Monday, October 31, 2005

Not Monarchy

Kings are not God's ideal form of government.

When the people asked Samuel for a King, God said that they were rejecting him.

So all the elders of came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.... Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do" (1 Sam 8:4-9).

God then warned them that a king would enslave their sons and daughters and steal their wealth. Kings are a sub-optimal form of government.

The Jews look back to King David as their model ruler, but he was not the ideal. David had a heart for God and a contrite spirit, but he still sinned when he became corrupted by power. His disobedience brought a calamity on his nation that killed 70,000 people (2 Sam 24:13-17). A king who loves God is not the perfect answer.

The history of Israel demonstrates that good kings are usually succeeded by bad kings. Because their sons grow up in a privileged world, they generally do not have the character that such a powerful position needs. The trouble is that once power has been given to a king, the people can never get it back, even if his sons turn bad.

Saul was chosen by the people (1 Sam 10:17-25). David was also chosen as king by the people (2 Sam 5:1-5). However, once the people had given them absolute authority, they could not get it back from their successors, even if they wanted to. The people of Israel tried to take back their freedom when Rehoboam became king, but they failed. Their rebellion brought out an even worse dictator called Jeroboam (1 Kings 14).

A King in heaven is great. A king on earth is dangerous.

Monarchy is not God's ideal.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Defintely Not Democracy

Many Christians are getting involved in the political process to try and accomplish God’s purposes, but they will not succeed, because all political institutions are rooted in humanism. For example the United States constitution begins with the words, “We the People…… do ordain and establish this Constitution This is a declaration that the people will decide their own laws and is a blatant rejection of God’s law.. A system for producing human laws, no matter how carefully designed, cannot produce the justice of God.

Christians have tended to recommend democracy as a political solution, but there is no biblical reason for this enthusiasm. People power leads to oppression because the crowd is usually wrong.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd (Ex 23:2).

We should be careful about recommending a system that does not have God’s approval. Just as a thorn bush cannot produce apples, a system where man establishes the laws, can never advance the Government of God.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not Democracy

Democracy cannot be God's ideal government, because it is the rule of man and not the rule of God. When the people get their way, disaster always follows.

Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way .... of obedience to the LORD's commands..... the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways (Judges 2:17-19).
Gideon understood this problem well.
The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you" (Jud 8:22,23).
This is a good example of democracy getting things wrong. The people voted Gideon for president, but that was not God’s will. Gideon understood the issues better and reminded them that God was their ruler.

The people will always refuse to serve God and follow his ways. Here are some examples from just one of the historical books.
Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, "This is what God says: 'Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper' "(2 Chron 24:19,20).

The people, however, continued their corrupt practices (2 Chron 27:2).

But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy (2 Chron 36:16).
Jeremiah summed the problem up when he said,
This is what the LORD says about this people:
They greatly love to wander;
they do not restrain their feet (Jer 14:10).
Any system that relies on the people to do the right thing is doomed to fail. Demoracy cannot provide godly government.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wrong Question

If we ask the wrong question, we will not get the right answer.

Most Christians ask how we can make the democratic system to work according to biblical principles. Their answer is to get more Christians elected, so they can pass Christian laws. Efforts in this direction have only had limited success and have often harmed God’s name.

A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

The correct question is as follows. What is God’s ideal form of government? This is a very important question that we have not seriously attempted to answer.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Left or Right

The Christian Right is wrong.
The Christian Left is not right.
They both believe in salvation by politics.

The both want to make their own laws,
because they are unwilling to live under God's law.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Challenging Questions

What would you do if the Prime Minister of your country decided to become a Christian and asked you to disciple her? Would you tell her to resign because politics is evil and Christians should not be joined with evil? You would need to be very sure before doing this, because God may have put her in a position of authority for a purpose (This was true of Queen Esther.)

Or you could tell her to keep on implementing party policies while keeping her Christian faith personal and private. The problem with is that after a while she would start feeling like a hypocrite.

