Good Government?

May 21 Day 141

Good Government?

Government is the system or group of people governing an organised community, often a state. It usually consists of legislative, executive and judiciary. Government is the mechanism for deciding state policies and the means by which those policies are enforced. Historically, forms of government have included theocracy, autocracy (such as monarchy), oligarchy, aristocracy and democracy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government).

Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’

Governments have their ups and downs. Our politicians are human beings with human weaknesses like our own.

There is a certain ambivalence about all human government in the Bible. There are parts where human government is affirmed as God-given (for instance, in Romans 13), and others where it is pictured as being under demonic control (for instance, in Revelation 13). Together they represent the reality of human government. Governments reflect the mix that is in us all of what is good and true alongside what is sinful and flawed.

However, be assured that one day there will be a new type of government – the kingship of Jesus (John 12:12–36).  

Government of God

Psalm 65:1-13

Do you realise how good God is? He loves you and wants you to enjoy his blessings today in your life. This psalm is all about the goodness of God. It paints a beautiful picture of what life can look like when lived under God’s rule. Meditate, today, on his goodness.

God hears your prayers (v.2), he forgives your sins, even when you may feel ‘overwhelmed by sins’ (v.3). God’s forgiveness is amazing.

‘We are filled with the good things’ (v.4) being in his presence. He gives you ‘hope’ (v.5b) and ‘joy’ (v.8b).

See his great love in the way he treats creation (the watering of the land, the provision of corn, crops, flocks, and so on, vv.9–13).

We don’t live in a society directly governed by God, but through Christ you have a direct relationship with God in your own personal life. You can follow his rule and experience the blessing of God’s presence. This is one of the ways in which you can experience ‘the kingdom of God’ in your life now.

Lord, thank you that one day your kingdom will come and every knee will bow before Jesus and he will rule rightly in a ‘new creation’.

Government of Jesus

John 12:12-36

Are you troubled by something you are facing? Are you distressed by some trial in your life? If you are, you have a leader who understands. Jesus said, ‘My soul is troubled and distressed…’ (v.27a, AMP).

Jesus gives us a model of how to respond to difficulties in our lives and to a suffering world. Then, as now, was a time of crisis. As Jesus said, ‘the world is in crisis’ (v.30, MSG).

At the time of the Feast of Passover, ‘the great crowd’ came to Jerusalem (v.12). Josephus estimated that around 2.7 million people would assemble. This may well be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it was a massive festival and there must have been a great sense of excitement and expectation.

At the time of Jesus, people were awaiting the Messiah. They were looking for a human king, in the line of David, who would free them from their oppressors. As Jesus enters Jerusalem he is seen to be that king: ‘Blessed is the King of Israel!’ (v.13b). The crowd probably saw Jesus as a military king and were hoping for an immediate liberation from Roman rule.

Then, as now, there were different attitudes to the government. The Pharisees (v.19) took the view that Roman occupation, oppressive though it might be, must be endured until God removed it. The Sadducees favoured co-operation with the government. The Zealots were the most popular with the people. They wanted a violent revolt led by a messianic king.  

Jesus is indeed the King. But he did not ride into Jerusalem triumphantly, powerfully, in a chariot or on a stallion. He is a different type of leader: ‘See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt’ (v.15b) – humbly, gently, sitting on a baby donkey. He is the messianic King but not a military one. This acted parable was designed to correct the misguided expectations of the crowds and show the city of Jerusalem the way of peace.

He came as the victorious King – not by doing violence to the oppressors but by having violence done to him. He says, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ (v.23) – and yet he is talking about the cross. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die’ (vv.32–33).  

We see an insight here into the inner struggle in Jesus’ heart as he faces his imminent trial, suffering and death: ‘Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ (vv.27–28a).  

The victory of Jesus came not through military force but through his self-sacrificial death, which defeated the demonic powers (v.31). The death of Jesus signifies judgment on the world, the overthrow of evil, the glorification of Jesus and a drawing of all people to him.

Here, indeed, was a different kind of victorious king. Jesus not only fulfilled the prophecies about the messianic King, he also fulfilled the prophecies about the suffering servant. He brought the two lines of prophecy together.

One day Jesus will return as the triumphant King to rule and reign for all eternity. In the meantime, you are called to be light in the darkness. If you live under the leadership of Jesus ‘then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light’ (v.36, MSG). And God will honour you – Jesus says ‘my Father will honour the one who serves me’ (v.26).

Lord, help me to serve you in such a way that my life brings light to a dark world.

Government of humans

1 Samuel 8:1-10:8

God had planned that his people would be different from others. He planned a society in which God himself was the King. But Israel wanted to be like everyone else. Direct rule of God only works when the people are wholly devoted to God. If not, it results in the chaos we saw in Judges. It is better to have a human king than no king at all. We might list the preferences like this:

  1. God as King (theocracy): The government God wanted – his perfect will
  2. A human king (monarchy): The government God allowed – his permissive will
  3. No king (anarchy): The government in Judges – chaos

The people of God rejected his rule. The Lord says, ‘they have rejected me as their king’ (8:7). The people ask for a king. They say, ‘appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have’ (v.5).

Samuel warns them that human governments are weak and fallible. Power corrupts. Samuel warns that the king who will rule over them will take some of their families, land, possessions and employees and use them for his own benefit and that of his inner circle (vv.11–16).

In other words, he warns them about the failings and weaknesses of all human government. He also warns them about taxes and ‘extensive bureaucracy’! (v.15, MSG).

In spite of the warning, the people say, ‘We want a king over us’ (v.19). The Lord allowed ‘plan B’: he gave them a king (v.22). Saul is chosen to be the anointed leader of Israel to deliver his people (9:16). The moment Samuel sees Saul, in the blink of an eye he recognises that this was the man who was going to govern the people of God (v.17). Saul, who comes from a humble background (v.21), becomes the anointed king (10:1).  

God graciously blesses this new plan. Three remarkable things happen to Saul (which now happen to you and every Christian). First, when he is anointed the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him in power (v.6b). Second, he is ‘transformed’. He becomes a new person (v.6c, see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Third, Samuel tells him, ‘Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!’ (v.7, MSG).

This was true of Saul and it is true of you. However down you might feel about a circumstance, however far from God you may feel, however difficult you may find it to pray, whatever doubts you have, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you; you are being transformed into his likeness and God is with you.

Lord, give wisdom to our leaders that they may lay aside their own personal agendas and work together to maintain justice, peace and unity in the nation for the glory of your name.

Pippa Adds

1 Samuel 8:3

Samuel’s sons did not walk in the ways of their father. Samuel had led so many people in the ways of God. How sad that his sons were not among them. We need to pray particularly for children of Christian leaders.

Verse of the Day

‘Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!’ (1 Samuel 10:7, MSG)

References

Winston S. Churchill, Churchill Speaks: Collected Speeches in Peace and War, 1897–1963 (Atheneum, 1981) (Speech in the House of Commons, 11 November 1947)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.