Theology of Nations, Part II

oval-officeGovernment is God’s idea. When God called Abraham, He told him “I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.”[1]  God repeated this over Sarah, “I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.[2] Again God declares this over Jacob when He commissions him as Israel, “And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.’ ”[3]

If nations with kings (or governing leaders) were God’s intention, what about Saul?

“The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.’” I Samuel 8: 7-9

Why were the people rejecting God by wanting a king; a government over them? Samuel proceeds to list the ways that this king will be a burden to them. People have interpreted this passage as evidence that government is not God’s intention. However, we don’t create doctrine against government based on this passage because it was God’s response to a particular instance of the people demanding a king rather than God’s response to kings in general.

Kings were God’s plan, but Saul was not. The problem was not with the institution, but with the individual. Saul was anointed to rule because the people demanded a King. Otherwise we would see this prophecy fulfilled for the first time in David. Saul was an Ishmael. David was God’s Isaac. We do not look at Ishmael for God’s intended prophetic fulfillment, we look at Isaac. We do not look at God’s response to Saul as God’s thoughts about kings and governments of nations, we look at David.

David is in the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From David’s line comes Jesus. Isaiah writes of Jesus, “for a child shall be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on his shoulders.”[4] God promised that the “throne of David will be established before the Lord forever.”[5]

Paul writes,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.”[6]

Saul could not have gained his authority without God establishing him. David submits to that authority even though he is rightly anointed as King; to the authority of the one who throws spears at him. God brings Saul right into David’s grasp, and David laments that he cuts Saul’s garment. When Saul is killed, David grieves his loss, rather than rejoicing that he is now to assume his kingship.

God’s word never returns void. He did not promise Abraham nations and kings only to do away with them when Jesus comes with His Kingdom. Jesus commissioned us to disciple nations; this commissioning is in the context of the entire narrative of Scripture. John writes in Revelation that, “the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”[7] God designed us to have healthy nations. Abraham is in the hall of faith[8] awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. We partner with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob when we disciple nations and bring the healing that Jesus gained on the cross to each and every one of them.

Nations will change. They will come and go. Many nations we have today did not exist in Bible times, and many that did do not exist today. But we do know that God intends for nations to exist in a form that its people are subject to the leader or leaders of that nation. When we stray away from this form, we stray away from the truth.

In America, we live in the tension between two political perspectives. We are either leaning towards big government, or we lean back the other way towards limited government. The constant tug of war keeps us from diving into the dangerous ditch on either side. It is just as important that we avoid the ditch of anarchy as it is to fall into the ditch of tyranny. We are a nation of the people, by the people, but it is the people united under a Constitution that includes each important part of the government. Sometimes we infer that government of the people is each person, or the people disunited with our various agendas. But it is a whole ship operating together as a unit. If any one part gains too much power, the whole system is in jeopardy. Even the people having too much power can sink the ship.

When we see abuses of power we tend to over-correct our course. We throw ourselves into a different error from the one we were avoiding. We watch Christians seek to strong arm the government to change culture, and we argue that we don’t need to concern ourselves with matters of government because Jesus didn’t use political power. Consequently we fall into another error. God does have a role for government, it just isn’t that one.

We don’t use governmental power to transform a nation, but a transformed nation will have a transformed government. There is a difference between the Church trying to disciple the nation through political power, and the government being discipled with truth as part of discipling the nation. We err when we believe that we must finagle the government to be an arm of the Church. We also err when we think God’s truth does not extend to our government.

[1] Genesis 17:6

[2] Genesis 17:16

[3] Genesis 35:11

[4] Isaiah 9:6

[5] I Kings 2:45

[6] Romans 13:1

[7] Revelation 22:2

[8] Hebrews 11

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