Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                                          March 23, 2008                                           NO. 9

The Rationale For Evaluating Political Leaders

    By what standard should one evaluate a political leader? Does the Bible shed any light on this question?

    Jeroboam II was the 13th ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel. He reigned for some forty-one years (793-753 B.C.) during those days when both Jonah and Amos were doing their prophetic work. His reign was one of the most prosperous in the 250 year history of northern Israel. He successfully conducted wars against Syria, and he recaptured territory that Israel had not possessed since the days of David.

    During this era, Israel was very stable economically. Trade routes developed and wealth poured into the nation. The upper classes especially prospered, with certain families growing very wealthy in the acquisition of both land and money.

    In view of his remarkable success as a political leader, one would think that Jeroboam's considerable abilities would have been heralded enthusiastically in the Old Testament record. But such was not the case. As able as the ruler was in regal affairs, the Bible largely ignores his administration. The writer of 2nd Kings records Jeroboam's entire regime -- forty-one long years -- in just seven verses (2 Kings 14:23-29). And this is his brief epitaph "he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah."

    This account, as well as numerous others of similar import, clearly reveal the fact that the Lord does not evaluate political administrations in the same way that men do. Of a politician who has built roads, increased revenues, expanded boundaries, and created better living conditions, most would say "He was a great leader!" However, it is not riches that make a great nation, it is righteousness (Proverbs 14:34). It is not fortune, but faith. It is not smooth highways, but spiritual homes!

    It is interesting to reflect upon how Americans generally evaluate national leaders today. It is superficial in the extreme. We want to know this. Can he lower taxes? Not, can he reduce moral corruption? Will he generate jobs? rather than whether he will attempt to initiate a regeneration of the nation's ethical policies. Can we expect a higher standard of economic living? irrespective a lower, sleazier level of laws that accommodate debauched lives.

    What each citizen needs to be asking about potential leaders are inquiries of this substance. Does he acknowledge God as the sovereign over the nation? Does he seek to help the innocent and down-trodden find a fair level of justice? Does he value the sacredness of human life; of humanity as being in the "image" of the Creator? (Genesis 9:6). Does he act on principle, or is his approach the way of political pragmatism? Will he labor for the stability of the human family (the divine arrangement), or will he cater to special interest groups who craft their own values from the perversity of their self-indulgent lifestyles?

    Any individual who is swayed more by economic stability than moral stability, has revealed a library of information relative to the content of his own character. Such folks are oblivious to the truth that prosperity is the result of goodness, not evil.

---Wayne Jackson 

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"The Lion Shall Eat Straw Like The Ox"

    Many religious people are looking for a coming kingdom of Christ here on earth. They expect Jesus to return, conquer the forces of evil, and establish a physical kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. It will last for 1000 years, and Christ will personally and literally reign on David's restored throne.

    There are a host of scriptures that are twisted to arrive at this conclusion. It is a theory most commonly referred to as "premillennialism. A favorite proof text is Isaiah 11:1ff: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him . . . and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious."

    This passage is clearly messianic; that is, it is a prophecy of the work to be accomplished by the Christ. But what does it actually foretell?

    The premillennialist looks forward to a wonderful 1000 year reign of Christ. Everything will be so beautiful and peaceful, so they say, that the wolf will literally dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the kid, etc. Even the lion will stop being a predatory animal and will eat straw like an ox, according to their view. Is this literal interpretation right? Or could the prophet be using figurative, symbolic language?

    Thankfully we have an inspired commentary on these verses in Romans 15. In much of the book of Romans, Paul deals with some of the Jew/Gentile problems that plagued the early church. In the immediate context of chapter 15, Paul instructs them to:

--"be like-minded one toward another" (vs. 5)

--"with one mind and mouth glorify God" (vs. 6)

--"receive ye one another" (vs. 7)

    He then reminds them that Jesus' mission was "to confirm the promises made unto the fathers and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (vs. 8,9). To prove this he then quotes from Psalms 18:49, Deut. 32:43, Psalms 117:1, AND Isaiah 11:10. By inspiration Paul has explained that Isaiah 11 is symbolic language, referring to a time when the Messiah would make peace where it had not existed before. Not literally among the animal world, but rather between the Jew and Gentile. In His kingdom (now existing) we are one (Gal. 3:28).

    In Ephesians 2:14-16 the apostle affirms the same truth: "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby."

    Here, then, is the promised peace of Isaiah 11. There is no future earthly kingdom to come. We can enjoy citizenship in the kingdom of Christ NOW, with all the benefits He has promised.

---Greg Gwin

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