Biblically, God is the Ultimate Authority or Government.
To order human affairs he’s created a variety of human governments through which his authority is mediated, or brought to human beings in general. These governments have been given jurisdiction within the limited spheres of authority delegated to them. If for whatever reason they take to themselves authority not delegated to them, authority which is delegated to other governments, then injustice and tyranny follows. At the very least the differing spheres of government are then out of balance and not functioning as intended by their Maker.
The standard which God’s government is related to is his own nature or character. There’s no standard back of God to which God is subject. He is the standard. When his authority is delegated to human beings, the standard to which these human governments are required to relate is God’s Law. In a sense his character is codified so we have a written reference point for our conduct. And as God doesn’t change, neither does that reference point.
There are repeated references to the total government of God in Scripture. For example;
‘At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Dan 4v34-35)
Nebuchadnezzer, perhaps the most powerful man at the time, understood accurately the Sovereignty of God, the Authority from which all authority flows.
A basic requirement for all human government Biblically understood, is for individuals to be self-governed in terms of God’s law. Individual self-government under God, is the primary human government. In other words, God has delegated some authority to individuals. This means that as adults, we can make choices in life to do as we please within the boundaries of God’s Law. As adults, nobody else has the authority to make life’s choices for us.
Any violation of God’s Law however is sin, as John says,
‘Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.’ (1 John 3v4)
Self-government outside the boundaries of God’s Law is rebellion against God and establishes a humanistic version of self-rule. Self-governed man in rebellion has been called `autonomous man’ – `autonomous’ meaning self-governed – man independent of God. Such humanistic self-rule in effect sets the individual self up as an idol. It’s a corruption of the self-rule God intended each one of us to exercise.
The government God has given to individuals includes the authority to have control over some of his property. He explicitly and emphatically establishes this authority through two of the Ten Commandments.
`You shall not steal,’ and `You shall not covet’.
These two commands secure the individuals legally acquired possessions from being taken from him or her, or even being coveted…’coveted’, meaning, to strongly desire something that belongs to someone else…the thought that precedes stealing.
If God has forbidden others to take your possessions off you, the flip-side is that he’s given you the right to own them.
This is an extremely important point and has wide and significant implications. These two commands secure God given rights of inviolable private ownership of property, and underpin the right of free economic exchange and thus free markets.
If I legitimately own property and can do what I like with it because of the sovereignty over it I have been given by God, I can keep it, destroy it, or dispose of it, in any way I choose. I can give it away, or sell it to whoever I like and ask whatever price I like. Conversely potential buyers who are sovereign over the wealth they have, can buy or not buy from me for whatever reasons they like. There’s no ‘fair price’ for anything, nor is there any such thing as inherent value in items expressible in monetary terms. There’s only the market price determined by the subjective value placed on an item by buyers and indicated to sellers by the price buyers are willing to purchase at. If I don’t like the price of something, I don’t buy. If I don’t like what I’m offered for something I have for sale, I won’t sell.
If anyone, or any organization, including the State, steps into the market place with a gun in the hand and tells me what price I must sell my products or labour for, or what I must buy, or what I must pay for products or labour, or excludes me in any way from competing against others in the market place, or gives favours or protection to some sellers and not others, or some buyers and not others, then they’ve violated private property rights and suppressed free economic exchange and thus violated God’s requirements in this aspect of human relationships. If the State does this, it has stepped out of the sphere of authority God has given for it to function within.
Of course modern states influenced in one way or another by Socialist ideology play God and do all these things all the time, in contradiction to the true God’s requirements. The State’s God given job regarding markets is to police the market to make sure it’s free of theft, deception, and coercion, etc, not to tell sellers and buyers what exchanges they can make and at what cost.
In a free market both the seller and the buyer win because if either were not happy with the transaction, the transaction would not occur.
I heard of a local guy in Papua New Guinea working with an expat who took some initiative to better himself and his situation by buying some chooks and building a chook house. As there was a strong communal local culture in the area, his actions were seen as being somewhat uppity, and so his relatives killed his chooks and tore down his chook house. I saw a film of a similar situation in PNG where a guy set up a coffee plantation which would not only benefit himself but also many around him through providing them work and a cash income. The employed people got envious of the one who set the project up, coveted what he had, and so made it impossible for the project to continue. Thus what was beneficial to a large number of people was destroyed.