What would you do? You would have to start thinking about what it means to be a Christian Prime Minister. If we are praying for our rulers as required by the scriptures, we cannot assume that none will ever become a Christian. We should be prepared to answer the question when it happens.

Here is another tough question. If the gospel has great success and we find that 90 percent of the population of our nation is Christian, should we start implementing a Christian legal system? What would that be? What would the new society look like? Or would we leave politics to the other 10 percent, so the church does not get dragged back into Christendom?

When Constantine became a Christian, the church did not have the answer to these questions, so we got Christendom by default.

We should start thinking now, as it will be too late when it happens.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Escape or Wait

We have gone for 2000 years without solving the church/state problem, but it will not go away. A reaction to the collapse of Christendom has been to avoid the issue by believing that the church should remain a persecuted and isolated minority. If the state is persecuting the church, Christians can declare it to be evil and not need to get involved. This is easy to say that when you are living in peace and comfort, but it destines the church to be defeated forever. My reading of the scripture is that God expects more of the Church than continuous defeat. We cannot assume that the Holy Spirit will leave his church defeated forever.

Others expect the problem to be resolved by Jesus coming back soon to rule from Jerusalem. They believe that Jesus will take over from “George Bush” and rid the world of evil, but this has not really been thought through very clearly. Think about some of the problems. How would Jesus stop Timaru teenagers from sniffing glue? He would be busy in the temple in Jerusalem, so he would not have much time for the young people of Timaru. He will have will have a lot of Christians in spiritual bodies to help him, but what would they do. Would they track down every glue sniffer and "zap"them. That is hardly likely to stop glue sniffing. The disembodied Christians could hide all the glue, but what about those who have a genuine need for glue. Society would become very controlled, but it would not be very pleasant place to live.

Jesus simply would not have the power to solve every problem. The world’s problems cannot be solved by forcing people to do things they do not want to do. Evil will only disappear when all sinful hearts are transformed and to love of God. Jesus sitting on a throne in Jerusalem would not have the power to change hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

And Surprise! Surprise! He can change hearts now without waiting for Jesus to return.

Neither waiting or escaping is the solution. If our Christian faith is real, it should be good for both the tough times and good times. We cannot avoid working through our relationship with the political system.

It will be too late to start thinking when things turn to custard.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Church and State

The relationship between the church and the state is a key issue for the Kingdom of God. The last two millennia have been marked by an ongoing struggle/alliance between these two. Christian leaders tried to use political power to strengthen the position of the church, so they formed an alliance with the state, in which the church authenticated the state power in return for state protection of the church.

This alliance with the state led to a jostling for power that did not really advance the gospel cause. At times the gospel was successful and the influence of the church increased, but in a straight out power struggle with the state, the church will usually lose. The church mostly played second fiddle and the gospel was corrupted by secular views, as it compromised to hang onto scraps of power.

Our problem is that the correct relationship between the church and the state has never been defined. The early church was persecuted, so it saw the state as an enemy. When persecution of Christians, ceased in the fourth century, the church never resolved the issue of how it should relate to a state that is not hostile. This task has never been done, so we lurch between using the state to advance the gospel and escaping from the political world.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Taxation and Tyranny

Compulsory taxation came with the king. Kings and taxation are part of the same package. When the people asked for a king, Samuel told them what he would do.

He will take your sons........
He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves .........
He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage ......
the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves (1 Sam 8:11-17).
Kings take. That is there nature. Samuel was not so much disturbed by the size of the payments to the king. A tithe was quite normal. However, he was shocked that the King would take what he wanted. He was disturbed because payments to the king would be compulsory.

During the time of the judges, tithes to the Levites were voluntary. The judges mostly supported themselves. Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a noble wife who worked hard at business, so her husband could be a judge at the gate. Any payment to a judge was always a voluntary payment. Abraham paid for his own army.

