When did the choice of a free people create so much despair? After the results of our recent national elections, one conservative commentator wrote the following: “What is left to hope for? That the American people will soon regret their choice? That another four years of economic stagnation and escalating debt will cure them of their insane appetite for charismatic liberals? If four years of endless failure have not rid them of this madness, the disease may well be terminal. Perhaps others will still see some cause for hope, and in another few weeks my friends may persuade me to see it, too. But today I will hear no such talk, and I doubt I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow. At the moment, I am convinced America is doomed beyond all hope of redemption, and any talk of the future fills me with dread and horror” (McCain, 2012).
Free people sometime confuse character and charisma. There have been classic choices of people yearning for leaders to lead them, who talked a good story but were ultimately unkind and harmful. The name Jim Jones comes to mind; as does Idi Amin. I hate to say this, but check Wikipedia; or how about a real encyclopedia?
In the Bible, the people of Israel longed to have a king over them, and to be like all the other nations. Samuel the prophet warned them that the cost to their families of a king to lead them would be a great one: 11 He [Samuel] said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day” (I Samuel 8: 11-18 NAS). God told them He was their king; He was all they needed. But the people thought a political sovereign here was safer than an invisible sovereign in eternity.
Did God not answer the people ever again? No, He did answer. The Lord gave the people what they asked for. Yet after the failed kingly reign of Israel’s first king Saul, God gave Israel a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God sought a righteous king after Israel’s selfish request gave them exactly as is prophet had declared. After this God gave Israel men to lead them who had every opportunity to honor Him and find success. Some followed; and so did peace and prosperity. Many did not, and pain and suffering came along as well.
It is really not our choices to which God responds – it is our hearts: the Apostle Paul wrote. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (Romans 13:1). It is our hearts that seek political solutions or personal convenience, and God often grants to the unregenerate heart those things that is desires (Romans Chapter 1). And in truth, God does not act this way capriciously or spitefully (Hebrews 12:2); He always acts on our behalf in love with an eye towards redemption (Philippians 2:13). God gives us leaders who bless us and who challenge us, and some who cause harm to us. But our responsibility is to acknowledge that God is sovereign over all leaders, and we are to pray for our leaders and respond to them when they give us directives which fit within our moral framework. God is in control. I am not, and my leader is not. But my leader is appointed by God, and my trust is in God.
A lengthy but important message here from Peter to slaves and persecuted Christians in the first century: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:13-21, NAS). Act as free men; but honor the king. Live as Jesus, who honored God and submitted Himself for our sakes to selfish, controlling insecure leaders out to protect their own interests. This cost Him His life, and gave us our true freedom.
Our future is not filled with dread and horror, unless it is focused on the wrong king. We are citizens of another Kingdom (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:19). We are being built into a holy dwelling place for God. Don’t hold on to bitterness, horror or dread – this will leave Christ no room in which to dwell in our hearts. Hold on to redemption, for our nation yes; but also for each of its citizens. Pray that each one would come to accept membership into God’s eternal Kingdom. Ultimately all of the nations will bow to Him; and all of these earthly kingdoms will become His dwelling place (Revelation 11:15). The choice of a free people must be framed by the context of what true freedom really looks like.
Reference: McCain, R. S. (2012, November 7). The American Spectator : Doomed Beyond All Hope of Redemption. The American Spectator. Retrieved November 8, 2012, from http://spectator.org/archives/2012/11/07/doomed-beyond-all-hope-of-rede/print.