Like Everbody Else
1 Samuel 8
1st and 2nd Samuel Lesson #034
November 24, 2015
“Our Father, we are so thankful that we have You to come to, that You are the God who watches over us, Who provides for us, Who takes care of us, that You are the source of every blessing in our lives. You are the source of our jobs. You are the source of all the good things that we have in life.
Father, we pray that You would continue to encourage each of us and strengthen us in our resolve to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Despite all the things that go on in the world, the one thing that matters, the one thing that has a significant and invisible impact now, and an impact for eternity, is our spiritual life, our spiritual walk.
Father, do not let us take that for granted. Father, we pray that You would continue to provide for this congregation. We know that You have always provided very faithfully for this congregation. Father, we pray that You would also challenge us tonight to focus, to study, to think and reflect as we go through Your Word, to come to a better understanding of its impact on our own thinking. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last week we began looking at this great chapter of 1 Samuel 8.
We get into a lot of issues as we go through the Scripture on a topic that for some is too controversial to talk about, and that is politics. For many people, you never talk about religion and politics. They must not have fun when they talk about anything, because the Bible talks a lot about politics and economics.
In fact, money is one of the top five things that the Scripture talks about, and it gives us an understanding of basic economic theory, which runs counter to a lot of what goes on in this country. A lot of the things that we hear about, which are coming out of this whole concept of social justice, have absolutely nothing to do with the Word of God. In fact, it is contrary to the Word of God.
The assumption of social justice is that if somebody has too much (and you cannot define what too much is, what is the breaking point where you go from an adequate amount to too much), but if somebody has too much, then the government should come along and reassign what they have to somebody else.
That is prohibited in the Mosaic Law. It is prohibited in the New Testament. This is called thievery. Taxation is one thing, but taxation to redistribute wealth is nothing more than government sanctioned theft. It is wrong and violates all the principles of the Scripture. This is the kind of thing that Samuel warns Israel about in 1 Samuel 8.
Last time I started with some background. We need to look at that, review it, and come to understand it. We need to understand, as we look at 1 Samuel 8, what the basic motivation is as the leaders of the elders come to Samuel to ask him for a king. It is that they want to be like every other nation.
One of the most destructive influences that any of us can fall into—and some of us can think back to the times when we were in elementary school, or most likely junior high or high school when we came under the influence of peer pressure—is the herd instinct, as my mother used to call it.
It’s the strong pressure to be like everybody else. It feels better to go along with everybody else than to be different, to be living according to a different kind of standard. It puts us in a position where we are in conflict with other people. It is a lot easier to do what is popular, what seems to be socially acceptable.
But the Scripture warns that that is often the path to self-deception. I remember my mother used to say, “If everybody else wants to jump off the Empire State Building do you want to, too?” I can see some of you nodding as you remember your mother saying something like that. I only had a vague conception of what the Empire State Building was, but she got her point across.
One point that saying makes is that often, when we let others set the standard, and we want to be like them, they set the standard pretty low. We let people set the bar pretty low for us. This is the problem that Israel has in the ancient world. It is a problem that a lot of Christians have today. We set our bar too low. We do not hold the standard.
We live in a world and a culture that has lowered the standard of excellence tremendously over the last 100–150 years in terms of:
- personal morality
- personal ambition
- personal integrity
- personal effort and work
It has been in serious decline across the whole spectrum of life. It is very rare for employers to find employees that want to work hard for the sake of working hard and making the employer successful. People just want a paycheck. They think they have a right to a job, and they have a right to a paycheck. But it happens across the board. It happens in churches. We have seen the bar lowered in churches, in pastors.
I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received was when a couple of people who knew me were having a conversation. One person was making comments that I seem to be exceptionally tough on other pastors and on churches, holding a high standard, that if you are going to go into the ministry, you need to get at least four or five years of education, whether it is in a Bible college or a seminary.
You need to learn the languages. You need to read a lot. You need to read extensively and exhaustively across a lot of different fields. We need to spend a lot of time learning how to use the technology that is available today, that we are serving the Lord, and that means that we need to excel and go beyond whatever abilities that we think we should. I was being criticized a little bit somewhat for maybe holding the bar a little high.
The other person involved in the conversation had a military background, and said that in Army Ranger training, as in many other elite institutions, there is always this tendency, and I think it is true in our culture, to compromise and get a little softer, to lower the standards a little bit, let a few more people in because they are sincere. They really want it. They have worked hard. Let us not be too hard on them.
This person pointed out that there were always a few Rangers that held the standard high. They had a nickname. They were called the “keepers of the tab.” When you go through Ranger school or Airborne school, you get a tab that you wear on your uniform that indicates that you have made it through Ranger school or Airborne school.
