by Lonnie Lane
God would have been all they ever needed. But in time Israel decided they needed a king. They wanted someone they could see and hear, someone visible to stand in front of them and “judge” them as the Judges had done, and to lead them in their battles with other nations. “We will have a king over us that we also may be like all the nations and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam 19, 20). Someone who would not only be a leader on issues within the nation, but someone whose “foreign policy” would bring them success in war. And so Saul was chosen, a man who looked good and whose P.R. image was terrific. “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (1 Sam 9:2). What else would matter? He seemed like the perfect answer. And he seemed humble and God serving at least at first. He would do well. And so God gave them what they wanted and Saul was anointed as king.
Even when God knows that what we want will not prove to be good for us, because He values our free will, and in order for us to learn that His ways are best, He allows us to have what we want. He will not impose His ways upon us. Domination is never God’s way, which incidentally is why religions that dominate, including where it has applied to Christianity, are never from God. Nor are governments that oppress or restrict the freedom of the people, especially when it comes to following Him.
Well, the king of Israel wanted didn’t turn out to be what they had hoped. Oh, he led them all right, but not into the success they had expected. He brought fear and domination into the land and what had appeared as godliness turned to godlessness. He didn’t seek God for himself and seemed to disregard what God’s Word had to say. When he needed God the most, he turned to ways not of God. He looked to what the pagan nations around Israel looked to a sorceress and witchcraft! (See 1 Samuel 28.) He turned out to be a man filled with jealousy, which led to rage against anyone and specifically God’s “anyone” who threatened his position as king.
He was made aware that God had chosen someone else as king. He would have done well to repent of his waywardness and disobedience to God’s Word. It would have been best had he relinquished the position of king to David, the one whom God had appointed. But instead he became obsessed with securing his throne and the favor of the people. The more threatened he felt, the more he replaced freedom with control in Israel. He sought to put to death, including his own son, anyone who didn’t support him and his ways and his intentions to destroy David, which is to say, to destroy God’s will for a God-fearing alternative to himself. He refused to let go which put him at odds with God. What began as an anointing from God became a travesty of, shall we say, political ambition. It is not strong men of courage and character that oppress, but weak men who use others to bolster their own egos by denigrating or controlling them. David watched all this and learned as many have learned from bad leadership before them: Don’t lead this way! Be of a different spirit than they! Bring about the change that is needed, but be sure it is a change to godliness, a change to walk in the ways of God.
As I write this, we have just gone through a difficult presidential election. Change. We’re all looking for change. Liberals and conservatives all agree: Change is needed. Exactly what changes are needed differ according to philosophy and our perceived needs but change is what we’re looking for from our new president. As I write this, I don’t know who the new president will be. Or what changes he will actually bring. It’s the day before the election. Maybe the day after tomorrow I would write a different ending to this, but today this is what’s on my heart.
There are of two “kingdoms” of concern to me today: America and God’s. Once they were pretty much one and the same in that our constitution was founded on sound Judeo-Christian principles that recognized God as our Creator and Father. While we still have the same constitution, we have put “fences” around the original laws so that they have been manipulated, tweaked, and laden with so much legalism and layers upon layers of interpretation, that the original intent is often lost, or distorted.
Now you may be thinking, this doesn’t really affect your own personal walk with the Lord. You may even be disappointed in reading this, thinking it doesn’t affect you. But what happens to America will affect you considerable more than you may think, even if you don’t live in America. Please read to the end and then decide if it will matter to your life.
With regard to laws being changed, while it may not be an overt campaign issue, the “separation of church and state” is an underlying issue. Marriage defined as between a man and a woman, or when a baby becomes a living person are Biblical issues that the State is deciding upon. The “separation” is now legal doctrine that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate from one another. A recent poll shows that 69% of Americans believe the phrase is in the First Amendment. But the phrase is not in our Constitution.
The “separation of church and State” phrase can be traced back to a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists who were concerned for their religious freedom. In the letter Jefferson did refer to the First Amendment but as protection against the development of a “wall of separation between church and State.” As an FYI, the First Amendment does say:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Jefferson’s intent was to assure that “no law” in any way prohibited the “free exercise” of religion. Jefferson was underscoring the First Amendment as a guardian of the people’s freedom from government interference! The First Amendment put the restriction on the government, not on the people.
Three days after Jefferson wrote that letter, he went to church as usual on a Sunday in a service that was held in the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol building. This was the largest church congregation in America at the time, which met on government property, and which experienced no government interference whatsoever. Rather it was enjoyed by those who were the governing persons in our country.
Things changed radically with Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953-69) who dramatically expanded our civil rights as well as federal and judicial power in unprecedented ways including using this phrase to put the restriction on the people, rather than on the court. Here’s one of those not-so-good changes that led to thousands of repercussions in American life. This opened the door to changes so that today the government can stop people from praying or reading the Bible in schools, from displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings or having Christmas plays or displays in public places.
This is NOT what Jefferson meant when he first used the phrase. Too many changes for the wrong reasons. Ironically, these changes ultimately led to allowing what Jefferson and the founding fathers would have found shocking and way off the charts as to what would be permissible. We must consider what changes the changes we are seeking today will mean down the road. We must ask, will what we seek now make us the kind of people or the kind of nation we wish to be if we continue in the way of these changes? We always seek changes that we believe are to our advantage. But sometimes we are short-sighted and look for immediate remedies from distress without considering the long range repercussions or ramifications.