In such a situation, the entrepreneur will go elsewhere with their ideas, ambition, and capital, to a place not ruled by envy and resentment…or the idea that if I can’t have it, you won’t either, to a place where individual property rights are respected and its OK for some people to have more than others as a result of their initiative and hard work.
Implicitly the other four commands which address relationships between human beings, bestow the individual with this same sort of authority but in different areas: Authority…
- over their life – `You shall not murder’
- over their relationships – `You shall not commit adultery’
- over their name and all it represents – ‘You shall not bear false witness’
- and over their children while minors – `Honour your father and mother’.
Self-governed people under God respect the boundaries of self-government around others and so do not violate them, their space, or their possessions. They do not intrude uninvited into the lives of others or impose costs on others as a result of undisciplined or sinful actions. If they do impose costs on others whether by intention or oversight, God requires they should pay recompense for their imposition. The self-governed person won’t need to be coerced into paying recompense, nor seek to evade paying it, because they will willing accept responsibility for any damage they cause others.
A community filled with such people will have minimal need for police, lawyers, courts, locks and alarms, and civil government, because they respect others, are law abiding, and take responsibility for themselves.
To bring self-government about, God has ordained several other governments which have various degrees of authority delegated to them. These other governments have the authority to carry out sanctions or penalties. That is, they’ve been given authority to teach God’s Law in various ways and to carry out the judicial role of enforcing compliance to it to various degrees.
The primary one of these governments is ‘the family’.
As parents, we have the responsibility to train our children comprehensively in the knowledge of and respect for the Lord. God delegated this authority to us to train and discipline our children – which includes God mandated physical discipline – so that by the time they reached adulthood, they would, through this training, be self-disciplined or self-governed. You, if you have children, are required by God to do the same. Children, like all human beings are not naturally self-governed but are fallen, sinful, and selfish. They need correction to suppress evil and promote good, all with the end game plan of them eventually being responsible adults who are self-governed in terms of God’s law.
You’re not responsible for my children and I’m not responsible for yours…yet each family does have a responsibility to every other family. My children could have married your children. In this case, if I’d failed to discharge my duties, I’ll affect your family directly. We need to do the very best we can to make our kids the very best husbands or wives, fathers or mothers they can be. If we don’t, we’re not doing our duty to other families.
But if I fail to train them up in obedience to the Lord, my children may directly or indirectly affect you negatively in many others ways. For example, they may become thieves and so impact you directly by stealing from you. If they steal from others, they’ll impact you indirectly through higher insurance premiums, higher taxes to pay for the larger police force and judiciary, etc, required to keep thieves in check, and through the higher cost you’ll incur to secure your property – the cost of locks, alarms, etc.
It’s the basic role of the family in this training in self-government that makes the family the bedrock of a society. As the families of a nation go, so goes the nation.
Anything that undercuts marriage and the family as Biblically defined, be that adultery, de facto, or homosexual relationships, pornography, murder – including abortion, theft – including illegitimate taxation, laws that take authority away from parents and transfer it to the State – as in laws which remove from parents the use of force for the purpose of correction, or encourage the disregard of marriage or family, or seduce families away from being self-supporting, etc, undercut the health and viability of society, bring about its breakdown, and invite the judgment of God.
The family is absolutely basic to the strength of a society because it is the primary vehicle for teaching self-government. Much more could be said and a great deal of Biblical material could be appealed to in support of this idea but suffice to say that Biblically the authority for the training of children in self-government by the family is comprehensive in scope and includes responsibility for their education. The idea that it’s the States job to educate children is a recent invention, intentionally designed to separate children from their parents and produce a community accepting of State intervention and control.
The church, the corporate people of God, is another sphere of government that has authority to train individuals to be self-governed and to carry out sanctions if they aren’t. The church in one sense is a family of families, and a major function of it is to train its people comprehensively in the knowledge and requirements of God for all of life so that all of them may come to maturity in the faith. As Paul says:
‘It was he (that is Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.’ (Ephesians 4 11-16)
There are two metaphors here. One is the church as the body, the other the church as a family nurturing children from infancy to maturity – not children in terms of age but children in terms of understanding of the Faith. This is the prime responsibility of leaders in the church. Maturity means standing strong and secure in the faith without constantly being dependent on others, or blown about by every wrong doctrine that comes along. It means knowing the Faith for ones self and being able to defend it and communicate it accurately to others.