This person said that you have to remember that Robby (Dr. Dean) is like a keeper of the tab. He is going to make the rest of us work harder and do better, because that is what we are supposed to do. I thought that was a great, great compliment.
When I look out across the spectrum of what is going on in Christianity, it is just pathetic. It is absolutely pathetic. A lot of it within evangelicalism is because we have lost that standard.
I know of a pastor, and if I can get to a position where I can imitate this I want to. But I know of a pastor of a rather large church. From what I understand, he has 4,000–5,000 members. It is in a university town. He has a lot of college kids. Because of his solid ministry, a lot of these college students have wanted to pursue some kind of professional ministry, following in his example.
The pastor says, okay, here is the deal. We are going to meet every week. Before I will give you a pastoral recommendation to go to seminary, our seminary training group meets every week. We meet at 5 a.m. If you are one minute late you are out of the group. I will never write a recommendation for you.
He has requirements:
- You have to read a certain amount of Scripture every week.
- You have to memorize a certain amount of Scripture every week.
- You have to be involved in various ministries within the local church.
There are no mistakes allowed. The ones who are willing to step up to the plate are the ones that will get a recommendation from that church to go to Dallas Theological Seminary.
The pastor is also on the board of Dallas Seminary. He is not too far from Dallas Seminary, which is one reason he does that. But that is a great, great objective, to pursue excellence.
A couple of weeks ago Houston lost a quarterback, let him go, probably related to the fact that he showed up late. He missed the plane. He ended up catching another plane on the way to the game in Miami. I learned something interesting. A lot of you have been in environments where there was a little bit of a penalty, or somebody actually said something to you if you walked in late.
I was so traumatized as a teenage for walking in late that when I went to college, if my hand was on the door of the classroom and the bell went off, I would not open the door. It took me until my junior year before I would ever walk into a class two seconds late. I would never do that.
My wife told me that in theater, and I know this is true in some corporations as well as in theater, if one person shows up one second late to rehearsal, everybody in the troop is fined money, real money. That is holding up a standard. That is pursuing excellence.
But what happens is we start getting our eyes on other people. We want to be like everybody else. That is never a good thing. It is not good when your kid tells you, well, everybody else is doing it.
That is why I titled this lesson “Like Everybody Else”, because that is what Israel wants.
To put this in perspective again, you have this structure in 1 Samuel that focuses on the three key people: Samuel, Saul, and David.
- 1 Samuel 1–7 focuses on Samuel. We have concluded the high point of Samuel’s ministry at the end of 1 Samuel 7.
- The rise of Saul, 1 Samuel 8 sets the stage. 1 Samuel 9 is when we first meet Saul. We see Saul’s rise and decline. In 1 Samuel 15 he is warned that the kingdom is going to be taken from him.
- That is when we are introduced to David in 1 Samuel 16. 1 Samuel 16–31 we see the rise of David juxtapose of the decline of Saul.
As we look at this in terms of the three basic divisions:
- God prepares to deliver the nation Israel from her enemies by grace, 1 Samuel 1–7.
- God establishes the office of the king, 1 Samuel 8–15.
It was always God’s intent for Israel to have a king, but the ruler cannot be simply a fallen human being, because fallen human beings are corrupt. They are never going to provide perfect government.
The ultimate king that God is going to provide is the Messianic King, the Messiah, Who is going to provide a perfect government. Only when you combine the perfect righteousness of God with a man can you have a government that can live up to its ideal, which is righteousness.
This is what is pointed out in Proverbs 20:8, as well as in Proverbs 29:4.
Proverbs 20:28, “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.”
Proverbs 29:4, “The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it.”
A review of the chapter:
- In 1 Samuel 8:1–3 we get the setting.
- In 1 Samuel 8:4–5 we get the elders of Israel gathered to meet Samuel at Ramah and request a king over them like all the other nations.
- In 1 Samuel 8:6–9 Samuel takes it personally that they have rejected him, but he does not react towards them. He goes to the Lord in prayer.
This is a great lesson—that when something negative happens, when we are going through rejection, hostility, persecution, whatever it is—that we take it to the Lord. We do not react to the person who is attacking us.
In those verses Samuel takes it personally, goes to the Lord in prayer, and the Lord tells him, no, it is not him that they have rejected, but God.
- In 1 Samuel 8:10–19 Samuel tells the people all of the consequences and how this will burden them financially and limit their liberty and freedom.
