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Why Is Isaiah's Message to Israel's Civil Rulers Applicable to Us Today, Since We Do Not Live in a Theocracy?

By Buddy Hanson
October 01, 2004

For more than a century, America has been electing lawmakers who, at best, admit to standing for nothing more than traditional values. It is long past time that we vote out of office those who rule in fear of public opinion polls and vote into office those who rule “in the fear of God.”1

This is not a political preference, but a political necessity — emphasized by the fact that 700 years before Christ was born, Isaiah taught the kings of Judah that “the nation and kingdom which will not serve [the church] will perish.”2 And a psalmist writes: “You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood. You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross .…”3 David adds, “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”4 This verse does not say the righteous (Christians) will merely live in the land forever, but will inherit it. Jesus clearly states that His followers are to “occupy” until He returns.5 This means we will be in charge of its governance in all of its functions and spheres.

The Evangelical Objection

Many of today’s evangelicals may consider this unfair. They say we cannot govern by God’s rules. “What about those who are atheists or belong to a non-Christian religion?” some may ask. “What business do we have demanding that they live by our standards?”

This erroneous reaction stems from the misguided 20th century mindset that Satan controls planet Earth and Christians should focus on personal salvation and church-related activities instead of on our culture. A full-orbed view of Scripture, however, shows there is no reason to imagine Christ limits His rule to church activities or to a few individuals. It must be remembered there is no such thing as a separation of the sacred and secular. All of life is sacred.

King David provides the correct perspective: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”6 David continues by asking, “Who may ascend into [political leadership]? … He who has clean hands and a pure heart … nor [has] sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord” (vs. 3–5). God, through David, teaches that Christian leaders (civil rulers) will receive His blessings.

What, then, can civil rulers who refuse to govern according to God’s laws expect but God’s curses? Indeed, what have our civil lawmakers and we received from God during the last 150 years as we have arrogantly preferred to live by our own wisdom and resources? The proposition that God’s Word is not good enough for civil government comes from the French Revolution, not the Protestant Reformation.

The Myth of Neutrality

Ask any Christian if he or she can take a neutral stance regarding God on any issue and the unhesitating answer will be, “No way!” But if these same brothers and sisters are asked whether their lawmakers can be neutral in making or enforcing society’s laws, in too many cases their answer will be “Yes, because .…”

As Christians, we should know that there are no acceptable “becauses” to keep us from obeying our Lord and Savior. Rev. James R. Wilson takes us back to the giving of the law:

When God proclaimed, on the summit of Mount Sinai, His Law, in the hearing of the congregation of Israel, it surely could not have entered into the heart of any pious or intelligent man among that people to believe, that while the private individual was bound by the law, the nation as such, the heads of the tribes, and all the civil rulers, were not to listen to it as directed to them. Everyone knows that the influence of the public laws of a nation is powerful over all the interests of the citizens, in relation to temporal prosperity, morality and religion.7

Because of man’s fallen condition, in which he is unable and unwilling to choose or decide on the Truth, a society’s laws should reflect God’s will, not the collective will of the people as theorized in the “Social Contract” of the Enlightenment. This means the civil ruler must follow and enforce God’s laws and serve His purposes instead of his own. Psalm 2 is clear on this principle:

Be wise now therefore, O you kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, unless He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. (vs. 10–12)

There is no difference between a good civil ruler in the Old Testament or in the New Testament. The only way to be good is to live and rule according to God’s law. In the words of Moses, “There shall be one standard for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.”8 Were this not the case, God would be guilty of having a double standard of judgment and that, of course, is impossible.9

The Old Testament provides several notable examples to substantiate this: Sodom was destroyed for breaking a case law,10 and Nineveh was spared destruction because it repented and began living in obedience to God’s Word.11 The lesson is that any nation can be assured that unless it does its best to follow God’s laws, it will perish, “because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God.”12

For society to succeed, it must follow God’s instructions, for “God is not mocked.”13 Our goal, as Christians, is to live according to “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”14 These words, as revealed in Scripture, reflect God’s will for our life. To effect His will “on earth as it is in heaven,”15 we have no other option but to conduct our personal and public actions according to His Word.

Nowhere in Scripture does God instruct us that His laws are no longer the best way to conduct our civil affairs. For a society to imagine it is wiser than God is to insult its Creator, Lord, Savior, and King!

This feature is excerpted from chapter four of Thy Will be Done On Earth: Heavenly Insights for Down-To-Earth Living, A Commentary on the Book of Isaiah.

Notes

1. 2 Samuel 23:3-7. See also Choose This Day: God’s Instructions on How to Select Leaders by Buddy Hanson. (Tuscaloosa, AL: Hanson Group, 2003).

2. Isaiah 60:12.

3. Psalm 119:118-119.

4. Psalm 37:29.

5. Luke 19:13.

6. Psalm 24:1. For statements concerning the worldwide rule, see Genesis 12:3; Acts 3:25; Psalm 47; Psalm 67; Psalm 72; Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 11:6-10; Isaiah 65:17-25; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Daniel 2:44-45; Habakkuk 2:12–14.

7. “The Subjection of Kings and Nations to Messiah” by James R. Wilson, 15.

8. Leviticus 24:22. See also Numbers 15:16; Deuteronomy 1:16-17.

9. Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Leviticus 19:35-37; Romans 2:11-12.

10. Homosexuality, Genesis 19:4; cf. Leviticus 18:22; 2 Kings 23:7.

11. Jonah 3; Luke 11:30, 32.

12. Deuteronomy 8:20; 30:17–18.

13. Galatians 6:7.

14. Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4.

15. Matthew 6:10.


Topics: American History, Biblical Law, Church, The, Culture , Government, Justice, Statism

Buddy Hanson

Buddy Hanson is president of the Christian Policy Network and director of the Christian Worldview Resources Center and has written several books on the necessity of applying one’s faith to everyday situations, circumstances, and decision-making. For more information, go to www.graceandlaw.com.

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