Choosing a king marked a transition from giving to taking.

Choosing to have a king brought compulsory taxation. Choosing democracy also brings compulsory taxation. Samuel warned the people.

When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day (1 Sam 8:18).
Monarchy (kings) and democracy are inferior forms of government because they require compulsory taxation. God's ideal government depends on giving, not taking.

Taxation is the basis of Tyranny.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Did Jesus Pay Tax

An interesting incident occurred when Jesus came to Capernaum.

The collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matt 17:24-27).
Peter made the mistake of speaking for his master without checking first, so Jesus had to put things right. He made two important points. The first was that the sons of kings do not pay tax. This referred back to the warning that Samuel had given to Israel when they chose to have a king (1 Samuel 8). Jesus is a son of the King of the universe so he does not have to pay tax to an earthly power.

When Jesus ascended into heaven he became our king and we became sons of the king. As sons of the true king, Christians are not require to pay tax to a king. We cannot serve two kings. If we accept Jesus as our king, we cannot serve another king by acknowledging his right to impose taxes.

Jesus second point was that at times it is better to keep the peace than to stand on your rights. He chose to pay the tax voluntarily to avoid embarrassing Peter. Christians will sometimes choose to pay taxes to political powers, because they do not want to get distracted from their work for God. When they pay an imposed tax voluntarily, they are following Jesus example. They are not morally obliged to pay the tax, but they will do so as not to cause unnecessary offence.

For Christians, all payments to political powers are voluntary. We are only required to pay for services that we have received.

All taxation is voluntary for children of the King of Creation.

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Bad News for Caesar

and his imitators.....

Jesus statement about rendering to Caesar has been used to develop a theory that Jesus rules the church and the spiritual life, while the political powers control the political and economic dimensions of life. This is nonsense. Jesus could not assign authority over the political dimension to Caesar, because all authority belongs to God. He could not give authority to make laws to political dictators or parliaments, because God is the our law maker and has already given us the law that we need. God is not interested in power-sharing with Caesar, or any other political authority.

When Jesus said to give to Caesar what belongs to him, he was not giving Cesar authority over secular life. He was not legitimising political power. He was simply restating the biblical principle that stealing is wrong. If the people had received something from Caesar, they owed him payment. If he had taken more than he had given, they owned him nothing and he was in debt to them.

Jesus told the people to “give” Caesar what they owed him. He did not say paying tax was compulsory. Giving is a voluntary concept. If something is taken by force, it is not given. If someone steals your car, you do not say “I gave it to the thief”. We must choose to give, or it is not giving. Jesus told us to "give" what we owe to Caesar. This means that he was talking about something voluntary and not compulsory payment of taxes. Jesus was teaching that all payment to the civil authorities are voluntary.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Render to Caesar What???

Jesus confirmed the principle of voluntary taxation when he was confronted by the Jews.

They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke20:20-26).
This incident has caused a lot of confusion. The usual interpretation is that Caesar’s image and name on the coin proves that he owns all coins, so they must be given back to him if he asks for them. This is economic nonsense. An image on a coin or banknote proves nothing. New Zealand five dollar notes have a picture of Sir Edmund Hilary, the first person to climb Mount Everest. To suggest that he owns every five dollar note would be absurd. The coin that Jesus looked at belonged to the person who had given it, unless it was stolen, and then it belonged to the person it was stolen from. It did not belong to Caesar.

Jesus was telling the people to pay to Caesar what they owed him. Caesar had provided them with a service by minting coins. Having a coinage that was accepted throughout the world was a benefit for those engaged in trade, so they owed him something for that service. Rome may have provided roads that were beneficial to Jewish communities. Maybe Caesar also provided some justice services (I am not sure how much), so they owed him something for that. Caesar had not protected them, so they owed him nothing for defence.