Ultimately these issues—and I want you to pay attention to this, because as we go into this political year, ultimately all issues go back to how we understand God and how we understand what God has said to mankind what the human race’s basic problem is—is that everything always goes back to God.
If you remember, I have used this iceberg chart in the past:
Nine-tenths of the iceberg is below the surface.
When we talk to people about issues related to politics or current events, we are only talking about that one-tenth that is above the surface, those superficial immediately apparent issues.
But what is below the surface, what determines how we handle these various issues, has to do with our views on ethics, on what is right or wrong.
As soon as you get into a discussion with somebody and you say, well, I do not think we ought to let any Syrian refugees come across the border. They are going to say, well, that is wrong.
Wait a minute. You just used a value judgment. Where do you get this value that that is wrong? On what basis do you say that that is wrong?
See, that is getting below the surface. Your ethics always grow out of your understanding of knowledge. Once you have a system of right and wrong, how do you know it is true? How do you know it is truth?
In fact, John was telling me earlier this evening that he had an opportunity to host a couple of Mormon missionaries in his home the other night. He immediately threw them off their game because he kept pursuing the question of how do you know it is true?
John went through my epistemology chart: “How do you know it is true?” Hoist them on their own petard because they cannot figure that out. Do you all know what that means?
“Hoist with his own petard” is an old English phrase that comes out of Shakespeare. A petard was like an explosive charge that the engineers in a war would set by crawling up to a wall, dig a hole under it, and stick this land mine called a petard under the wall. Then they would light the fuse and crawl away as fast as they could.
If the fuse burned faster and they crawled slower, then they would be hoist on their own petard. That is where that phrase comes from. It is used to refer to somebody whose fallacies are pointed out on the basis of their own argument. John did a good job with that.
- 1 Samuel 8:10–18—Samuel tells the people all of the consequences and how this will burden them financially and limit their liberty and freedom.
Part of the problem is that when we talk with people, we do not get below that surface. Ultimately we get down to the bottom layer that nobody wants to talk about. Where do you get your system of knowledge, your epistemology?
Ultimately it comes back to your view of ultimate meaning. Who is out there? What is out there? Is ultimate meaning, ultimate reality just an extremely dense piece of matter that exploded? Or, is ultimate reality a personal, infinite God?
Before you can really have a significant conversation with somebody about whether or not we ought to let some Syrian refugees cross the border, we really need to have a serious discussion about the existence of God.
That is what I mean. Everything flows from your presuppositions about ultimate reality.
Now the problem that we have got in Israel is that they are rejecting God. They are not rejecting Samuel. When you start rejecting God, something has to be put in God’s place. You have got to fill that vacuum with something.
In Israel’s history they kept abandoning God and turning to idols. This impacts your whole view of government, culture. And society goes downhill. We will get into some of those issues.
- In 1 Samuel 8:19–20 the people reject the warning because arrogance is tenacious.
Let me make this more applicable: your arrogance and my arrogance are tenacious. We do not want to admit it. It is self-deceptive. We do not think that it is really that bad. But trust me. The Bible says it is. You are not okay, and neither am I.
- In 1 Samuel 8:21–22 the Lord tells Samuel to obey their voice.
What we saw last time briefly is on the Age of the Gentiles. In the first age, there are three dispensations:
- The dispensation of Innocence
- The dispensation of Human Conscience, which ends with the Flood. That is when God established a covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:1–7
- That is the dispensation of Human Government
Government is righteous because God ordained it, and because God ordained government, God instituted government, God has the right to define the parameters of government. God has the right to determine what good government is, what right government is, and what makes government good or bad.
Ultimately, in this life there is always going to be the problem that government is going to be limited by the quality and the character of the people who govern, because if they are operating on their sin nature, it is going to be a foolish and corrupt government.
If they are operating on a higher morality, or if they are operating on biblical truth, then it is going to be a more virtuous government.
That is part of the quotes I gave last week from people like John Adams, James Madison, and many of the Founding Fathers. The government that they established in the U.S. Constitution presupposed a moral people. It presupposed a responsible people, and without responsibility and morality it would collapse. That is the history.
I want to take us to Deuteronomy 1:13–14. We see that the fourth divine institution, human government, was attacked at the Tower of Babel.
This is when you have the first human government that is really evil come along and corrupt the divine institution.
That is Nimrod, when they gather on the plain of Shinar at Babel rather than to scatter over the face of the earth as God said in the Noahic Covenant. They kept together. They built a city. They built a tower in opposition to God.
God scattered their languages, which establishes the fifth and last divine institution, which is nations.
As we look at this. I want to go through some background in Deuteronomy. Remember, Deuteronomy is Moses’ review of what is in the Mosaic Law. He does add a few things that are not in the earlier books of the Pentateuch.