It should go without saying that the individual also has responsibility to pursue his or her own maturity in the Faith. It was this that motivated William Tyndale to translate the Bible into English. He wanted the boy behind the plow to read the Bible for himself and thus become mature in the Faith through knowing the word of God for himself. It’s also been the main force behind the widespread Christian drive to educate people by teaching them to read so they can read the Bible for themselves. The pursuit of maturity should not be left up to the church but is the responsibility of all believers.
As a child grows toward maturity, it begins totally dependent and moves increasingly towards independence. Independence does not mean isolation from or rejection of everyone else. Nor does spiritual independence mean isolation from or rejection of other believers and God. It means being an adult in the Faith.
The author of Hebrews bewails the fact that those he was writing to were not growing in maturity.
‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’ (Hebrews 5v11-14)
Here again is the family metaphor where infants grow to maturity. In this case however we have the disaster of an infant that doesn’t grow up. Where do you stand in this line? Are you an infant in the Faith that’s simply not growing up? God forbid. Set your heart on growth to maturity and go for it with all your might.
If an individual fails to fulfill God’s requirements, the church has a limited number of sanctions it can bring against them. It can penalise the individual by withdrawal of fellowship…or excommunication as it’s called, or by baring access to communion.
If a member of a church is reported to have sinned in a way that affects the corporate life of the church, or if there are disputes between members, or if false doctrine is reportedly being promoted, then the church – or mature members of it, must function as an impartial court with witnesses being called so the matter can be thoroughly investigated. Then on the evidence of the witnesses a ruling must be made to condemn and penalise the guilty, and clear the innocent.
It seems to me that any individual can call on the church to function in this capacity to set things right, or to clear their name, or whatever, and the church as a judicial body has a responsibility to act. Paul says:
‘If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?’ (1 Corinthians 6v1-5)
There are things in this passage that aren’t clear. We don’t know anything about this judging of the world by believers, or of the judging of angels. The angels must be fallen, rebellious angels – or demons as we call them – as unfallen angels don’t need judging. But though we don’t know much about this, Paul’s point is never the less crystal clear. `For goodness sake, if your destiny is judging the world, why don’t you start getting some practice! How about preparing for that judicial role now! Start carrying it out now – in the church by sorting out the disputes that arise there!’
I don`t know what process the Lord’s going to use to get believers into a fit state to judge the world. But I can`t imagine that he’ll take folks who have treated judicial matters as of little consequence and somehow give them a `shot` of maturity so that they will instantly know how to judge wisely. Perhaps he actually intends us to prepare to some degree now for that future job.
My experience has been that churches are not very good at training their people to be mature in the Faith and to hold a comprehensive worldview. Nor do they have a conscious sense of their judicial role regarding disputes. And they aren’t very good at protecting their people from error. In fact many promote error and suppress truth. Leaders may show partiality towards ‘in’ groups or personal friends, seek to preserve their position and status, put denominational, or local church traditions, or personal beliefs, beyond evaluation, and forget what it’s like to be a peasant in the pew, out of the loop of decision making. There may be royal families which have a bigger say in what’s done than they should, and come to think they have a divine right to rule…Diotrophes who love to have preeminence.
I seriously wonder if one reason Christian apologetics isn‘t taught and encouraged in many churches is that apologetics teaches you to think independently, to read and understand Scripture for yourself, to have a mind of your own, and the courage to confront deviations from the faith. If the leaders of churches encourage apologetics, they’re inviting themselves to be critiqued if they teach error or exhibit behavior out of sync with Scripture. So to avoid the possibility of such critique, they don’t encourage apologetic thinking. The human condition unfortunately is all too evident at all levels in churches, as it is in any group of human beings.
The third government that’s designed to help the individual be self-governed is the civil government. Authority has been delegated to the civil government to enforce external compliance with God’s civil law. A defining passage regarding civil government is Romans 13.
‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he (that is the governing authorities or civil government) is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.’ (Romans 13 v1-7)
From this passage, we can see that Biblically, the role of civil government is fairly limited. It is God’s agent of wrath to punish wrongdoers. Let`s put that positively. It’s God’s agent to protect the community from internal and external aggressors. The first half of that’s explicit and the second is implicit in the passage. The internal aggressor would be the murderer, the rapist, the adulterer, the thief, the slanderer, the vandal, and those who are irresponsible to the hurt of others, along with revolutionaries and subversives who seek to overthrow the established order by deceptive and illegal means. The external aggressors would be those who wage war against the whole community from the outside rather than just a small part of it from the inside. They’re the ones who want to steal whole populations and their possessions and overthrown the established order to impose their own – from the outside.
