How would you answer the following questions...
- What are the duties of government?
- How much power should the government have?
Governance remains a good thing despite the Fall and though it is now flawed, its development in the Old Testament reveals what God wants of governments. Governance as seen in the kings of Israel is about protecting relationships, limiting the effects of the Fall, restraining the violence and vendetta society we see re-emerge in the book of Judges, and promoting good. Though we are not the nation of Israel, the principles God reveals to His kings should shape our view of governance.
Passage: Deuteronomy 17:14-20
- Who is the ultimate source of authority?God is the one who gives the land, and who chooses the king, and who sets the parameters for what the king can do
- What are the limitations God places on the King?
- Must be one of God’s people v15
- Must not trust in military might and other nations following other gods v16
- Must not pursue his own pleasure and exploit his people (wives and finances) v17
- He should walk in the ways of the Lord vv18-20
Government is limited, God does not give unrivalled power to any individual but instead calls on them to remember His Lordship and trust in Him for all things. They are not to acquire wealth and power for their own gain and are to serve the people, the poor and needy, and promote human flourishing.
(See also Proverbs 31:1-9, and the warning of 1 Samuel 8 for when kings do not fear the Lord)
Passage: Psalm 72
Understanding the King
- Who is this prayer to and who is this prayer for?
- Who is the king?
Mary, in Luke 1:48, recognises that by her child all nations will be blessed, echoing this promise in v17. Isaiah too, points forward to Jesus when he echoes elements of this Psalm in chapter 9. Jesus Christ is this perfect King! So, when we think about perfect governments and rulers we are to look to Christ.
- What elements of this Psalm does Jesus fulfil that we wouldn’t expect nor want from any other king/ruler? Why?
- Conquer the earth vv8-11
- Demand/be worthy of worship vv15-19
- Reign forever v5 & v17
- Knowing that Christ fulfils this Psalm fully, what principles might we recognise as being good for all political leaders to uphold?
- To judge and uphold justice (v1, v2, v4)
- To protect the poor and needy (v4, v12, v13, v14)
- To bring human flourishing and prosperity (v3, v6, v7, v16)
- To bless other nations (v8, v9, v10, v11, v15, v17) (be mindful of Israel’s unique calling here – outside of the Church, we are probably not talking about spiritual blessings)
- To be God’s representative (v5, vv8-11, v18, v19) (think here about the principle of accountability to God rather and responsibility to carry out justice not divine mandate to do whatever they please)
The Israelite King is to fear God and honour him by caring for the poor and needy, upholding justice, bringing prosperity, and demonstrating God’s good goodness to a world that doesn’t know him.
- Why is it important to remember that Jesus alone fulfils these promises?
(See also Deuteronomy 16:18-20 for further principles behind the God-given duty of governance. Be mindful of Israel’s unique calling here.)
- How should the Old Testament depiction of kings shape our understanding of Government?
- Does our perception of government need to change?
- What are potential problems if we ignore God’s plan for government?
- Thank God that His good plan for governance involves justice, service and the common good. Thank Him that governments’ power is nothing in comparison to God’s
- Pray for good government here in the UK and a correct understanding of the purpose and extent of government power