In Deuteronomy 1:13–17 He lists several qualifications for leaders.
One reason this is important is I pointed out a study done by Donald Lutz last week, where as a political science professor here in Houston, at the University of Houston, along with his students over a period of 7–8 years, went through and analyzed about 15,000 speeches, letters, diaries, and other things written by the founding fathers.
It is a fascinating study, but the bottom line is that throughout the period from 1760–1805 the most often quoted source was the Bible. The second most quoted was John Locke.
That really applies to the first 20 years. After that it was Montesquieu. It shifts. William Blackstone was another who quoted the Bible.
Lutz lists the passages of the Scripture that are most often quoted. Deuteronomy 1:13–18 is one that is most often quoted. Here Moses tells the people, selecting leaders, the people are selecting leaders, and there is a pattern here of democracy where the people are to make the choice of who is going to be their tribal representative. They are to make a choice. What is the standard for making the choice?
Deuteronomy 1:13, “‘Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ ”
What are the qualities that we should look for in excellent leadership? Notice, it does not have anything to do with the kind of PC (politically correct) qualities that are being touted so often today.
It has to do with character, people who are solid in their character. More and more we learn that for this to take place they have to be the product of a stable home environment. Think about that just a little bit in terms of current events. I will not press the point home too much.
These leaders are products of a stable home environment. They are the products of what God through Moses describes in Deuteronomy 6, that the parents are to constantly talk about the Word of God with their children in their going and coming, standing up, sitting down.
In other words, in the whole realm of life, parents should be constantly interacting with their children to help them understand how to look at the issues of life from the framework of the Word of God.
This can be anything from doing chores around the house, that God says we are to do all things to glorify Him, so we work not as men pleasers, but we work to glorify God, and to do our best.
If they are kids, they should not do their chores to the best of their ability for their parents, but to do their chores to glorify God. That sets the stage, so that later on when they go to work for somebody, you have established a great work ethic in the home.
A great example of this I saw the other day, a total surprise. I walked into a new Rudy’s Barbeque up by Tomball. I walked in with a couple of other men. I walked up to order. I looked at this girl who was there and thought I knew her. I knew her from Camp Arête. I looked at her and said that I recognized her, but I could not remember her name. I knew who she was. Her family goes over to Grace Bible Church, David Dunn’s church. She looked at me and said that I seemed familiar to her.
When I told her who I was her eyes got really big and she turned to her twin who was working the other cash register. Their older sister was there also, and they all came over. These kids have been homeschooled, and the way they work together and the level of responsibility that they demonstrated working behind the counter there was a real testimony. That was tremendous to see that. That is the product of parents who are training them in the home. That is where solid character begins. It is with parental training.
When we look at these qualities, qualities of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, these come from a life that is disciplined. You learn that discipline, hopefully, in the home. The more you learn discipline in the home, the better it is going to be when you grow older.
When I was in elementary school the report card had on one side the alphabet grades for arithmetic, reading, geography, grammar, and all those things. On the other side they listed various character traits. You would get a check plus or minus. I think that in elementary school they start everybody at a minus and you have to work your way up.
When I got to be in about the fourth grade and understood a little bit about what my dad did in World War II, he had his Marine Corps KA-BAR knife, and he said that if I would get a plus in self-discipline that I could have that. All the way through sixth grade, because sixth grade back then was in elementary school, I never got a plus. I always got checks, but I never got a plus.
Then I graduated and went into junior high. In junior high they had a different philosophy. Everybody started with an E (Excellent). You had to screw up to get knocked down. I did not screw up any. The first two six week grading periods I got Es and a KA-BAR knife. That was it. I had to show that I learned self-discipline and could therefore handle something like that responsibly. That gets taught in the home. That is the beginning stages of growth and maturity.
In the New Testament we are told that self-discipline is a product of the Holy Spirit. When we walk by the Spirit, He produces fruit in our lives. The last fruit that is listed in Galatians 5:22 is self-control. That allows us then, when we have self-control, to focus on the Word, to study the Word. God the Holy Spirit uses it to mature us, and it produces wisdom. In the Scripture wisdom is not knowledge.
Wisdom is the ability to take knowledge and use it skillfully to produce something of value. It is used of the artistic ability of the craftsmen who built the tabernacle. That same word is used, and it is translated “skill” in those chapters.
It is the Hebrew word chokmah, and that means skill. It is skillful living. This is somebody who is able to take the knowledge that they have, both academic knowledge and life experience, and apply it creatively to the problems that they are going to have leading the people of Israel.
