Ruled by God or Ruled by Tyrants
When men and nations lose the capacity of self-government under God and lose the moral fortitude to correctly handle freedom, the civil government will put down moral anarchy by establishing a tyranny.
After the Fall of man, freedom both internally and externally, became scarce. The typical state of affairs in mankind’s bloody history was tragically tyranny. It became the natural condition if man was left to follow his own devices. As one studies this line of understanding in history a certain pattern emerges. This pattern was brilliantly comprehended by Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor in 1787. He stated:
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- From spiritual faith to great courage;
- From courage to liberty;
- From liberty to abundance;
- From abundance to complacency;
- From complacency to apathy;
- From apathy to dependence;
- From dependence back into bondage
Is it just a coincidence that Americans discovered a while back that they can tap into the government dole, the rise of the Obama administration, and the threat of tyranny today? I think not. According to Mr. Tyler, it is directly connected.
Much of Israel’s history in the Old Testament records a similar cycle. The book of Judges in particular demonstrates a repetitive sequence that transpired over and over again. God’s people would start well in faith and obey the commandments of the Lord. As a result, they were blessed coming in and going out. No enemy could stand before them. Foreign armies would come out against them one way, but they would flee before Israel seven ways (Deuteronomy 28:6, 7).
Eventually, however, God’s people would descend into apostasy, which led to national oppression. Tyranny, unjust laws, and foreign occupying forces became their lot in their vain, fleeting lives. There was a direction connection between their spiritual and moral state and the litany of woe they experienced. In their distress, they would cry out to the Lord, repent of their idolatries, and experience God’s deliverance. Graciously, the Lord would roll back the dark clouds of oppression and allow the sunshine of freedom to once again dawn upon His people. Until, of course, they were tempted to forsake God and violate his commandments once again in their pursuit to be just like the pagan nations that surrounded them.
Rev. Flip Benham, National Director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America gave this insightful commentary of the book of Judges as it relates to our day. He writes:
We are witnessing in America today a change of epic proportions. Though this change began decades ago, God has given us a visible manifestation of a paradigm shift that has fully arrived. Barack Obama is that sign. He is a judgment from Almighty God shouting in our ears that we have chosen to cast the God of the Bible, the God of our Pilgrim Forefathers, and the God of our Founding Fathers, to the ground. Yes, Barack Obama is a sign from God Himself that we have chosen to abandon Him and His laws for new gods and a new set of laws. Many call this change, liberation - God calls it rebellion.
We, in America, have become like a kite on a string that believes it can soar to the heavens if only it could break the chains of the confining string. Little does it realize that once the string is cut, all possibility for flight ceases. It is, after all, the string that enables the kite to fly...It was God, His Law, and His Son who enabled America to become great. God was the string that enabled the little kite called America to soar. It was His providential hand that made us free unlike any nation before us. It was His design that America would be "a shining city set on a hill" that the world might know that the Lord is God...But, as time passed; we forgot His many blessings and providences. We forgot the unseen hand that lifted us to these heights. We grew tired of Him. We were wearied by His moral constrictions. We desired to be free from Him, to do what we want. In essence, we became our own gods. Barack Obama said it best, "We are the people we have been waiting for. We are the change we have been looking for." We changed gods, we cut the string!
We forsook God, the spring of living water, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns that could not hold water. This represents change at its worst. We became a law unto ourselves. We rejected God and His law and replaced Him with ourselves, doing what was right in our own eyes. The book of Judges puts it this way:
"After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt...They provoked the Lord to anger...In His anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them." Judges 2:10-14.
Please note the italicized words. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord. There was a standard that judged between good and evil. God was the author of that standard. When Israel strayed from Him, He judged them by sending raiders upon them (The threat of Islam anyone?). After suffering at the hands of these raiders, God's people would become painfully aware of their sin, repent and cry out to God to save them. As soon as they cried out, God rescued them from the hands of their enemies. He immediately responded to the cry of repentance.
But there comes a dramatic change in the last five chapters of Judges. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." Judges 17:6. God's people had become totally debauched with no standard at all. Everyone made up his own standard of what was good and evil. Everyone did as he saw fit. God could save His people from any enemy but He would not save them from themselves. They became as god. They cut the string.
This change represented the complete abandonment of Almighty God and His law. Though His Name was continually on their lying lips, their hearts were far from Him. It did not happen all at once, nor was anyone really aware that the change had taken place. But now there was no standard. Hosea calls this a "spirit of prostitution" that led them astray. There was no way to distinguish between good and evil. There was no king. There was no judgment. There was no judge. There was only everyone doing as he saw fit. Without judgment God can dispense no mercy, for no one knows to repent. Mercy triumphs over judgment indeed, but it cannot be dispensed apart from judgment.
Yes, universal change has come to America and it does not bode well. The election of Barack Obama is simply the culmination of the movement (rebellion) from One God (Jesus) and standard of Law (the Bible) to other gods and standards of law. It is a movement from content to form (having a form of godliness, but denying its power). It is a movement from justice to fairness (fairness is the greatest enemy of justice for it has no standard). It is a movement from creation of wealth to redistribution of wealth (from capitalism to socialism). It is a movement from biblical love to tolerance (biblical love demands we get involved and make judgments while tolerance sits back and demands we say nothing). It is a movement from character to performance (it doesn't matter your character so long as you perform). It is a movement from individuality to uniformity (The unique image of God shoehorned into the uniform mantra of the state). It is a movement from liberty to bondage, from joy to despair, from life to death.
