Monday, July 31, 2006

Congo Election

An election is taking place in the Congo. Donatien Kalinga said his heart was "full of joy" at the prospect of voting for the first time.

I hope the Congolese people will now benefit from the riches that the good Lord blessed us with - diamonds, gold, copper.
I think he will be disappointed. By giving a vote to the politicians, he is giving them permission to do what they wish with the diamonds, gold and coppper.

Civil Government (9) - King David

The Jewish people tended to look upon David as the perfect king and the ideal government. David was a great person with a good heart. His Psalms are a testimony to his good relationship with God. David was also an effective military leader. He demonstrated his courage in the defeat of Goliath and his battle skills by driving the Jebusites out of Jerusalem.

Despite having a good heart, David was not a good ruler of the people. He did not handle justice well. Absalom was able to make a place for himself, by getting justice for people who did not believe they would get justice from King David (2 Sam 15:2-4).

The sad truth is that David did all the things that Samuel warned a king would do. Samuel said that the king would take the best property for himself. David had such great wealth and property that he needed twelve overseers to organize the people who worked it (1 Chron 27:25-31). Samuel warned that the king would take their daughters. David did worse, he took the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah the Hitite, and then had him murdered. Samuel warned that the king would take all the young men for his army. David took a census of the people to find out how many soldiers he could have. This sin brought judgement on the nation, as the king was their representative.

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died (1 Sam 24:15).

King David was just doing what kings do, but his mistake cost 70,000 lives.

He was the best king that Israel had, but he was not good enough.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Second Coming?

Many Christians think that the events in Lebanon are a sign that the second coming is close. This is nonsense. Jesus is not coming soon. The next major event in God's plan is the conversion of the Jews. This will happen during a time of distress on earth. This will not bring in the end of the world but will be the beginning of a long season of great blessing on the earth.

God has still got plenty to do. We just need to understand all his plans.

We are might be getting close to half time, but the second half will be better than the first. The understand this, have a look at my parable called the Rugby Game. I have done a version for Football players. (I apologise to those Americans who find Rugby to tough and Football to complicated, but I have not been able to do a version for American Football.)

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Saturday, July 29, 2006


Recent events in Lebanon raise an important question. Are Christians required to support every action of the Israeli government. My parable, Three Sons of the Farmer, provides an answer to this question.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Civil Government (8) - Kings

Kingship was not God’s idea. It was copied from the heathen nations around Israel. That was never going to be a good place to find good government.

Samuel warned the people that a king was not part of God’s plan for them. Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 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 and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and 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 8:10-17).

These are shocking words. The nation that chooses a human king will end up in slavery. The young men will be forced to serve in the king's army. The young women will forced to serve in the king's palace. The king will take the best of the land for himself. He will tax all their income and make them poor.

Samuel was certain that the king would not be “God's servant to do you good” (Rom 13:4).The people hoped that the king would deliver them from the surrounding nations. Instead of setting them free, the king would make them his slaves. The worst thing was that Israel's kings constantly provoked the nations, or joined in unholy alliances with them. This resulted in more wars. The history of Israel is the history of wars, where the people had to fight for the king. This produced a great deal of suffering for the nation.

Many Christians believe that human kingship is a good form of government. This is not true. God never blessed human kingship as an optimal form of government.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Civil Government (7) - Kings

The people of Israel became dissatisfied with just having judge/leaders. The judge/leader was supposed to be a temporary solution. When the people went back to serving God, the judge/leader would no longer be needed. The problem was that the people did not want to serve God.

But when the judge died, 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 (Jud 2:19).
The natural inclination of Israel was towards corruption and following other Gods. They refused to give up evil and their stubborn ways, so temporary judges did not work for them. Israel had lost God’s protection so frequently, that they wanted permanent military protection. So they asked for a king like the nations around them.
We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (1 Sam 8:19,20).

The king was not a totally new role, but a permanent form of a the Judge/Leader military commander. Israel wanted a king, so they could live in permanent disobedience to God without threat of invasion, but a permanent military leader not a godly solution.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Civil Government (6) - Judge/Leaders

A new stage of human government began in the Book of Judges. This was also a temporary solution to a perennial problem. When people turned away from God, they lost God’s protection and were invaded by enemy nations.

Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders (Jud 2:16).
They needed a military leader to deliver them from these attacks.
Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them (Jud 2:17-18).