Understanding is the Hebrew word bin. I always remembered that because I learned the meaning of it onomatopoeically. Bin is between. The Hebrew word bin means to be able to choose between things, to make the right kinds of choices, to understand the issues so you can make a good choice.
The word knowledgeable here has to do with experiential knowledge. You do not necessarily want someone young, but if you can have someone that has 10–15 years of mature life experience to bring to the issues of leading these two and half to three million people through the wilderness, then that is the kind of person you want.
Moses says to “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes.”
Is this not sexist? That is exactly what the modern world would say: This is so sexist. They are so primitive. They are just a bunch of patriarchal bigots and sexists.
No, because when God created man and woman He created them, we are told in Genesis 1, male and female, very specific. He gave males specific responsibilities with regard to the creation. He gave females specific responsibilities. Women are responsible to bear children. It is really hard for guys to do that. That seems sexist to me. That is a joke, being a little facetious here. But that is how the modern world argues.
You say only women can have babies. Well, we are supposed to have equal rights here. That is not how God works. God says men have certain jobs; women have certain jobs; and there are roles for males and roles for females.
He designated men to be leaders, but leadership gets all screwed up because of carnality. The concept of leadership in the Scripture is always related to humility and servanthood. It is not related to some sort of authoritarian tyranny.
When you also get into those first chapters of Genesis, you realize that women are created to be an ezer for the men, a helper, to help him go where God wants him to go. That word ezer is of value, but the feminists come along and say, a helper, that is just an assistant. She is a servant. The Bible is just down on women.
Actually, the only other person that is called an ezer in Scripture is God. If ezer is a demeaning term, then we have demeaned God because God calls Himself an ezer. Remember, we studied that with the Rock of help, Ebenezer. That is that same word.
There are two different names. If you go back to Genesis and you read about Abraham. Abraham had a servant called Eliezer with an ezer. But it is the same form of the word. It means God is my helper.
Then you get to the son of Aaron, and it is Eleazer. The same form of the word, it means God has helped. They are cognates, but that is the difference between Eliezer, who is Abraham’s servant, and Eleazer, who is Aaron’s son.
We are to “‘choose wise, understanding, knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ ”
In Deuteronomy 1:15, Moses said, “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men.”
There is repetition. God is really emphasizing that leaders need to be wise and knowledgeable. We do not often choose wise and knowledgeable leaders, whether it is in city government or national government.
In fact, I know of a district in Texas where the congressman is stepping down. There are going to be some others who are vying for that position, and because it is a democratic district, it is going to be one of these democrats, and of the ones that have come forward, they do not have a whole lot of knowledge about government, about the world, about foreign affairs, or Israel, or any of these other things.
That is not atypical. Many, many congressmen that get elected are veterinarians, teachers, exterminators, or whatever they may be, but they go to Congress and they have never been to Israel. They do not know anything about what really goes on in the Middle East. They have been brainwashed by the press, one side or the other, but they are pretty much local yokels. We are not picking wise and understanding leaders to govern our country.
Moses emphasizes that. God emphasizes “wise and knowledgeable men … made them heads over you.”
Then they are divided up. Notice in Deuteronomy 1:15:
- leaders of thousands
- leaders of hundreds
- leaders of fifties
- leaders of tens
There is organization and structure going from large to small. That is important.
In Deuteronomy 1:16 we read, “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously.’ ”
The word that we find there is a word that we are going to find later on, the word tzedeqah. It is a Hebrew word that we always translate “righteous.”
It is the standard of God’s character. The word “righteous” always implies some standard. When you hear somebody look at something, and say that is really righteous, they mean that it excels in terms of a certain standard. Where does that standard come from?
That was the point I was trying to make when I was reminding you about the illustration with the iceberg. You start talking to somebody about a current event and what we should do about terrorism, or whether Islam is peaceful or not. Immediately you make a statement and the other person says, well that is wrong. They have made a value judgment. Where are they getting their values?
In a discussion, that is what we need to calmly, patiently, and kindly help people understand that they have a value. You ask:
- Is that really a good value?
- Where did you get that value?
- Who taught you that value?
They say that it works for them. You ask:
- Is that a really a good way to pick out a value?
- What if everybody else says that 15,000 other things work for them?
- How are we going to find out what is truly right?
- Can we know what is really right?
- Is there anything that is truly right?
If there is not anything that is truly right, then we cannot use the words right or wrong. You cannot just use that because what you really mean is:
- I do not like that.
- I am smarter than you are.
- You are stupid.
- I am right and you are wrong.
