Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Nothing new under the sun ...

I had written this back in 1999.. but it is still qute applicable today. I Samuel 8 is an ancient example of what can happen when "we the people" delegate too much of our responsibility (and the authority that is inextricably joined with it) to government ... and why "we the people" never seem to learn, but repeatedly support leaders who are only too glad to "accept" that delegation.

This is a story we need to relate to others before they vote (especially if they are planning to vote for the candidates of the Democratic Party).

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Dateline Israel -- 1075 B.C. Egypt and slavery are long behind them; the people of Israel have been in their Promised Land for several generations. Up till now, political leadership in Israel has been vested in a series of "judges" that are raised to this position by God Himself, for the occasion of leading the people out of crisis. The judge at this time is the prophet Samuel.

Samuel, like the judges before him, were truly "leaders", not "rulers"; they did not have personal power to use, for or against the people. Instead, they led by word and example, basing their authority upon their obedience to God. The "rule of law" in Israel was based upon each individual following the precepts of God, by their own volition and not by the force of human government. As long as they adhered to God's precepts, they prospered, reaching their full potential as individuals and as a nation. When they deviated from God's precepts, they suffered.

At this time, Samuel was getting old, so he appointed his sons as judges to replace him. However, his sons "walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment." (v.3). The people of Israel (rightly so) did not accept their leadership, so they went to Samuel to complain. They also had a demand for Samuel -- they wanted him to appoint, not another judge, but a king to "judge them like all the nations".

The difference between a king and a judge in this context is quite significant. With a king in place, the law of God would no longer have exclusive control over their actions -- they now had to please the king, too -- whether or not he was pleasing God. God took this as a rejection of Himself (v.7)

In a classic case of "be careful what you ask for; you may get it", God told Samuel to appoint a king over Israel -- but before doing so, Samuel was to show them what they were getting into. Samuel did so; what he said is found in verses 11-18:

And he said, "This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you. He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties, and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

And he will take your daughters to be your confectioneries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

He will take the tenth of your sheep, and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

Why would the people want this -- especially when they already had the ability to reach their full potential without a king? Verse 20 says it all:

. . . That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

The more things change . . . the more they remain the same!

Let me repeat Verse 20, inserting commentary on the way I read this:

... That we also may be like all the nations; (i.e. more "enlightened" nations like, say, France?)

... and that our king may judge us, (instead of exercising self-control, we lean on the legality derived by our leaders to define our own morality -- then look for legal loopholes, so we can dodge moral repsonsibility)

... and go out before us, (instead of taking the initiative as individuals, we wait for government to solve every problem for us ... even those that are both within our individual ability to solve, and outside the ability of government to do so)

... and fight our battles. (for us ... not with us ... including "battles" that come nowhere near armed conflict. Do not construe this to mean that our defense is not the proper purview of the federal government -- or that the professional/volunteer military is not the best vehicle for government to use in this regard. What we are talking about here is the wholesale delegation of our authority to the relative few in leadership, as "we the people" seek to avoid the attendant responsibility.)


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