By way of contrast, everything does belong to God, so we must submit everything to him. Jesus had taught the people over and over again that all authority belongs to his Father God. Even the Son of God must submit to his authority. Since all authority belongs to God, we must submit to God in everything him. Caesar must submit to God in the same way as ordinary people. Caesar must give to God, everything that belongs to him.

A political power (emperor or parliament) cannot be above God in anything.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Payment of Judges (3)

Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Rom 13:7 NKJV).
The word “render” literally means “give back”, and includes a strong sense of repayment or paying back for something received. Paul does not give judges the right to impose taxes, but he does give Christians responsibility to support their judges. He is commanding them to pay the judge for the benefits they receive through having a good system of justice.

Judges cannot decide what they are worth to the people of the community. Only the people can decide what value they place on justice. They are the only ones who can decide on the value of what they have received.

Some may decide they do not care and pay nothing. Most will decide that good justice is worth having and make a contribution; just as most people freely pay for fire insurance. They will hope that they will not need a judge, but they be willing to pay a small amount to ensure that a good judge is there when they need one.

At the end of verse 7, we are are told to honour those to whom honour is due. God does not expect us to worship any human. The Greek word translated as honour is “timé”. The root meaning of this word is “price”. The basic meaning of the verb is to “set a price” or “determine the value” of an object. The idea of hounour is derived from this concept of valuation.

Paul is not commanding us to honour judges in the modern sense of the word, but to evaluate a judge and decide what he is worth. We should be making a payment to a judge based on what we perceive that he is worth. This links back to the idea in of submit to the excellent judges at the beginning of the chapter.

A judge or authority does not decide what he is worth. Christians decide themselves what the judge is worth. Judges cannot impose taxes, but they should be paid what they are worth to their community. All taxation is voluntary so it ceases to be a tax. It is a burden we owe to those who have provided justice to us. Paul concludes his teaching on civil government by saying.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom 13:8).

We pay what we owe, but payment is voluntary, a fulfilment of love. As in any expression of love the amount to be paid is decided by the one making the payment.

Taxation is Voluntary!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New Government

New Zealand has a new government.
The Germans have got their grand coalition, we have a "coalition of greasers."
The election was based on bribery, so not surprisingly, the government is based on "jobs for the boys" and bribery.

By justice a king gives a country stability,
but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down (Prov 29:4).
The Prime Minister is the winner. She has neutered the opposition with the "baubles of office".

Democracy is the loser, but it was never a winner.

Payment of Judges (2)

The principle of voluntary payments to judges is confirmed in Romans.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Rom 13:6,7 NKJV).
This passage states that judges are God’s servants. The thing that they are “attending contually” is dealing with crime and punishing of law breakers.

The work translated as “taxes” is "phoros", which has the root meaning “burden”. I find it ironic that a word for burden is translated as tax. Paul is actually making a play on words. He had earlier said that judges carry the “burden” of the sword (Rom 13:4). Their burden is a responsibility to provide justice to everyone without fear or favour. This gives Christians a burden to ensure that judges are financially supported in this work, especially if they are attending to this work continually (working at it full-time).

The word "phoros" includes a strong sense of compensation. The Roman empire required a phoros from every province as compensation for providing defence. So when Paul is saying we must pay the burden, he is saying that we must compensate judges for providing justice for us.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Payment of Judges (1)

An important issue for Christians is the payment of judges. If judges are God’s servants, do they have authority to impose taxes for their support? The answer is a resounding No! In a godly society, being a judge will be a part-time task, as most local communities will not have enough cases to occupy a full-time judge. Judges will be able to earn their living by pursuing another career. If a case is complicated and involves a lot of work for the judge, they may request that the litigants pay costs. The biblical principle that a workman is worthy of his wages would apply (1 Tim 6:18). The person causing the case and the person benefiting would have a responsibility to cover the costs of the judge.