But we cannot use the words “right” or “wrong.” The very words “right” and “wrong” come from what? They come from an understanding that there is a God who created absolute right and absolute wrong.
Whenever an unbeliever uses the word “right” or “wrong,” we can nail them, hoist them on their own petard, because they do not have an epistemological basis. There is that big word again. They do not have a basis in knowledge for determining what is right and what is wrong.
We have to do this gently. We are not there to win an argument. We are there to convince them of the truth.
In Deuteronomy 1:17 Moses gives some other qualities:
- “you shall not show partiality in judgment”
- “you shall hear the small as well as the great”
- “you shall not be afraid”
You are not going to pick one minority over another just because there may have been a mistake in the past. You are going to treat everyone equally.
That is the idea in the statue of justice, where lady justice is blindfolded. She does not look at external factors, but just the facts. This is what God says, “You shall not be afraid in any man’s presence.”There is not going to be any kind of intimidation and no corruption.
What has happened today is that we have got such levels of intimidation and corruption going on at all levels of government that we cannot get to anything that has integrity and just look at various issues.
The things that were done by the Democrat Party that is headed by our President in relation to this Iranian, anti-nuclear Iranian bill this last year, was that they went around to all the members of the Democrat Party and with only two exceptions in the Senate, they convinced them all that this was a good bill.
There is a black senator from New Jersey who has always been very, very, very pro-Israel. I wish I knew how they threatened him, because he came out, and up until the day he voted to allow that bill, the treaty, to go forward, he was against it. He said how horrible it was and how terrible it was, but he could not vote against it because he was threatened.
Some of the things I know that democrats did was they went to other democrat leaders, and they said that you are going to get “x” number of dollars from the Democrat National Party for your next re-election, but if you do not vote in favor of this nuclear agreement or against it, which ever it was, you are not going to get any funding. If you have five million dollars designated for this project in your district, then you are not going to get that either.
Basically they blackmailed and intimidated every other congressman and senator to vote so that their vote would favor this Iran nuclear deal. That is not integrity. That is not a government with men of integrity. That is just power politics. It will destroy a nation.
The next passage I want to look at is over in Deuteronomy 16.
What we learn here in Deuteronomy 16–17 is that government, as God designed it, is to be based on integrity, to be based on righteousness. The word tzedeqah is a word that not only means “righteous,” but it also means “just.”
It means “righteous” in the context where it is referring to the standard of something, what makes it right, or what makes it just. It is translated “just” when it is talking about the application of that righteous standard to a particular situation.
What we learn from reading through Deuteronomy 16–17 is that in God’s view, government is based on justice. It is not based on “social justice,” which is just a code word for socialism and communism.
Social justice deceives. You cannot steal money from your neighbor to pay your bills, but if the government comes in to take their money and give it to you like Robin Hood, then it is okay. But just because it is the government doing it does not mean it is okay. It does not change the ethics. Social justice is just a way of deceiving people about what is really going on in terms of theft, and in terms of destroying what people have worked for in their lives.
The government is based on justice. It is based on an absolute category of justice as located in the character of God. These other ideas that come along today, such as social justice and individual rights, are irrelevant in the way God thinks about what makes a good leader and what makes a good righteous judgment
To give you a little about context here in Deuteronomy 16:21–17:1, it focuses on forms of worship.
Starting in Deuteronomy 16:21 we read, “You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the Lord your God.You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the Lord your God hates. You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
Those three verses are located right in the middle of all these stipulations about government. Why do you think that is? Because what God is showing is that ethics and religion cannot be separated from righteous government.
Even though we do not want to have a theocracy, and even though we are not imposing a religion on anybody, when you ask somebody where their values come from, they are either going to come from an impersonal universe ultimately, or they are going to come from a false god, which is a demon (and I believe that Allah is just another manifestation of Satan), or it is going to come from the God of the Bible.
Those are your only options.
When those values come from the God of the Bible … this is why the Founding Fathers said that the general principles of Christianity are the only foundation on which a republic can survive. It is because they understood that you have to choose a value system.
The reason we have these culture wars today is because there are many people in our country who reject values that derive from a Judeo-Christian heritage. Others want to derive their values from New Age. Others want to derive their values from Mohammed and Allah. Others want to derive their values from whatever makes them feel good. That is always going to be a conflict. We have lost the center.
The Bible has been the center of western civilization since Christianity began to spread its wings in the 1st century. That is what made the difference between a pagan Europe, which is what it was under the Celts, under the Germanic tribes, under the Vandals, and all these other tribal groups that were pillaging through Western Europe.
