Bible Studies
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Monday, 08 November 2004

It's an unfortunate fact that when political leaders seriously err it's their people, not themselves, who generally suffer.  Errant political decisions result in war, revolution, famine, disease and untold suffering for people who had no part in the decision-making process.  It's therefore vitally important that Americans inform themselves regarding the political arena and take time to act appropriately.



By Jim Jordal

Now Satan stood up against Israel and provoked King David to sin by conducting a census of the people. David ordered captain of the armies Joab to begin the task, but Joab demurred, saying, "Why do you need to sin by determining how strong we are? Are not all servants of the king?" But David prevailed and the census revealed 1,100,000 fighting men in Israel and 470,000 in Judah. But God, displeased with this evidence of faithlessness, sent the seer Gad to confront David with his great sin. David humbly admitted the sin and asked forgiveness, whereupon God offered him three choices of punishment: three years of famine, three months of defeat before your enemies, or three days of pestilence under the hand of an angel. David replied to Gad, "I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man." So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel, killing 70,000 men. Then David, realizing the effect of his sin upon the people, admitted again his culpability and asked God to punish him and his household, but not the innocent people. After this, David went out with Gad to find a place for sacrificial offering, and came to buy land from a man named Ornan, who offered to donate the land and wood and oxen for the sacrifice. But David refused, saying, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing." And God saw the offering of David, answered with fire from heaven, and commanded the avenging angel to sheathe his sword, ending the calamity.

Paraphrase of First Chronicles chapter 21

King David’s sin in the passage above consisted of conducting a census to determine his military strength. He did this against the advice of his top general, Joab, and without consulting the prophets to determine whether or not this would be acceptable to God. Why was this a sin? Because it indicated a lack of trust in God, and a dependence upon human resources rather than upon Jehovah.

Notice that it was the people who suffered because of their leader’s sin. Some 70,000 died of disease at the hand of an angel after David wisely chose affliction under the hand of God rather than the cruel whims of man. No doubt the punishment would have been worse had David elected one of the other two choices. But again, no matter what the choice of punishment, the people still bear the cost of their leader’s mistakes.

This principle is evident throughout human history. Consider the vast numbers of people killed in wars fought over nothing more than a leader’s vanity and greed. Think of the 20 million Germans killed defending a megalomaniac dictator named Adolph Hitler. And suffer with the soldiers now dying in Iraq and their grief-stricken families over a war instigated by leaders deluded by false reports and poor intelligence.

Because of the awful costs borne by a nation’s people when their political leaders act in ignorance of God’s word and will, it is vital that we return to what God says concerning our selection and support of national leaders. But how can we do this when so many conflicting voices use the separation of church and state shibboleth to discredit any use of biblical ethical standards in the public arena? For any prominent politician to claim allegiance to Divine moral and ethical standards is to invite attack from all sides. Even well-meaning but misguided Christians will take up the chant, "Why is your view of God’s will any better than anyone else’s?"

That’s pretty loose thinking, because if God agreed with all positions relative to His word, then there would exist no definitive standards of right and wrong or of anything else. Where would our system of jurisprudence be without clear ethical standards? What would happen to public decency if no clear guidelines existed? Who could be protected from the criminal acts of others?

Psalm 72 predominantly concerns the reign of Christ in His earthly kingdom. But more than that, it also sets forth clear ethical and moral standard for human rulers. Verses 12 through 14 proclaim how righteous civil leaders under guidance by God should rule: "For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence; and their blood will be precious in his sight."

God’s view is that righteous civil administration will protect people from oppression and exploitation, and will rescue their lives from oppression and violence. That’s a long way from what happened under David at that particular time in Israel’s history. Overall, however, David turned out to be very successful in leading God’s people, since he had character enough to confess and forsake his sin, and even to offer himself as a sacrifice for the people.

Would to God we had civil leaders today willing to subordinate their thirst for power and influence to the will of God and the welfare of the people. But have heart, it won’t be too long until this begins to occur.

Last Updated ( Monday, 08 November 2004 )