Day 141

Good Government?

Wisdom Psalm 65:1-4
New Testament John 12:12-33
Old Testament 1 Samuel 8:19-22, 10:1,6-7

Introduction

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.

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).

Wisdom

Psalm 65:1-4

1 Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
 to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 You who answer prayer,
 to you all people will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
 you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
 and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
 of your holy temple.

Commentary

Government of God

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.

Prayer

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’.

New Testament

John 12:12-33

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the king of Israel!’
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
 see, your king is coming,
 seated on a donkey’s colt.’
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realise that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.
17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
27 ‘Now my soul 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. 28 Father, glorify your name!’
Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Commentary

Government of Jesus

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).

Prayer

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

Old Testament

1 Samuel 8:19-22, 10:1,6-7

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.' 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’

1 Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?’
6 The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. 7 Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.

Commentary

Government of humans

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:

a. God as King (theocracy): The government God wanted – his perfect will
b. A human king (monarchy): The government God allowed – his permissive will
c. 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.

Prayer

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

1 Samuel 10:7, MSG

‘Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!’

Thought for the Day

However far from God you may feel, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you; you are being transformed into his likeness and God is with you.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

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.

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