As the kingdom of God expands, the incidence of crime will decline and there will be less work for judges. Sometimes some of the people of a community might decide to pay a good judge a retainer, so that they will always have a quality judge whom they trust available to hear cases when they arise. This would give the judge time to study God’s law and keep update with decisions being made by other judges. Any contributions to the retainer would be voluntary and should not give those who pay any benefits in terms of justice.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Have a Go Leadership

I believe that the church needs to rediscover what it means to have the Holy Spirit as leader. Jesus promised that he would tell us what to do (authority, direction and inspiration). Wherever we go, he is already there, so we should be his followers.

The Holy Spirit has a "have-a-go” style of leadership that he learned this from Jesus. Jesus articulated his vision and invited people to copy his lifestyle and “have a go” at what he was doing. The twelve and the seventy-two did “have a go” and it worked out pretty well. Jesus did not try to control those who were willing to “have a go:. He let Judas do what was on his heart. He warned Peter that he would “stuff up”, but did not forbid him from “having a go”. And he helped Peter sort out the mess afterwards.

New Christians are to place themselves under elders. That means finding someone who is further on with the journey, and "having a go" at copying them. It means "having a go" at the place where another has left off, not finding someone to be in control.

Eldership is about watching over those who are "having a go" (Acts 20:27-29). Apostolic people “have a go” in a different geographic space. Evangelistic people “have a go” among those on the fringe. People with pastoral gifting watch over those who are “having a go”. They warn against leadership by false spirits and they help clean up the mess when things go wrong. They teach people to "have a go together".

The Holy Spirit seems to be more interested in his people “having a go” than keeping things nice and tidy. I presume he is happy to clean up the mess if things go wrong (with a bit of help from pastoral people).

If the Holy Spirit is the leader of our Church, we do not need a man to lead us.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

False Faith in the State

The earthquake damage in Pakistan has been awful.

According to television reports, many people are upset that the government has been so slow in providing assistance. What amazes me is that the people in remote towns and villages of a third world country actually expect the government to rescue them from troubles. Where did this faith in the state come from. Once people living in remote, mountainous areas knew that they had to rely on their own community’s resources in times of disaster.

The expectation that the state will rescue us seems to be a world wide epidemic. If it has reached remote villages in Kashmir, it is truly a virulent disease. As faith in God has declined, a false faith in the state seems to have exploded throughout the world.

The truth is that the state does not have the power to rescue everyone from a crisis.

The state can never have sufficient manpower to deal with a serious crisis. Even if the army is large, it cannot all be assigned to rescue duties. Many soldiers will have to stay on other tasks, like defending the countries borders and providing protection for the backs of its political leaders. The state also controls many pen-pushers and bureaucrats, but they are not much use in a crisis.
If the calamity affects the road access, the army will not be able to travel from its bases to the areas where the most damage has occurred. By the time they can arrive, the initial stage of the crisis will be over.

In most countries the business sector owns more helicopters, trucks boats and planes than the state. Most heavy lifting and earth moving equipment will be owned by business. Most house building capability is in the business sector. Businesses will be spread throughout the country, so they are more likely to have skilled people and useful equipment close to crisis areas.

Most of the initial rescue work will have to be done by friends, families and neighbours helping each other and helping others. If the business sector is community minded, it might also provide assistance to those in need.

I do not understand why the state is the fount of all hope.

Oh well, at least no one is blaming God for this disaster.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Summary (26)

Twenty-six posts on the same topic breaks all the rules of blogging.
Some readers have collapsed under exhaustion and fallen away.
Those who have stayed the journey are really hard core.
So I am going to end the series with a summary. I have more to say, but that can come under new topics.

  • Democracy is the rule of the people, not the rule of God.
  • We do not need kings, parliaments, politicians or lawmakers, because God has already provided us with his law.
  • What we need is godly judges to apply and interpret his law.
  • God’s law specifies three crimes: theft, murder and false witness.
  • Multiple judges will provide safety and freedom.
  • Payment to the judges (taxes) must be voluntary.
  • People and judges must love God’s law.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Prophets and Judges (25)

The prophets will have a role in exposing judges who are unjust. Micah challenged the judges of Jerusalem for accepting bribes.

Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money (Mic 3:11)
Jeremiah warned the judges against protecting evil people and not establishing justice.

How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually
the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?
The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?
From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all
practice deceit.
Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD (Jer 8:8-12).

The prophets will expose judges that are not honouring God and
his law.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Appeals (24)

After Moses received the law, he acted as judge for all the people.

Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening (Ex 18:13).
Jethro his father-in-law realised that Moses would wear himself out if he carried on this way and suggested that he appoint other judges to share the burden.

But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves (Exodus 18:21-23).
This is what Moses did. He established a formal appeal process.

He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. (Exodus 18:25-27).
The appointed judges decided all the cases that were brought before them. However the harder cases were appealed up to Moses. These appeals had an educative effect. By watching his decisions, the judges would learn how to decide cases in the future.

Moses was able to act as the highest court of appeal, because God had given the law through him, so he understood it best. No one could take that role after he died.

What will happen now that we no longer have Moses is that some judges will get a reputation for understanding the law and making very wise decisions. People wanting justice will start appealing their case to the best judges. For tough cases, an appeal judge might invite other widely respected judges to sit on the case with him. This will improve the quality of his decision and strengthen the sense of justice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Difficult Cases (23)

For really difficult cases, judges might call in people with spiritual discernment or prophetic insight.

If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the LORD your God will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict (Deut 17:8,9).
Following the work of the cross, there are no priests or levites as such, but every society should have men and women of God with the gift of discernment. Wise people may be called on to help with difficult cases.

However, no matter how wise our judges, mistakes will still be made. Judges should be humble, knowing that we will never get perfect justice on this earth. God is our final judge. Any mistakes that are made by human judges will eventually be corrected when we stand before the perfect judge at the end of the age. All mistakes will be perfectly corrected.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Negative Law (22)

Judges have no authority until a crime has occurred. Biblical Law is phrased negatively, as in "you shall not steal". This negative wording is very important. Breaking this law has a penalty, but provided people do not steal, they are free to do what they like with their money. This gives individuals great freedom and limits the authority of the judges to the punishment of theft.

A positively stated law would give judges much greater power and greatly reduce freedom. Consider a law, such as "you must give any spare money to the poor". This positively-stated law would give judges the right to monitor and challenge every financial transaction. Some good might follow, but judges would have an extremely dangerous power and the people would lose our freedom.

Biblical law does not give judges responsibility for forcing people to lead virtuous lives. The Law cannot change human nature, so it cannot eliminate sin. The only solution to sin is regeneration by the Holy Spirit in response to the gospel of Jesus. Under biblical law, judges can only restrain sin by punishing crimes; they must not attempt to make people good.

Politicians believer they can make people good. That is what makes them dangerous.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Impossible Burden (21)

Jesus confronted the teachers of the law and the Pharisees for placing an impossible burden upon the people.

Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. "Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."
And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:43-46,52).
They had taken the ten commandments and converted them into about 600 rules and regulation. Jesus called them blind fools and hypocrites.

The modern state has turned the ten commands into thousands of laws and regulations. They are so many and so complicated that even the judges and parliamentarians do not understand them all. Jesus would have called them similar names.

Politicians are the modern pharisees.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oath of Allegiance (20)

Every judge must swear an oath of allegiance to God, before taking office. This would ensure that only those who are willing to obey God will become judges.

Most political leaders are required to declare an oath when they enter office. In the United States, political leaders swear that they will defend the constitution. In New Zealand, politicians declare an oath of allegiance to the Queen. The Israelites swore an oath that they would serve God and obey his laws (Deut 27,28).

Oaths are important aspect of God’s covenant. Our response to God’s covenant offer is agreement to serve him and accept the consequence of any disobedience. An oath of allegiance to God is not just a declaration that we will serve God. It speaks of acceptance of his blessings and a willingness to accept the consequences of disobedience. An oath calls down God’s positive and negative sanctions.