To change from God’s ways to other ways are not changes that have proven to strengthen America. We need changes now that will bring us back to God. What we are suffering is a direct result of leaving the paths God set this nation on originally. What God told Israel about their security being in Him applies to America as we are a nation founded by people who sought religious freedom to follow the Lord without oppression or persecution. Because we have been a nation of such integrity in the past, offering religious safety and freedom, we have reaped the blessings God offered to Israel: “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth” (Deut. 28:1) America has been a nation high above all nations of the earth in so many ways. I have always been proud to be an American.
But now, it appears that we are on the bottom side of those blessings: “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statues which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (28:15). Just following the Ten Commandments would be enough, but we have all but forsaken them as a nation. Watching violence is a pastime, “good” stories are about deception, covetousness, thievery and murder and those honoring God’s name are often mocked. Thank God for the remnant of godly believers in this country who repent and pray and believe God for revival for our land. Thank God that in the midst of a land in trouble, He is still pouring out His Spirit in glorious ways upon many of His people. There is a great light in the encroaching darkness.
God “who is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) has said regarding keeping His Word, “that you may observe to do according all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV) There is an incontestable link between America’s success and following God’s ways, just as there is for Israel. To depart from His ways is to lose our success status internally and among other nations. Our economic problems are not just about finances, they are also spiritual problems. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things [which you need] will be added to you” (Matt 6:33).
Today we are in a major financial crisis and greatly in debt to other nations that may not be seeking our best interests, but their own. The morality of our nation is the lowest it has ever been. The divorce rate is astronomical, which leaves millions in the next generation being raised in single parent families, and often without one parent or the other. What kinds of parents will they be? What will the generation that follows them be like? I heard the words of a song on the radio this morning that said (paraphrased), “When our schools give out condoms but you can’t read a Bible verse in school, something is wrong.” I’ll say!
Without a litany of “somethings” that are wrong, we have strayed from walking with God and we are in trouble. Yes, we indeed must make changes. But they must be God’s changes. We can make changes, but like Israel, only the changes to align ourselves with God’s Word and His ways will bring us back to safety, stability, and well-being and allow us to provide a safe nation for our children to inherit. That’s why God told Israel to be sure always to teach His ways to their children. (Deut 4:10; 6:7)
When Israel was far from God, how did they get back? Someone had to start talking about returning to God. There had to be a few that had a discussion, and started sharing it with others. Or possibly, God put it on the hearts of numerous Israelites simultaneously so that a move of God stirred the hearts of the chalutzim, the pioneers of the restoration who recognized the need to cry out to God. However it happened, it started somewhere and in time the nation cried out to God for His help and to restore them to Himself and to righteousness: “And the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord saying, ‘We have sinned against You, for indeed we have forsaken our God’” (Judge 10:10). With that kind of sincerity of heart, God answers. When they got into trouble in a war, they cried out to God for His help to end the war in victory as they “they cried out to God in the battle and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him” (1 Chron 5:20).
I’d like to suggest that we are in a battle. Several of them, in fact. Regardless of which man becomes president, which you will know when you read this, we are presented with finding our way out of the battles in which we find ourselves. They will be fought differently, depending on which man is president, but with either one, we need God. We need to cry out to Him to restore us to righteousness. We need to trust in Him to save us from the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. It won’t come about with good internal or foreign policies. A new government will not solve the problems, they will only manage them, or mismanage them. We are in a place that if America is to continue as the “land of the free and the home of the brave” we must have a return to God and to His ways of truth, of morality, of integrity, of respect for the value of life, of a commitment to what is right and righteous.
So whatever changes the government may initiate and carry out, each person must live according to the dictates of our own hearts. If we are looking for a king or a president to solve our national problems or our personal ones, it won’t happen. It is hoped that our new president will be a man of character and humility before God whom He fears as holy and wishes only to obey His will. I pray he will be a man who seeks the wisdom of God in all that he does.
We who are God’s are to be light in the darkness, truth in the midst of a time of confusion. It is we who are to call out to God when we have strayed. The unbelieving have no idea that they are far from God, unless He calls them. Israel knew to call out to God because they were His and He had made Himself known to them. The pagans around them didn’t call out to Him because they weren’t His. Don’t underestimate the power you have to turn God’s ear by your prayers to restore us to righteousness and the blessings He offers to those who walk with Him.
Please read through Deuteronomy 28 to see the blessings and the curses. Pray those blessings for America. Pray for our new president and all who are in office, but keep in mind that we are citizens of another Kingdom, one that enables us to pray and have influence for good upon the one in which we live physically (which is different than “dwell” spiritually). God will hear our prayers and answer.
It often takes me a day or two days to write an article, depending on how much research I need to do. It is now 11/4/08, election day, a day in which history will be made to send our nation in one direction or another. You know as you read this how the election turned out. I’m going to go turn on the TV and find out how the voting results are going. But even after the decisions are made and the votes are in, that’s only the beginning of our new chapter in American history. Regardless of which man is president, I will pray for him that the Kingdom of God will have influence upon our nation. I pray that you will too. We have a job to do. Together.