As it says, the civil government has the authority to carry the sword. It’s the only government that is. The church is authorised to excommunicate – the state to execute. The family is authorised to use up to corporal punishment – the state up to capital punishment. The sword is not a not a plaything. It’s not for stirring porridge, though I imagine swords have been used to stir porridge. It’s a weapon of death which is made to be used and when it is, people die, either in war in defense of the realm, or as the result of the administration of justice within it.
If a person is not self-governed under God’s law – and not one of us is perfect in this regard, then to varying degrees they’ll not respect the property, the relationships, the name, or the life of others. If such disregard for others expresses itself in actions – such as theft, adultery, slander, murder etc – it can’t be allowed to go unchecked or the whole community is put at risk. Civil government is the God ordained brake on such evil behavior, and to give it teeth, is delegated the use of force, up to and including lethal force. This force must include the means to get restitution payments from people in the cases of theft, would include corporal punishment for some offenses, and the death penalty for capital crimes.
The purpose of the civil government as the administrator of the law with its sanctions, is to protect the innocent from those who would violate them, and to educate the violators – and `would be violators’ – towards self-government. This education would be done through the strong disincentives to evil actions applied through the penalties. Thus the instruction in self-government that the civil government does is largely negative, resulting either from the sanctions, or fear of the sanctions.
Of course those who had committed a crime with a mandatory death penalty wouldn’t have much time to learn self-government, but others who were contemplating such deeds would be given a sharp lesson and be deterred.
Now there’s a point here I’d like to emphasis. The civil government is only delegated the authority to punish actions, not thoughts.
Both stealing and coveting – the thought that leads to stealing – are sins. However coveting has no human administered penalty against it because no human being can get inside the head of another to know for sure whether they’re coveting or not. God will judge all sin, both of action and thought. He knows the inside of your head so knows what you’re thinking and can pass judgment. Human judgment is limited to actions only. So…all biblically defined crime is sin, but not every sin is a crime. The state is authorized to punish stealing and adultery, but not covetousness or lust. God however will deal with all sin, including sins of thought. One of the evils of a civil government that plays God, is that it wants to punish thoughts, thus the push for ‘hate crimes’ that is growing in intensity.
If the family fails to train its members sufficiently in self-government, then the load of restraining the resultant evil behaviour falls eventually on the civil government.
When the government of God is disregarded, then all human governments lose their focus, their basis, their unique roles, because the basis for determining those roles, and the standard for determining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is removed.
When self-government breaks down, family government will follow in-the breakdown, which then in a feed back way, fuels the loss of self-government that is supposed to be learnt there. The church and its role becomes ineffective because individuals no longer submit themselves to its government or instruction, and church leadership may well suffer from the very same lack of self-government. Church leadership may also lose understanding of the judicial role of the church and so fail to administer things in an impartial way.
This loss of government destabilises the whole community and the more self-governed in the population often cry out to the civil government to protect them. What should’ve been dealt with at the family and church level – motivated by love for God and his law, and love for others – now falls on the state, only it’s the negative aspects that are felt – the punishments and coercion. As the civil government follows the same lawless track as the other governments in disregarding God and his Law, so it pours more fuel on the fire and hastens the disintegration.
From this very brief outline of the Biblical conception of government, it should be plain that all spheres of human government are under God and are intended to acknowledge his authority in their separate spheres of responsibility. This being the case, all areas of government are open for the godly person to function in. If the civil authorities are `God’s servants’ as Romans 13 tells us when speaking of the pagan Roman administration, how much more would they be God’s servants if they acknowledge his rule, willingly submit to it themselves, and promote it to others for their benefit!
Some Christians today argue for pluralism and say it’s dangerous for any one moral or cultural perspective to rule all others. By saying this they immediately deny God his Godhood as Maker and Owner of the universe, reducing him to the level of the idols that under-gird other moral or cultural perspectives. Yahweh is not just one god among many, and for any Christian to implicitly argue this is intolerable. That they do, indicates they’ve adopted the viewpoint of the secularism that surrounds us, rather than that they’re standing for the God they profess.
Others argue against political parties explicitly defined as Christian by their founding principles and even statements of faith. Why for goodness sake? Should God by definition not be acknowledged by political parties? In New Zealand, what do such people make of the New Zealand National Anthem and the prayer that opens Parliament each sitting day? Are these public national statements only acceptable if the words are mouthed but the meaning ignored? (Actually, the socialist ‘Labour Party’ in power in NZ in 2019, removed the wonderful prayer that has opened Parliament since the early days.)