Oaths of allegiance to the people, a constitution or a sovereign are unbiblical, as only God cannot demand our total allegiance. They should be replaced by an oath of allegiance to God. A nation that adopts this practice is declaring that it will only be judged by men and women who have chosen to serve God and live under his covenant.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Judicial Coercion (19)

Judges have authority from God to use force. They have authority to enforce the sentence upon a person who is found guilty. An example is found in Exodus 22:9.

both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges
declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor.
The person who is declared guilty by the judges, must do what the judges require. If their response was voluntary, justice will break down. For justice to function, judges must have powers of coercion. They the only group in society who can force a person to do something that they are unwilling to do.

The judges may employee people to enforce their decisions. These people would need to be bold, strong and sensible. Actions taken while enforcing a judicial verdict would be immune from prosecution. Judges would make use of people who had experience at getting repayment of debts. If a person became careless and got into trouble, the judge would stop using them, and find another person who is more sensible and careful.

Although judges have power of coercion, this power is limited to the cases that are brought before them. If they use force in any other situation, they could be prosecuted before another judge. If a judge uses his power in a malicious way, people will stop taking cases to him, and his power will disappear. Having multiple judges is the best protection against unrestrained judicial power.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Judges Task (18)

Judges will deal with cases that are brought before them. There are four aspects to their work.

1. The judges will thoroughly investigate the case collecting all the information that is relevant.

The judges must make a thorough investigation (Deut 19:18).
If necessary they will vist the scene of the crime and make observations and measurements (Deut 21:2).

2.The judges will listen to all the relevant witnesses.
A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three itnesses (Deut 19:15).
3. The judges will arrive at a verdict (Ex 18:22)
the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty (Deut 25:1).
Their verdict will acquit those who are innocent and condemn those who are guilty.

4. The judges will decide on a penalty for the guilty person.
they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment (Deut 17:9 NKJV)
They will determine what penalty is required by the scriptures. This is an important aspect of justice. The penalties for crime must be those prescribed by God and not driven by a desire for revenge.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ambulance or Fence (17)

A common view is that building a fence at the top of the cliff is better than having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. This is not a biblical position. The state tries to create a fence at the top of the cliff. It puts in place thousands of rules and regulations to prevent people from coming to harm.

A study of the scriptures shows that God takes the opposite approach. He gives us freedom to live as we choose. His scriptures reveal what is right and what is wrong, and warn of the consequence of disobedence, but he never forces sinners to live righteously, if they are unwilling. He will allow them to experience the consequences of their choices, but he will not stop them choosing.

God wants people to obey him, because they love him, not because they are forced to. The most that he will do to make them obey him, is the Holy Spirit’s stirring in their conscience, but he does not prevent us from doing wrong. If people do wander into sin, he has provided remedy through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

This approach is more like a sign at the top of the cliff and an ambulance at the bottom. If people ignore his warnings, he will not prevent them from falling, but if they repent when they fall, he will rescue them. The benefit of this approach is that it encourages people to take responsibility for their lives.

God’s way is better than the fence that politicians like to build. Their problem is that the cliff is so large and so rugged, that it is almost impossible to fence. They generally give up fencing the cliff, and put a fence round the mountain to prevent people going onto the mountain. The enormous range of rules and regulations that they introduce limits human freedom, preventing us from reaching out full potential. God’s way is more risky, but it produces better people.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Defining Murder (16)

Murder is unlawful killing of person. The law gives examples that enables the boundaries around murder to be defined.

1. Killing a person in reasonable self defence is not murder.

If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed (Ex 22:2)
This is not an absolute rule, but an example of how an investigation of the circumstances can reveal whether the action was murder.
2. Killing a soldier during a war is not murder.

