God and Government

Because 2008 is a presidential election year, it seems prudent to study what the Book of Proverbs teaches about government.[*] Here is an outline of my topics for the next five devotionals:
  1. God and Government
  2. Good Government
  3. Bad Government
  4. Good Citizenship
  5. Government and Self-Government
What role should the Christian religion play in American politics? The Book of Proverbs does not explicitly answer that question, of course. But it does provide some broad guidelines about that should guide our thinking.
The first guideline is divine wisdom is the basis of just law. Consider, in this regard, Proverbs 8:15-16:
By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.
The me in verse 15 is Woman Wisdom, which as we’ve seen, is the personification of divine wisdom. If government officials rule according to God’s wisdom, Woman Wisdom tells us, they will make just laws.  One example of the connection between divine wisdom and justice can be found in the opening words of the Declaration of Independence. There, the Founding Fathers spoke of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” They also wrote that “the Creator” had “endowed” all people with “certain unalienable rights.” God-given rights cannot be taken away by any government without answering to God himself.
The second guideline is that government officials have a duty to shape laws according to divine wisdom. Proverbs 25:2-3 puts it this way:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.
God governs the universe by means of moral laws. Government officials have a moral duty to study how these moral laws apply to the cases under their responsibility. How, for example, does the commandment prohibiting theft apply to taxation, eminent domain, Social Security, Federal Reserve rates, etc.? God supplies the principle, but politicians must figure out its application.
Third, government officials exercise power under divine authority. According to Proverbs 21:1:
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord;
he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
All too often, people in positions of authority begin acting as a law unto themselves. This proverbs reminds them (and us) that God is sovereign, that final judgment rests with him, and that he uses politicians to accomplish his own ends. How God does this is often a mystery; that he does this is a biblical fact.
Finally, God is the ultimate Judge of human affairs. Proverbs 29:26 says:
Many seek an audience with a ruler,
but it is from the Lord that man gets justice.
Government plays an important role in God’s plan, but not an all-important role. It should do justice at all times, but when it doesn’t, there is a Greater Judge who law will be enforced. Let us pray and work for good government, but let us put our hope in this God alone.

[*] See Tremper Longman III, Proverbs (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 559-560 for a list of proverbs related to the theme, “Kings/Authority.”

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