Not so among you
R. Penney, Gosport
HUMAN RULE IS NOT ALL that it appears to be. It is not even all it is made out to be. It might be described by paraphrasing the words of the apostle Paul, 'a form of power but not the reality thereof'. God, in His Word, always reveals the reality of things so that His children should not be attracted by what ambitious men strive for and what the world dresses things up as.
The Book of Judges does in fact do what the newspapers only claim to do. lt lifts the coverings of pomp and show to reveal the sordid reality underneath. We are warned that we are here to serve. Not for us is the game of power as the world plays it. Not for us to exercise lordship nor to be rulers over God's heritage. Rather we are to achieve true greatness by serving as those of low degree, see Matt. 20. 25-28 and 1 Cor. 1. 26-31. Judges opens on a note of triumph. Judah, God's kingly tribe is victorious over Adonibezek. This enemy of the people of God is a type of Satan. His name means 'Lord of Lightning' or 'Lord of the Breach'. Satan's rebellion was punished by dismissal from heaven, as 'Lightning' falling to the earth, Luke 10. 18f. A breach has been made, for Satan holds sway over the kingdoms of this world, Luke 4.5-8-; Matt. 4. 8-10.
Adonibezek, like Satan, had captive kings grovelling for crumbs under his table. They had their thumbs and great toes cut off so they were powerless to go or to do. They were slaves and puppets of the great puppet master just as rulers and politicians in this world are slaves and puppets of the greater puppet master, the Devil, Satan. This is the reality of world politics.
It may be with a sense of horror that we realise that the British Government has a fallen angel with an army of lesser demons manipulating its system both national and local. Perhaps a reader is shocked that this could even be suggested. Please bear with the present argument before making a judgement. Ephesians 6. 12 makes the Christian position and that of the real powers in politics very clear. We are, like the forces of Judah, in a war against the real powers. Not against the impotent politicians who grovel for crumbs of self-gratification and clutch to themselves the rags of their empty glories under Satan's table. Not against governments, we are not revolutionaries. Not against carnal powers, for ours is a spiritual battle with spiritual weapons fought against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies, see also 2 Cor. 10. 3, 4.
The Book of Daniel gives us another glimpse into this spiritual warfare, showing us how it is to be conducted. In chapters 9 and 10 the prophet carried on his fight fasting and on his knees. Angel forces, clearly antagonistic to God held up the message of future history. Both the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece are clearly fallen angels controlling those nations. Michael, the Prince who helped Daniel's angel messenger is later revealed as the angel in charge of the destinies of the nation of Israel, Dan. 12. 1 and Rev. 12.7-9, perhaps the only world ruler who is not a fallen angel.
Later on in 1 Samuel 8 it is emphasized that God is the true ruler of His people. They need no one else. There are implications in this for the conduct of elders in the church. However that is not the subject under discussion. The number of captive kings under Adonibezek was seventy. This also has symbolic significance. Seventy is a number of completeness and responsibility. Human governments, of whatever form, democratic, tyrannic or communistic are all of them controlled by the enemy. 'The whole world lieth in the wickedness', wrote John, 1John 5. 19. We Christians are to act like salt in this earth preventing and slowing the corruption that is everywhere setting in. One day soon the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, Rev. 11. 15. But not yet.
In Judges powers try to enslave God's people and judges are raised up by God to defeat these and set His people free. By man's reckoning these judges are of very little account. Mesopotamia, Moab, Canaan, Midian and Ammon were all successively defeated by outcasts, cowards and women. Nevertheless, the truth had not sunk in to the minds of God's people. Even though the nations, organised under kings, had in the end been subdued by God working through the least of His people, they still thought in terms of kingship and rule. They could not imagine every man walking humbly before his God. They wanted a military leader, a representative for God whom they could see and whose orders they could hear directly. 'Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, 'rule thou over us ... and thy son and thy son's son', Jdg. 8. 22. In spite of his weaknesses, Gideon was a true man of God. He refused and put the matter right. 'I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you'.
After this follows a tale of murder fired by ambition which is horrifying in every detail. It is more awful since it is also a picture of the wickedness, the ignorance and the lawlessness of our own nature whose nastiness lies beneath a surface of civilized behaviour. Wickedness, since any crime may be committed once ambition is unleashed. Ignorance, since in spite of Gideon's warning that the Lord alone should rule, one of his sons was named (possibly by his mother) 'whose father is king'. Lawlessness, because Abimelech, despising every natural relationship, waded through the blood of his own family to a temporary throne.
He may not have had a good start in life but then neither did Jephthah, chapter 11. Abimelech decided for himself and his choices were evil and murderous. Ambition burns in all our hearts, we can mortify the flesh or we can make provision for it and so fulfil the lusts thereof. Abimelech did not only do that but, having given way to the sin of ambition he fired his relations on his mother's side with that same ambition and involved them in his crimes. Whatever sin a man is guilty of he is never alone, others always get contaminated. They, 'made Abimelech king'. The youngest of Gideon's sons escaped to speak for God down the ages about human political manoeverings. He spoke from Mount Gerizim, which was the mount of blessing, Deut. 7. 11.
Jotham's parable has been left recorded to show us the way of blessing as we conduct our lives among the world's political forces. It uncovers the nature of human ambition, ch. 9. 7-15. Neither the olive, nor the fig, nor the vine wished to be rulers over the trees. It was enough that God had given them a task, the fulfilling of which brought direct blessing to the world. Oil, sweetness and wine may be interpreted according to Scripture and it is suggested that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit are what is intended us to understand by the divine author. These are the blessings which the Lord's people ought to cultivate rather than to go seeking promotion over our fellows. By doing this we shall be of far more value to the world than all our legislators put together.
'The kings (rulers) of the nations exercise lordship over them, ... it shall not be so among you', Matt. 20. 25. These are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not to be taken lightly whatever the majority of professing Christians today might think.
We should certainly obey the laws and commands of rulers unless they interfere with these of God. Though some people argue that to be a legislator or a trade union representative is to serve other people and so to serve God some think otherwise. Nor do we think that to vote is to exercise a responsibility. There is no clear pattern for Christian behaviour unless it is a Biblical one. Too many have made shipwreck of their lives by missing that fact and by forgetting that the friendship of the world is enmity with God.
The true character of ruIers in a world where God's rightful King is rejected, is made clear in this passage of Judges. It is shown to be that of a bramble or thorn bush. Though the actual word translated 'bramble' here and 'thorn' elsewhere is not used in Genesis chapter 3 for the result of the fall, it is still suggested that before the fall there were no such things. Thorns, thistles and other prickly plants are the result of God's curse on the ground. The Lord Jesus was crowned with such. It is our ambitious, fearful, selfish and alienated human natures which want to reject God's rule and then to allow other humans to lord it over one another. It is not for Christians to want to rule but rather to serve, as did the Lord Jesus Himself when here on earth. The time for lordship and for judgement is not yet.