What brought them all together and changed them was biblical Christianity. As the missionaries took the gospel to all of those tribes, and they began to change, this is what laid the foundation for modern civilization and western civilization. Without Christianity, Western Europe would have been like Africa, India, and the Arab tribes. It would have never gone anywhere.
We have to have a value system if we are even going to talk about righteous judgment. Going back to the beginning of the context, Deuteronomy 16:18, “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just [righteousness (tzedeqah)] judgment. You shall not pervert justice.”
That word there means to stretch the law or to twist something. You are not going to twist the law to mean something to fit your personal agenda.
To judge righteously means you are judging according to an external standard that is an objective standard of right and wrong. If you do not do that, you are showing partiality.
It says do not take a bribe. This is one of the problems you have. It is not as bad in the United States. In some places it may be, but you go to places like the Ukraine? I have heard this from Ukrainians. I have heard this from outside sources. I have heard it from two different shaliachs.
Remember last week we had Idan Peysahovich here. He is a shaliach. That is from a Hebrew word meaning “to send out.” He told me this when he was here. He said Ukraine will never solve their problems because the corruption that goes through government, business, and everything is so profoundly deep that unless there is an entire cultural revolution you cannot uproot it. This is a problem with bribes.
Deuteronomy 16:19, “… a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”
Deuteronomy 16:20, “You shall follow what is altogether just...”
The wording of that particular verse in the Hebrew is just a little bit different. It is translated a little better in the New King James. It says “just”—this is what you will follow. It is emphasizing that which is truly “just.”
Deuteronomy 16:20, “…that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
What we have to recognize here is that all through this section, this phrase related to justice or righteousness, indicates an external set of absolutes that tell us exactly what God has provided, and that this is the only standard that allows people to organize their life and have stability. That is the heritage that we have in this particular nation.
A problem that we have is that we have a President that often talks about values, if you have noticed especially in the last week. He talked about the terrorist event that happened last week, the horrible thing that happened in Paris, when so many people were killed. He said that those who perpetrated that event (he does not want to identify who they are), that those who perpetrated that terrorist event are violating our shared values.
Frequently he talks about this phrase “our shared values.” Everybody assumes that he is talking about the values of whatever they impute to him and he imputes to them, but he never defines what those values are.
The Islamic world has one set of values. The Christian world has another set of values. The set of values he apparently affirms, sitting in the church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright teaching his hatred of America, seems to be a value system that he affirms.
The question is: Does Islam share the values of America?
In Islam the core legal value is Sharia law. What we have to understand, and the propaganda against this increases, is that Islam is not just a religion. It is a political theory. It is a political philosophy based on Sharia law. When you have Sharia law, every Muslim has sworn allegiance to Sharia law.
So the question becomes:
- Can a Muslim, a true believer in Allah, Islam, and the Koran, can they swear allegiance to the Constitution?
- Further, can they legally be allowed to immigrate to the United States?
Let me read something to you that is from the Immigration and National Act passed on June 27, 1952, which revised all previous laws related to immigration and naturalization for the United States. This is found in chapter two of that document that is sixty something pages, Chapter 2, Section 212, which prohibits the entry into the United States of any alien that belongs to an organization that seeks to overthrow the government of the United States by “force, violence, or other unconstitutional means.”
If you read through the whole paragraph, which I did this afternoon, it becomes very clear that someone who swears allegiance to the Koran, who is Islamic, cannot swear allegiance to the Constitution.
They are by definition here, which is being ignored, they have sworn allegiance to an organization, because the Koran teaches that all other religions and governments need to be supplanted by Islam and Sharia law.
These are not shared values, but when you live in an environment that we have lived in this country for the last 30 years, where postmodernism has captured people’s mentality, then there is no value that you can appeal to give you wisdom to deal with something like this.
The reason that is important is because Israel lived in the same kind of problem at the time of Samuel. Israel lived at a time when the whole nation was doing what? There was no God in the land.
They said, “Yahweh, take a hike.” There is no God in the land, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. That is exactly where we are as a nation today. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. The elders of Israel have come to Samuel and said we want to have a god like every other god.
The second thing that I want to point out in terms of background: (The first was that there should be integrity and righteousness in terms of leadership based on Deuteronomy 1 and Deuteronomy 16:18–20).
The second is when we get into Deuteronomy 17, that the standard of judicial authority is the Law. Everyone including the king is under the Law. This is spelled out in Deuteronomy 17:2ff. It spells out various laws.
Part of this is the prompt acting of justice, arresting a criminal and punishing them is described here. The basis for this judicial action is the covenant that God made with Israel and the rights that God delegates to the people within that covenant. Justice within the covenant is quick, sure, and personal.