Of course any involvement in civil government will be difficult. But since when has something difficult been invalid simply because it’s difficult? I suspect that a lot of critics are only bold in their criticism because they’ve nothing to loose through their criticism. They’re not criticising to improve a common project being worked on. They heap their criticisms from the comfort of an arm chair, or an ivory tower, upon those who have rolled up their sleeves and got to the task. The last thing needed by those doing the work is for their backs to be flayed by the tongues of detached, non-risk taking critics.
Of course people in the fray will make mistakes and will at times need to be criticized or rebuked. But it’d be so much better if the critics, rather than taking a detached `them and us’ approach, were involved and persevering over time on the ground, shoulder to shoulder with those they criticize and thus bringing their influence to bear on `our’ project. It’s so easy to shoot at people making difficult decisions. It is quite another to be among those making those decisions and having to bear the responsibility for them.
Distinct roles for various governments.
A classic situation recorded in the Bible in 2 Chronicles 26, indicates that there are separate and distinct roles for the various governments as I have mentioned.
But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They confronted him and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honoured by the LORD God.” Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house – leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land’. 2 Chronicles 26 16-21
Something this passage clearly shows is that God does not intend political rulers to be lords over every area of life. Biblically their jurisdiction is limited and this is one reason why normally, humanistic rulers hate biblical Christianity because it provides a basis for principled opposition – like Azariah’s – to their lust for power.
Another case which shows this limitation of power is that of King Ahab of Israel and Naboth’s vineyard.
Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’ Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel— slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ “And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.””
Naboth’s private property was sacrosanct. He could sell it if he chose and not sell it if he chose. The King was under and bound by the law like everyone else and could not simply take what belonged to another because he was the King. Ahab recognized this and though he wasn’t happy about Naboth refusing to sell – he never the less stayed within the law.
Jezebel on the other hand expressing the spirit of tyranny, saw the King as above the law and able to do what he pleased, so set about getting Naboth’s vineyard illegally. Not content to simply covet the vineyard or take it however, through others she bore false witness against Naboth and had him murdered. Four of the ten commandments violated directly right there.
God emphatically shows the limitation of civil authority and the idea of the King as being subject to the law, by sending Elijah to rebuke and condemn him, holding him responsible for Naboth’s murder and the theft of his property
To his credit Ahab on being rebuked humbled himself and publically showed his contrition by wearing sackcloth. The prophecy regarding his death however was fulfilled and dogs eventually licked up his blood in the same place Naboth’s blood was spilt.
Today, Governments generally see little limit to their power and authority, or chaffe under restrictions derived from conflicts against governments in the last 400 years and seek to get around them. Often they intrude into the spheres of other governments to control them and in the process violate the law of God, reduce freedoms, and cause a huge amount of damage. By doing this they set themselves up as God and so unaccountable to any law outside of themselves. In the West there’s still largely the accountability to a democratic vote, but through manipulation of the system, accountability can effectively be sidestepped. And the alternatives offered to voters these days amount to not much more than a socialistic A team and B team. While in some countries a constitution is theoretically the highest law, often times it’s subverted, ignored, or effectively nullified. America perhaps would be the clearest instance of this, with various stratagems used over the past 100 or so years to free the Federal government from the constraints of the US Constitution. Perhaps among the most subversive is the idea the Constitution is a living document, which means it’s not the original intent of the framers that’s important but the way the elite prefer to interpret it today.
This same sidestepping of a constitution can occur in the other spheres of government also. A church of which I was a member was torn apart in a church split. To protect itself against similar things occurring in the future, those who remained were persuaded…somewhat reluctantly…to write a constitution. Yet within a year of the constitution being formally adopted, the new leadership violated it by refusing to release documents defined in the constitution as being open to all members of the church. Their excuse was that the constitution never anticipated the type of situation involved in the request and therefore they weren’t bound to release it. My response was that if they didn’t like the constitution, which was explicit on the matter, they should get the 2/3rds majority needed to change it and do so. In the mean time they were required to abide by the law and give up the information. They never did. They effectively tore up the constitution, rendering it not worth the paper it was written on, and said by their actions they were above and not bound by the law. This wicked, lawless, and intolerable action by these ‘Christian leaders’ was among things which led to me eventually leaving that church after a considerable battle to get the right things done…which is another story all in itself.