If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it (Deut 20:12,13).
This rule does not apply to all wars, but only to those that are justified by the principle of self defence.
3. An accidental death is not murder,

if he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen (Ex 21:12)
A person cannot be held accountable for something that was beyond their control.
4. Intent is important. Murder occurs,

if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately (Ex 21:12)
5. Unintentionally killing an unborn child can be murder

If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. (Ex 21:22).
In this example, the men’s action was unintentional, so it is treated as assalt. If their action had been intentional and the baby died, their crime would become murder.

6. Allowing a dangerous animal or machine to wander without restraint could become murder.

If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman (Ex 21:29),
the crime becomes murder.

The biblical examples that help define the crimes of theft, false witness and murder are all common sense. We are not surprised by them, because they have been borrowed by most modern legal systems.

These examples provide judges with good principles to apply when deciding difficult cases. God does not need politicians to define these concepts for him.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Defining False Witness (15)

The Law gives several examples of that is meant by false witness.

1. Giving incorrect evidence to a court is the most serious form of false witness.

If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime..... The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother (Deut 19:16-19).
2. False witness can lead to disputes about ownership of property.

In all cases of illegal possession.... Property about which somebody says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to bring their cases before the judges (Ex 22:9).
3. Slander is another form of false witness.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Defining Theft (14)

The Bible gives a number of examples that assist with the definition of theft.

1. Stealing another person's property.

If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep (Ex 22:1).
2. Disputes
When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty (Deut 25:1).
3. Assault is a form of theft.
If men quarrel and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist and he does not die but is confined to bed, the one who struck the blow will not be held responsible if the other gets up and walks around outside with his staff; however, he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time and see that he is completely healed (Ex 21:18,19)
The person committing the assault must be forced to compensate the victim everything that is lost. He must also pay for all medical expenses and pay compensation for any permanent injuries.
4. Breach of Contract

If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges to determine whether he has laid his hands on the other man's property (Ex 22:7,8).

Failure to fulfil a contract that has been freely agreed is a form of theft and is dealt with in the same way as any other theft.

The Bible give clear guidelines on the nature of theft. Any new situations that emerge can be decided by applying these guidelines.

When politicians get hold of the concept of theft, we get very strange results. A large corporation can steal million of dollars and not be prosecuted due to a technicality and a young boy who steals a can of coke gets off free because the police are to busy to deal with him.

The eighth commandment provides a justification for private property. Something that lawfully belongs to one person cannot be taken by another without permission. This is a basic principle of justice.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Final Election Result

One less potential tyrant,
with his snout in the trough,
planning to spend our money,

while pretending to improve our lives
has to be good news.

However, an overhang of 121 is still far to large.

Man's Laws (13)

The second five commandments belong to man:

6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet (Exodus 20:13-17)
Adultery, theft, murder and perjury are crimes because penalties are set out for these in the remainder of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Human judges are expected to deal with these crimes.

Paul listed these same four commands in Romans 13:1-10, when he was describing the role of magistrates and judges

The tenth commandment adds an interesting twist. Coveting is listed as a sin, but there is no punishment specified for it, so it is not a crime. The obvious reason for this is that it is impossible for a judge to prove what a person is coveting. No one can testify that another person is coveting, because we cannot see into another person’s mind. So although man has five commandments, he is not equal with God, because there is one that he cannot deal with. Judges can only deal with coveting, when the coveter acts on his thoughts and translates them into theft or adultery.

Moses did not apply the adultery laws, while the people’s hearts were hard (Matt 19:8), so until society is transformed by the gospel, there are just three laws for judges to apply.

  • Theft (includes assault)
  • Murder
  • Perjury and dishonest dealing.
A judge’s job is really quite simple. These are very straightforward concepts. We do not need a lot of clever politicians to tell us what they mean. We just need good judges to apply them.

These commandments are all that is needed for a harmonious society. If there is no adultery, cheating, stealing or violence, society will be peaceful and free.