The people would be come complacent and stop trusting in God. He would withdraw their protection and they would be invaded. When the nation repented, God would send them a military leader to rescue them from the invaders. These judges were not an ideal form of government. They were the response of a compassionate God to a people groaning under oppression and affliction. God only raised up a judge to lead the nation, when the nation was in trouble. They were a temporary solution to a serious problem. They were not the ideal form of government.

The title of the judges is a bit confusing. Some had started their careers as judges applying the law amongst the people when God turned them into military leaders to deliver the people. However, whatever their origin, they were military leaders.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Civil Government (5) - Moses the Prophet

We should note that Moses was not a law maker. Moses had a prophetic role in the giving of the law. He received the law from God and passed it on to the people. His skill was in hearing God, not in making laws.

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel likeMoses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs andwonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials andto his whole land. (Deut 34:10,11).

The prophetic role included signs and wonders when confronting Pharaoh with God’s words. The most important aspect of this prophetic ministry was hearing God speak and the most important words that Moses received were the Ten Commandments. His role was not one of law making. His task was to pass God’s law on to the people.

This is another role that was completed with Moses. God’s law is perfect, so he only had to give it once. Jesus said,
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear,not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any meansdisappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt5:18).

Many men and women succeed Moses in the office of prophet, but they do not have the role of law giving. That task was completed with Moses. Even Jesus did not have to change the law. The role of law-giver finished with Moses.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Civil Government (4) - Moses

A new form of government emerged with Moses. During 400 years of slavery in Egypt, Israel has developed into a nation. God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land. This would not be easy, because the Egyptians did not want to lose their slaves, the Canaanites did not want to lose their land and the nations in between were afraid of the nation on the move. Moses was primarily a military leader with responsibility for getting the people into the new land. He had been trained as a leader in Egypt, but after a false start he escaped to wilderness, where he was called by God. The calling was clear.

The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey... So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt" (Ex 3:7-10).

Moses was appointed as a military leader to bring the nation out of Egypt into the Promised Land. He was not called to be a king and his position was not permanent. Moses died when he had led Israel up to the edge of the promised land. Joshua was anointed to take Moses place and finish the task (Deut 31:1-8). With God’s help, Joshua conquered the promised land by defeating the kings in the South and then the kings of the North. He then divided the land among the tribes and families. The completed the task that Moses had begun.

No successor was appointed for Joshua (Jos 23). The reason is that the task that Moses hard started was now completed. Israel no longer needed a military leader. God had promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would keep them safe from their enemies (Deut 28:1-7). The Moses/Joshua model was not the optimal form of government. It was a temporarily leadership model for a unique situation, which has not occurred again.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Civil Government (3) - Nimrod

The first human civil government to emerge was established by a man called Nimrod.

Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on theearth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “LikeNimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” And the beginning of hiskingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Fromthat land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, andResen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city) (Gen 10:8-12NKJV).

Nimrod became the most powerful warrior on the earth. He established his kingdom in Babel and the surrounding towns. This is the first mention of a kingdom in the Bible. The name Nimrod comes from the expression “we will rebel”. So when the Bible refers to Nimrod “before the Lord” it means in opposition to the Lord.

Nimrod extended his kingdom to Bablyon and Nineveh. This makes Nimrod the grandfather of all the early kingdoms and empires on earth. They were started by a rebel against God.

The fruit of Nimrod's rebellion was the tower of Babel.

Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city,with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name forourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth" (Gen 11:4).
Nimrod’s followers hoped to build a tower to heavens and make a name for themselves apart from God. This was the ultimate rebellion against their creator. God had no choice but to break up this human government.
So the LORD scattered them from there over all theearth, and they stopped building the city (Gen 11:8).

The first human government started in rebellion against God. We must be very careful about human government, because it has its roots in rebellion against God.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Where are the Peacemakers?

I am finding the latest war in Lebanon really disturbing,
and we have not seen half of it.
Our television shows the F16s,
and the rocket launchers,
and the rubble,
but we do not get to see the bleeding bodies
or the children with limbs blown off.
That would disturb the peace and comfort of our living rooms.
Europeans piling onto escaping cruise ships make better television.

I wonder what is on God's heart.

I can understand why so many people want to get out of Lebanon,
but it is also rather sad.
When the going gets tough, the Westerners get going.
The problem is that when good men and women leave,
evil has a free hand.