There are rules for witnesses given here. There are rules for appeal here. If it is too complicated Moses says the lower judges bring it up the chain of command, and eventually to him.
One other thing we should notice is the punishment of these crimes seems to be pretty severe. For example, in adultery the woman should be stoned to death.
The fact that we are living in the New Testament Church Age does not mean that adultery is no longer wrong. The penalty is no longer adjudicated because we are not in a nation state.
But the sin, whatever these sins are that are identified, whether it is homosexuality, adultery, thievery, or lying, we may not have the same penalties, but the acts themselves are still wrong. We must hold to that particular standard. We see this is spelled out in those particular verses from Deuteronomy 17:2–13.
The last thing I want to look at is the responsibility of the king that is spelled out in Deuteronomy 17:14–20.
Deuteronomy 17:14, “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ ”
God nails it in prophecy. He knows exactly what is going to happen in the future. It is unusual how that happens, is it not?
Deuteronomy 17:15, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses…”
God recognizes His privilege there. He says you may say you want a king like everybody else, but you are going to get the king that I designate. I am going to be the one to choose the king. He goes on to say, “one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you …”
That is what would be known in our Constitution as a natural born citizen.
We know there is a lot of debate over that. There was a lot of debate over that with Barak Obama. There is going to be debate over that because of Ted Cruz. His mother was an American citizen, but he was born in Canada. Somebody wrote this on a blog that was talking about natural born citizen. Somebody responded and said, “I just think that is so prejudicial, because what about those who are born with c-section?” Our government education at work.
It is natural born citizen, basically, “one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.” Why?
You do not have shared values. You do not have the shared cultural values. He does not understand who you are. It has to be somebody who has come up within your cultural milieu.
Then there are several prohibitions. These prohibitions are that he cannot use the office to get wealth. I know an incidence that I was told about by a representative here in Texas, who told me of another representative that had a net worth of less than $300,000 when he got elected to Congress. His net worth now is around three million. With the salary that they get paid how can that happen?
See, that is corruption. This goes on. In Deuteronomy 17:16–17, the leaders are not to become wealthy serving the people. They are not to multiply horses for himself. He is not to multiply wives for himself lest he turn to another god because the wife will influence him. This is what happened to Solomon. He cannot multiply gold and silver for himself. He is not there to get rich.
In Deuteronomy 17:18 what is he supposed to do? He is supposed to write a copy of the Law in a book. He is going to handwrite this out on parchment. That is going to take a while for him to handwrite the book. He is going to have to handwrite it out, and then he has to carry it with him all the time. He shall read it all the days of his life. Why? To fear the Lord.
That is true. When I talk about how important it is to read your Bible, sure you are going to read passages, I read passages I do not understand. I put a question mark next to them. But when we read the Bible you can figure out the high points. It reminds us that we are to fear the Lord, and fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom according to Proverbs.
The king is supposed to:
- Read the Law, the Torah, everyday, to fear the Lord.
- To be careful to observe all the words of this Law and these statutes.
That is what is going to shape the thinking of the king. He has to be focused on the doctrine that is taught in the Torah. Then as a result of that he will have a wise rule.
But there were many times in the reign of the Southern Kingdom, as well as the Northern Kingdom, where the Law disappeared. Nobody even saw a copy of it for a couple of generations. It just disappeared, and like in the time of Josiah, the copy of the Law was discovered and Josiah sat and read it and called the people to repentance. God was gracious to them.
But the king has to have a set of values. Those set of values need to be the values of the people, and whether a lot of people in this country like it or not, this country was founded, the Constitution and the laws, and the Bill of Rights were grounded on a Judeo-Christian heritage.
And if that is not followed, then this nation will collapse. That is pretty much what happened with Israel again and again, but God was always gracious and always brought them back. But we’re not Israel.
We will come back next time and get into the events of 1 Samuel 8.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon what You have revealed in terms of government, to come to understand that there is a standard in Scripture, and that we as believers should go to that. Not that we are trying to implement the Law, but that that sets an example for us, a standard for us. It sets a framework for us to apply when we think about leadership, when we think about politics, and when we think about choosing government leaders.
Father, we pray that as we go to our homes tonight, and as we go to travel this weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, that for us our Thanksgiving will be significantly different as we reflect upon Your grace and Your goodness to us, all the things that You provide for us, reflecting upon these great freedoms that liberty has given us, and that we might not forget to pray for this nation, to pray for this congregation, to pray for our friends and our family. That we might be able to pursue our spiritual life with peace and without interference from outside government forces that would seek to prevent us from applying our Christian beliefs. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”