…is the name of the poem I used for this morning’s Sunday School class, Isaac Watts’ rendering of Psalm 114. Beautiful:
When Isr’el, freed from Pharaoh’s hand,
Left the proud tyrant and his land,
The tribes with cheerful homage own
Their king; and Judah was his throne.
Across the deep their journey lay;
The deep divides to make them way.
Jordan beheld their march, and led,
With backward current, to his head.
The mountains shook like frighted sheep,
Like lambs the little hillocks leap;
Not Sinai on her base could stand,
Conscious of sov’reign pow’r at hand.
What pow’r could make the deep divide?
Make Jordan backward roll his tide?
Why did ye leap, ye little hills?
And whence the fright that Sinai feels?
Let ev’ry mountain, ev’ry flood,
Retire and know th’ approaching God,
The King of Isr’el: see him here!
Tremble, thou earth, adore and fear.
He thunders, and all nature mourns;
The rock to standing pools he turns,
Flints spring with fountains at his word,
And fires and seas confess the Lord.
Watts is rapidly climbing my list of favorite hymn writers. Here’s a brief biography:
I didn’t get to make it to the Resolved Conference this year, but the audio is free and located here.
“If God himself bows before His own law, what more can be done? There is more in the atonement by way of merit, than there is in all human sin by way of demerit.”
Right now I’m reading through I Samuel. It’s been a joy because I’ve found that typically, we’re less familiar with the Old Testament than the New, and that usually makes for good study. As I read through chapter 8, a blog worth breaking the silence for came to mind.
Israel was running under what we would call Theocracy, which is just a word that means God was their ruler and king. He ruled and decreed through the judges, but God was acknowledged as the ultimate authority and so no human king was necessary. As time wore on, Israel desired change and told Samuel, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (I Sam 8:5)
God told Samuel that in spite of Israel’s complaints about his age, it was God that they were rejecting. He told Samuel to warn them about what it was they were asking for, but to do what they asked, and so he did:
11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” 19But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 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.” 21And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. 22And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.”
It’s so easy to point out the foolishness of Israel. I always think, “They had no idea how good they had it!” True. God being their acknowledged political ruler was great. They quickly learned that, true to Samuel’s warning, a king was not as all they had hoped he would be. But to look back into history and play Monday morning quarterback is easy. Before we reach for the specks of discontent and misplaced trust in Israel’s eye, let’s look at ourselves.
A large portion of Christianity was up in arms at the last election, furious that the wrong man had one. Worry over his views on the economy and foreign policy was there but much more, a radically pro-choice president? One who will not oppose same-sex marriage?
Let’s identify some parallels, shall we?
Israel wanted a king because they thought that’s what they needed. Why? Because they wanted someone to judge them and fight their battles for them (v. 20).
Many Christian Americans want a “Christian” president because they think that’s what they need. Why? Because they want someone to make “Christian” judgments and fight their political battles for them.*
As I said before, one of the chief sins here is misplaced trust. As believers, we know that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (Jn 8:36), so why would we place our trust on a ruler who is? We are told to “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Ps. 146:3, 4)
Instead we should be trusting in the true King, Jesus Christ. Look at what He says in John 10:
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Do you want a King who judges? Jesus Christ is the judge of all men, separating His sheep from the goats. (Matt. 24:31-46)
Do you want a King who fights your battles? No King fought harder or made a sacrifice greater than when Christ laid down his life for his sheep. (John 10:11, 15)
The battle we should be most concerned about is not at the polls, in courtrooms, or the oval office. We should be fervently praying that God would advance his Kingdom in the hearts of men. Someone who is born again will not abort their unborn child. Someone who is trusting Christ will put to death the sin of homosexuality. That is a way that we can focus our efforts now instead of getting pumped of for the election in 2012. We can spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, the ultimate judge who sits on the throne, no matter who sits in the oval office.
I will exercise my God-given ability to vote and one day, perhaps there will be reform in America. However, let us keep our focus heavenward and make sure our trust is in Christ and his glorious and superior rule.
* I will make a distinction here. Unlike deposing God and foregoing Theocracy for a Monarchy, having a God-fearing president would be a great thing. It’s the panic while without one that is sinful and what I’m trying to address.
Now that the title of this post has effectively grabbed your attention, I want you to go read the actual post over on the pyromaniacs blog.
Dan Phillips encourages us to appreciate our pastors. Our pastors.