I am an idealist.
I cannot help wondering what would have happened,
if 10,000 European and American Christians
had moved into southern Lebanon for their summer holidays.
There is plenty of empty accommodation
and the climate is good.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the sons of God (Matt 5:10).

I wonder what would have happened,
if they were spending the summer
in worship,
and blessing those who suffer.

Israel would have to be more careful with its war machine.
The Lebanese economy would have got a lift.
The hearts of Hezbollah might betouched.
The Middle East might be amazed,
and God might show up.

I suppose that some Christians might have got killed,
but according to our religion,
they would go to heaven.
They would not get virgins,
but that would be better than Lebanese children
who have never heard the gospel being killed.

I wonder if the Spirit was calling
the sons of God several months ago,
when airfares were still cheap,
to go
and stay
and be blessed
as peacemakers in southern Lebanon.

It is too late now, but ...
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the sons of God.

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Family Government (2)

There was no need for civil government in the Garden of Eden. Everyone obeyed God, so there was no conflict. Sin had not yet entered in, so there was no theft or violence. Human government was not needed.

Once Adam and Eve sinned, crime and violence became a problem. Initially these problems were dealt with by families. Fathers are required to teach their children to obey God and live in harmony with each other. They must provide for their children and resolve disputes between them. This is family government.

Abraham is a good example of family government. He was a very effective leader of his family. He protected them when they were attacked. He maintained harmony with family members.

But even Abraham got it wrong at times.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Civil Government (1)

What is the best form of government? This is a really important question. I believe the answer to this question is in the Bible. The Bible describes a number of different systems and most are condemned. We need to dig deeply to find God’s optimal form of civil government.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cold Monster

Friedrich Nietzsche really lost the plot, when he said that God is dead, but he was right about the state.

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. (Thus Spake Zarathustra)

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Insecurity and Violence

I found these comments by Ramzi Kysia who is living in Lebanon very helpful in trying to understanding the current conflict in the Middle East.

I'll try and understand where all of this violence comes from. Some of it comes from racism the notion that all Arabs are natural born terrorists, not worthy of our collective human rights. Some of it comes from greed the desire for geopolitical dominance and territorial cupidity. But much of the violence also comes from fear.

I'm not sure that non-Jews to appreciate the depth of Jewish existential fears. Intellectually, we can understand the travails of the Diaspore, and the almost continuous history of European pogroms. As human beings we can all feel horror in the massive evil of the Holocaust. But that horror is different for Jews. They are emotionally connected to it in a way that I just am not.

Given the complete dominance of Israel in the Middle-East, both economically and militarily, Jewish existential fears today seem silly and contrived. However, in my two trips to Israel one of the things I was a little surprised to discover was that those fears, illogical though they may be in this particular context, are very real. Because they are real, any solution to our troubles has to deal with them.

Jewish existential fear has contributed to the refusal of Israel to ever truly negotiate, or even desire to create a just peace with its neighbors. This fear is part of the reason why the only lens Israel sees the Middle-East through is one of dominance and submission. This is the context of the supposed demand that the Arabs "recognize" Israel. It isn't recognition that Israel really wants, it's submission to its dominance.

This attitude,much more than racism or religious fanaticism, is what drives the Israeli-Arabconflict. Because Israel refuses to use anything other than violenceto try and achieve its political goals, it concretely demonstrates to itsneighbors that violence is the only thing Israel will respond to fueling actsof terrorism. (more at Insecurity and Crisis).

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Better Translation of Romans Thirteen (43)

Here is a better paraphrase of Romans 12:21-13:7.

Do not repay evil with evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God to deal with evil…

Do not be overcome by evil, but conquer evil with good. Every person should submit to the more excellent judges, because there is no legitimate judicial authority except under God. The judges that have emerged in a free society are arranged by God. Anyone resisting the decision of a good judge is rebelling against what God has put in place and will receive a sentence from God.

Good judges hold no fear for those doing good, but only for those doing evil. Do you want to have no fear of judges? Do what is good,and you will be vindicated by them. A judge is God’s servant for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for a judge does have the power to punish for nothing; for he is God’s servant, to avenge those who practice evil by decreeing sentence against them. Consequently you must submit, not only because of abhorrence of crime, but also for conscience sake.

This is why we pay a contribution to good judges. They are God's servants devoting all their time to administering justice. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe a contribution, pay a contribution; if a toll is owned, then pay a toll. Respect those judges worthy of respect. Only, honour those worthy of honour.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Good Timing (42)

Some Christians assume that the law was given as a temporary way of righteousness until Christ came. The problem with this view is that at least three thousand years had gone when God gave the law. If a temporary system of righteousness was needed, why did God wait for so long to give it. This does not make sense.

Abraham understood righteousness through faith in God 400 years before the law was given (Rom 4:9). Moses was also accepted by faith, before God gave him the law (Heb 11:24, 25). If righteousness through faith was already available, why would God give a system of righteousness by law? Why would God replace a superior righteousness with something inferior? This does not make sense.

The answer is that God gave the law just when it was needed. Up until the time of Abraham, there was plenty of room in the world, so people did not need live in close proximity. When people had disputes, they could just move away from each other. This is why Lot and Abraham separated. By the time of Jacob, people were starting to live closer together and disputes over property were becoming more prevalent (Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban). A system for resolving disputes was needed, but then Jacob went down to Egypt to live.

While they were slaves, they did not need a system of justice. They had no choice but to accept the Egyptian system. The situation changed when they escaped the Promised Land. A million people would be living together in a small country, so disputes would be bound to occur.

God gave the law to deal with the problem. He gave it just when it was needed. The law was a system of justice for dealing with disputes over property and violence towards people.

God gave the law to restrain crime. That was his purpose for the law. It never had any other purpose and that purpose has not changed. It was given when it was needed. God’s timing was perfect.

A method of restraining wickedness is still needed. Everyone understands this. Even nations that reject God have laws against theft and violence. They might mess up God's law by adding human accretions, but they generally understand the need for laws against these crimes. People understand that law is essential for a peaceful society.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dangerous State (41)

When Paul and Silas were in Philippi, they were flogged and beaten by the Roman magistrates.

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison (Acts 16:22.23)
Paul would not be speaking of these magistrates, when he wrote,
For he is God's servant to do you good (Rom 13:4).

Paul understood that the state could be very dangerous for Christians. He knew from first hand experience that the state is often very hostile to God's people.

Recently in China, 30 house-church leaders from Langzhong City, Sichuan Province were arrested and forced to pay fines. Eyewitnesses and family members of the victims reported that the arrests happened during a fellowship meeting. Fifteen members of the Public Security Bureau in six police vehicles raided the meeting. During the arrests and interrogations, Christians were abused inhumanely by constant heavy beatings. Though some of those arrested were released 14 house church leaders received criminal detention notices. A number of house churches from Beijing, Shangdong and Guangdong were forced by the local authorities to close (Voice of the Martyrs).

These Chinese Church leaders would not say that they political authorities are God's servants to do them good. They would understand that they are enemies of God.

These two examples show that the traditional view that all political authorities are God's servants is nonsense. This was not Paul's teaching in Romans 13. He was writing about submission to excellent judges.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Commited to Submission (40)

The modern church cannot challenge the false doctrine of submission to the state, because it needs to control people. Church leaders want submissive church members, so they have to take a staunch view of submission. Since they have a vested in total submission, they are blind to problems with the traditional interpretation of submission to governing authority. As long as church leaders push submission to their leadership, they will be powerless to oppose submission to political powers (even though the latter are hostile to God).

Only Christians with a radical view of the church will be able to take a radical view of the state.  Those who cannot cope with a radical church will tend to be happy with state domination.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Do not Conform (39)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (Rom 12:2).

The people of the world is submission to the powers of the state in return for the salvation provided by the state. People who want the state to provide "cradle to grave" security are quite happy to submit to political powers. That is the pattern of the world.

Christians trust God for their salvation. The salvation that he provided through Jesus is far better than the salvation provided by the state. In response to that salvation, we submit to Jesus as our Lord. Christians should stop conforming to the pattern of the world by submitting to the state in the false hope of receiving the measly salvation it provides.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pay What You Owe (38)

Our responsibility to good judges is expanded in Romans 13:7.

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

The basic principle is that we should make payment to everyone whom we owe something. When judges do their work well, the whole of society benefits, not just the people who get their cases heard. If judges deal with crime effectively, society will be peaceful and the economy can grow. We all benefit from their work. We all owe something to the judges who make good decisions.

The word “taxes” is a little misleading as it implies a compulsory payment that is decided by the government receiving. A tax must be paid, regardless of whether anything has been received in return. Paul is talking here about a voluntary payment, not a compulsory levy. He is telling Christians that they should decide what they owe to the judges in their community and make sure they pay something towards their upkeep.

The Greek word translated as revenue can mean toll. Tolls are legitimate because they are payment for a service. For example, if I use a road, I owe something towards the cost of maintenance of the road. A toll is a payment for a service.

The thrust of this verse is that we must decide what we owe to whom. We only honour those who are worthy of honour. We only respect those who are worthy of respect. We are not required to respect the governing authorities, because they are usurpers of God’s authority. We do not need to honour politicians, who make human laws, because they are in rebellion against God. We should honour and respect good judges, who apply God’s law wisely.

We should only pay money to judges that we trust. Christians should never subsidise evil.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Paying Judges (37)

God’s people want everyone to have access to good judges. To ensure this happens, we should provide financial support to the best judges, so that they can handle more cases. Paul encourages this giving in Roman 13:6, but his meaning is lost due to the way the passage is translated. Most modern translations insert the word government, which is not in the Greek text. Here is a more literal translation:

For this reason, you also pay tribute: for they (good judges) are God's servants, attending continually to this very thing (Rom 13:6).

This passage is not a justification of general taxation by governing authorities. Payment should only be made to God’s servants. In this context, God’s servants are the judges who are busy hearing many cases, and especially those dealing with many appeals. They are the excellent judges who working continually on the thing that Paul is talking about in this passage: applying God’s law to disputes between people.

We want them to be available for this task, so that sin is restrained and society remains peaceful and harmonious. For this reason we should make voluntary payments to these judges, so that they can work full time at their work. A “tribute” is a payment made by one person to another, or one nation to another, for protection. Paul is saying that those who do not need a judge in their current situation, can submit to and excellent judge by contributing to a retainer for that judge.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Abhorrence of Crime (36)

Paul says that we should submit to judges for good the sake of conscience. Those who take things into their own hands might end up doing the wrong thing. If we submit out situations to good judges, we can accept their decisions with a clear conscience, knowing we have done the right thing.

Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience sake (Rom 13:5 NKJV).

The word wrath also takes the meaning “abhorrence”. We submit to judges because we have an abhorrence of all crime. Christians should not just want justice in the situations where they have been mistreated; they hate injustice so much that they want justice for everyone.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Good Choice (35)

We put a lot of effort into getting the right political party elected. People devote a lot of energy to debating about which political part will be best for the country. Businesses spend money to assist the party that they like the most. Even Christians get caught up in this scramble and try to work out which political party Jesus would support.

All this confusion misses the point. Every political party is in the business of law-making and they all make human law. We are arguing about the wrong decision. The really significant choice is between human law and God’s law, and this is not a difficult choice.

Any human law come a very poor second to God’s law. I cannot understand why Christians would choose anything else.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Supporting Judges Decisions (34)

The biblical system only works, if the entire society supports the judge's decisions. Submission means supporting the decisions of good judges.

We can strengthen the authority of excellent judges helping to them to implement decisions. For example, a good judge will sentence a convicted thief to pay restitution, but he will not be able to use physical force to obtain the restitution payment.

However, if the rest of society refuses to deal with the thief until his restitution is complete, he would have no choice but to comply with the judge's decision. Good judges will get their decision supported, because other members of society help implement them.

This also works to keep the judges honest. If they start making unjust decisions people will withdraw their support and they will lose their reputation.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Appeals (33)

Submission to excellent judges means less skilled judges admitting their mistakes and correcting them, when a more skilled judge points out an error in a decision.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Unfavourable Verdicts (32)

Submission means accepting the verdict of the judge, even if it goes against us. In most cases only one party can win, so when two parties to a dispute submit to a judge, they must agree that they will be bound by the judges decision whichever way it goes. They might agree to the options of appeal before submitting to the judge. For example, they might agree that to accept an appeal to a group of judges on issues of law rather than fact.

If there is not grounds for appeal, submission means accepting the decision of a judge, even if it goes in favour of the other party.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Supporting Good Judges (31)

Submission works best when everyone acknowledges the best judges.

Consequently, he who rebels against the judge is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves (Rom 13:2).

The reference to judges in Romans 13:1 has no definite article, so the statement is a bout judges in general, not particular judges. In this verse, there is a definite article, so speaking of an actual judge. He is warning that if we refuse to accept the verdict of a good judge after submitting to them, we are rebelling against God's order. Those who rebel in this way will bring judgement on themselves.

This is a principle from the Law of Moses. When a person gives false evidence to incriminate another person, the judges are to investigate and if the witness proves to be a liar, they are to be given the sentence that the person falsely accused would have received (Deut 19:16-19). A person who attempts to pervert justice will receive the penalty they tried to inflict on the innocent person.

If we refuse to submit to the decision of a judge by assisting with the enforcement of the required penalty, God will inflict judgment on us. Good judges have the backing of God. Societies that reject his law and the judges he is bringing forth will experience judgment.

The only way a guilty thief could avoid making restitution would be to escape to another country. Even that might not work, because his reputation would follow him. In most situations it would be cheaper and easier to pay the restitution, and then get on with life.

If everyone submits to good judges, thieves can be punished without the use of force and coercion. Trade is voluntary, so people are not obliged to trade with a convicted thief. The thief would generally choose to make restitution, so he can continue to engage in trade.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Submission (30)

What is submission.

  • Submission does not mean total disobedience.
  • Submission does not mean paying taxes.
  • Submission does not mean that we allowing other to make laws that we must obey.
Submitting to judges means four things:
  1. Taking cases to good judges.
  2. Accepting verdicts.
  3. Appeals from new judges to better judges.
  4. Helping judges to enforce their decisions.

Submission means taking cases of injustice to judges and allowing them to apply the penalties proscribed in God’s law. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Voluntary Justice (29)

If a person has something stolen the judge would proceed as follows. He would undertake an investigation to discover the thief. He might employ an expert to assist with the investigation. In a free society, many private investigators would be available. Some would operate on the basis of only receiving payment if the thief is brought to justice. This might cost more, but the victim would be able to pay the investigator out of the restitution received.

When the thief has been identified, the victim will confront him. If he confesses and returns what has been stolen, that would probably be the end of the matter. If the thief refuses to confess, the victim will take the case to a judge.

The accused thief has two options. He could agree to take the case to a judge. In this case they victim and the thief would need to agree on the judge and they would agree to accept his decision. Both parties would want a judge who had a reputation for honesty and wisdom.

The other option for the accused would be to refuse to go to accept any judge. If he does not submit to the judge, he will come under suspicion and people will stop trusting him. Life would get very difficult as people in the community would be reluctant to buy things from him. Refusing to submit to a judge would probably more expensive than making restitution.

If the accused refused to submit to a judge, the victim could still take his case to a judge. He would want to avoid any suggestion of bias, so he would choose a judge who had a reputation for being fair to thieves. He would avoid his friends or anyone who might be accused of favour him.

The accused would present his case to the judge. To preserve his reputation for fairness the judge would check the evidence very carefully. Even if the accused refused to appear before him, the judge would look for all evidence or alibis that might favour the accused. He would bend over backwards to be fair, as this would be the best way to maintain his reputation. A good reputation is essential for a judge who wants to continue in the business.

If the judge decides that the accused is guilty, he would specify the amount of restitution that must be paid. This would usually be for times the amount that was stolen. If the thief had submitted to the judge, he would effectively have contracted to pay the amount specified by the judge. When the restitution is complete, the judge will advise the community that the thief has paid his debt.

If the thief was dishonest, he might refuse to pay what he owed, even if he had submitted to the judge. The solution is the same, whether the accused had submitted to the judge or not. The judge would announce to the community that the thief had been convicted, but refused to pay.

The people of the community where the criminal lived should support the judge by refusing to trade with the thief until he has paid the specified restitution. His employer might take a percentage out of his wages to go towards the restitution. Other employers could refuse to employ him. If everyone refused to buy from him or supply him with goods, he would eventually have to have pay restitution just to survive.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Government by Judges (28)

God has not established kings or parliaments. He has established a system of government by judges applying his law. This system is described in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Unfortunately, it was never fully implemented, so its operation is not described in the Bible.

The book that is called Judges actually describes a time when Israel refused fell into sin and refused to submit to good judges. Without God’s protection, they were invaded by their enemies, so God had to raise up military commanders to rescue them.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul affirms this system of government by judges applying God’s law. He supported this system by urging all people to freely submit to excellent judges.

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