In Psalm 2, the Lord sends out a warning to the kings and judges of the earth:
Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
This admonishment was heralded because men and nations decided to “take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.’” What is the Lord’s response to this foolish rebellion? “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure” (Psalm 2:4, 5).
The dirty little secret to the temper tantrum demonstrated by men and nations to God’s loving rule is the more they seek to break God’s bonds and cast his cords from them, the more the chains of tyranny are forged. Instead of being the kings of their castles, men and nations merely become wardens of their self-imposed prisons. No wonder this gives God pause to chuckle. They very thing that men deceptively believe to be their liberation actually works to secure their bondage to oppression. America is in the throes of this dilemma even as I write.
The famed detective novel writer and Christian thinker, G.K. Chesterton, implied, “If men would not subject themselves to the Ten Commandments of God, they would be subjected to the ten thousand commandments of men.” The historian from antiquity, Cornelius Tacitus, concurs, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws." Review all the laws on the books that micro-manage American life today to affirm the veracity of these statements. If added up, all the regulations, licenses, and bureaucratic policies would tower over our heads. If they physically fell upon us, the mere weight would crush us to powder. The lesson is clear. Rebellion against God, the breaking of his bonds, and the severing of his cords does not make us free (Psalm 2). It leads to bondage and civil despotism.
God’s law was established for three primary purposes. First, the commandments of God ultimately to lead us to Christ, our wonderful Savior. Galatians 3:24 states, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Where there is no law, however, there is no sin (Romans 4:15). Obviously, if there is no law and thus no sin, who in their right minds would see their desperate need for a Savior?
The law diagnoses our disease, while the grace of God is the prescribed cure. In other words, we do not keep the law to be saved. We are saved and therefore keep the law (Romans 3:31). We are not a people zealous for good works in order to be redeemed, but because we are redeemed, we are a people zealous to perform good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:14). This order is vital. Otherwise, we promote a false gospel that is compatible with every other religious system that basis salvation on the merits of men rather than on the merit of Jesus Christ alone (Titus 3:4-7).
Secondly, the law of God is to be the divine pattern by which the converted soul reorients his life. Once the saving grace of God has done its eternal work in the heart of man, the law of God serves as a measure of our obedience in Christ. Again, it is not the means of justification. It serves as a gauge to discern the progression of our sanctification in Christ. Obedience to the law for the believer provides evidence that our confession of faith and love towards God is authentic.
Jesus taught, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). The Apostle John reiterated this standard and provided us with a test to prove whether we truly know God, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4). Additionally, the Apostle Paul taught that true love, which does no harm to a neighbor, is the fulfillment of the law of God (Romans 13:10). It is clear from the Bible that apart from God’s law, man cannot know how to love God or others (Matthew 22:37-40).
Finally, the third purpose of the law of God concerns all earthly governments. The law of God is the eternal standard earthly governments must uphold to maintain their sacred trust and legitimacy. Without the law of God, there is no objective basis for good and evil. If governments refuse to uphold God’s law, they will end up calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). This is a wretched betrayal of their calling as “Ministers of God” (Romans 13:4). It will end with civil government codifying evil into law, which inevitably leads to tyranny.
God’s law is binding upon all men at all times and in every nation. There may be a separation of church and state Biblically, but no man or government is separate from the authority of Almighty God (Romans 13:1; Matthew 28:18-20). The law of God reveals the righteous and holy nature of God Himself. It is therefore a vain thing to try and divorce God from His Law. Though God’s law is negative in nature, “thou shall not,” it provides the necessary parameters that protects true liberty. Whereas humanistic law is positive in nature. All the rules, licenses, regulations, etc. seek to force compliance from its citizens that the Lord, Himself does not demand. Jesus thundered against the misuse of God’s Law, which leads to legalism. He declared:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:2-4).
Proverbs 28:2 reveals, “Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes; But by a man of understanding and knowledge right will be prolonged.” Look at that passage closely, “For the transgression [lawlessness] of a land many are the princes: [bloated bureaucracies and the increased tyranny of civil government] but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.”
When a culture becomes lawless, it automatically enlarges the size and scope of civil government. Many rulers, more bureaucracy, increased regulations, and a plethora of laws will grow like weeds to suffocate the true vine of freedom. Why this deplorable condition? Simply stated, when men and nations lose the capacity of self-government under God (this is the historic American key to liberty) and lose the moral fortitude to correctly handle freedom, the civil government will put down moral anarchy by establishing a tyranny.
Robert C. Winthrop, with incredible insight, articulated these principles. Winthrop was an American philanthropist and statesmen in the 1800s. He served as a congressman of Massachusetts and as a one-time speaker of the United States House of Representatives. In a speech to the Massachusetts Bible Society, Winthrop stated:
All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.
William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, who fought for true Christian tolerance, laid out before us the basis of this article, “"Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants." Our Colonial and Founding Fathers of our nation believed this to be true. Thus, Thomas Jefferson, our third President under the Constitution, had no qualms in declaring, “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God"
Which course will America take? Will we be ruled by God or embrace the latter, which is to be ruled by tyrants? We must choose wisely, if our posterity is to have a future and a hope.