have a right to do so. If you see it as a defeat, I hope you will be wise in your opposition and show respect for our institutions. Either way, I believe there are some words from Scripture which ought to be taken to heart at this time.

A Biblical Comparison

In 1 Samuel 8, an important transition in the history of Ancient Israel occurs. Up to this point, it had been governed by judges. Beyond merely settling disputes, these judges also served as military leaders appointed by God to rescue Israel from their enemies. And the person serving as judge when this chapter starts is the prophet Samuel. Samuel had served faithfully for many years, but he was getting older and his sons were not as trustworthy. The people of the nation, instead of calling Samuel’s sons to account or praying to the Lord for a new judge to eventually replace him, went a step further and requested a king.

The leap from a judge to a king was little less in Israel than it would be in America. Judges lead, but kings command. They own. A nation with an absolute monarch has only as much freedom as he allows. The Lord, knowing this, warned the Israelites of the consequences of their call for a king in vv. 10-18. The ruler they requested would take what he wanted, let his friends help themselves, and make slaves of the people. But they didn’t care. They wanted a king “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:20).

This attitude is particularly condemnable. It was the Israelites’ way of saying they were unsatisfied with what they had had in the preceding generations. Throughout their history as a nation to this point, though they had judges, the judges were a reminder that their true ruler was the Lord. He watched over them, He judged them when they sinned, and He rescued them when they repented. He was their king. And they were sick of it. They no longer wanted to have to live up to His commandments, or to rely on His providence. If they could have a human king like their neighbors did, the Lord could be relegated to a secondary status. The defense of the country could be secured in the hands of the king and his descendants, and he would serve as a tangible symbol of Israel’s strength and glory. He could be their savior.

Again, the Lord was not ignorant of all of this. When Samuel came to Him, depressed from the people turning on him, the Lord said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). And later, when Samuel once again spoke to the people concerning their desire to have a king, he said, “When you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the Lord your God was your king” (1 Samuel 12:12). Ultimately, demanding a king was an act of faithlessness.

An Imperfect Parallel

As I said at the beginning, this story does not provide a perfect parallel. Donald Trump was not crowned a king today. He has only been entrusted with an office. That office is more similar to that of an Israelite judge than to that of a monarch. Furthermore, many of the people who voted for him were not clamoring for him. He was just the least evil option. But in spite of the differences, the similarities ought not to be ignored. No one should allow Trump’s election to represent salvation or relief from responsibility. It is, at best, a reprieve. I am not here to talk about what it might be at worst. The point is that he is not worthy of our trust. He never will be. No President ever has been. Nor is Trump going to fix all our problems. His inauguration does not give anyone the right to relax in the belief that all is well. The battle against the rot at the heart of our society will be ongoing, and it will take a more devoted effort from all of us.

The Lesson

I already alluded to it, but the story of the transition from judges to kings continues in 1 Samuel 12. And it is here, particularly in vv. 13–15, and 20–25, that we can find what is most applicable to our own situation. The Israelites, in requesting a king, thought they could throw off the burden of being accountable to the Lord. But He was not so easily gotten rid of. Their new king would still be just a man, just as accountable to God as they would continue to be. They would still have to obey Him to be blessed, and sin would still be met with judgment. Their society would not stand or fall on the actions of one of them. They would all be responsible for their future. And if they wanted it to be a bright one, they would all have to follow the Lord. That was not going to change just because one man gained a crown.

Unfortunately for the Israelites, they were not as faithful as they promised to be. Rather than guiding their new king toward righteousness, they allowed him to drag them all further in disobedience. And eventually that king, named Saul, would be deposed by God and killed in battle, along with most of his sons. His suffering was matched in the nation that had chosen him and followed him, in the chaos of his reign and in the confusion that followed his violent end. They had thought that the right man could release them from reliance on the Lord, but instead, their distance from Him led to disaster. Eventually, God in His mercy restored them again. But if they had been faithful in their hearts and in their actions, if they had not sat back and refused to turn to the Lord, it could all have been avoided.

That is the warning here. It is not that Donald Trump wants to be a king, or that Christians will make him one. It is that his victory can be attributed to Christians, and therefore we must all make the most of it, whether we voted for him or not. We must make more of an effort rather than less. We must turn to God in repentance for our own part in the direction this nation has taken, knowing that we have certainly had a part. Everyone with the ability to do so must guide Donald Trump down the right path rather than allowing his baser instincts to lead us down the wrong one. And we must work to show those around us their need for repentance and renewal. If we do not do what the Lord requires of us, then we can be sure of painful consequences to follow. In that, we will be like Ancient Israel and their first king. If we want to avoid such a fate, we must reaffirm that we are devoted to the Lord, and act like it. Today, with this new beginning, is the perfect time to dedicate ourselves to that.

Thanks for checking out the Quest Forums blog! If you enjoyed this post, please consider following me here, on Twitter (@Quest_Forums), or on Facebook (“Quest Forums”). Links are in the sidebar. I am always looking for new questions and comments, so submit yours on any of these sites or by emailing And please, spread the word! The share buttons below are a great way to do that. I want to connect with as many people as possible, so if you know anyone with questions about the Bible, send them my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment