ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT
(A Biblical Examination of Its Origin and Jurisdiction)
by Kerry Lee Morgan*
“They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:3.
The Ten Commandments
We are told about the importance of the Ten Commandments generally and their application to us as individuals. But we do not understand that God also prohibited coveting, theft and murder to benefit people in connection with civil government. He did so because the way of kings and the way of civil government is to covet that which is ours. It is to take that which does not belong to it. The way of civil government is to take by force — to take our things by tax levies and civil forfeitures, to take our property by zoning, to take our income by taxation, to take control of our children and their minds by government schools, to take control of our health and our children’s health by mandatory medical vaccinations, to take our freedom by endless occupational licenses, and to take what is left of our liberty and life by administrative regulations drafted by experts and enforced by low level bureaucrats. Taking is stealing. It is not a loan, a bailment, or a financing arrangement. It is not compassionate conservatism or the great society. It is theft.
God is not saying good government does this take, take, and take. God is saying our man made civil governments will do this, so be ready for it and try to limit civil government’s ability to crush you or force you under its control or interfere with the authority of your family an authority directly from God. Don’t blame God for your civil government. Don’t credit God for your civil government. If God is to praised or thanked concerning this man made institution, let it be that He has warned us that civil government should be limited. Let us thank Him for each limitation He has suggested, and any other we have imposed, and pray further He will grant us understanding to impose additional limitations on civil power. Let us stop praying that God would grant public officials “wisdom” in connection with their decision-making to take more of our liberty.
If we establish a civil government and empower it to take our things, property, money, freedom, labor and life, do we nullify God’s prohibition on coveting, theft and murder? When we examine our civil governments, it is good and right that the powers which it may want to exercise are specifically limited or prohibited. At the end of the day the core powers which any civil government will want to exercises are to covet, take, and kill. Thus, when we examine our civil governments we should hope to find strict and severe limitations or prohibitions on its power to do so. If they are not present, we have ignored God’s warnings and thrown his cautions to the wind.
The next time you hear a sermon or read an article on the Ten Commandments, ask yourself why the speaker or author does not apply it to the most obvious takers in human history your local Township, City and school district. How could the speaker or author be so blind to application of the commandment’s prohibition to the civil government? Perhaps he or she has never read 1 Samuel 8 or Deuteronomy 17. These failures can be forgiven, but the Ten Commandments, that is basic.
Or perhaps they believe that Caesar is God’s agent thereby transforming all coveting, theft and killing into a lawful conduct? Or perhaps their friends are employed by the civil government or government schools and to speak against any limitation on their taxing power would be perceived as a breach of friendship? Why not ask your pastor or author why he or she does not preach or write about these Biblical chapters and their application to any civil government? They may have never thought about it. They may mechanically quote you Romans 13. That is the very limit of their knowledge. They may be unaware of the rest of the Bible we have discussed. They may dismiss it as unspiritual to discuss civil government. What to do?
Nothing we say here can prevent God from using civil governments in any way He chooses. He may use them to punish us for our evildoing, but this does not excuse us or authorize us to empower government to do evil and certainly not to equate its tyranny as the will of God. God can fully use any government or nation to punish an evil nation. God used wicked kings to punish the people of Israel and good kings to bless them. But this should not distract us from our inquiry. Are these civil governments limited? Or are they empowered to steal? Are they limited? Or are they empowered to enslave? Are they limited? Or are they empowered to search our property, educate our minds, control our bodies, or take our life with impunity? We hold the choice and power in our own hands as a people. It is not God’s will that we should be a slave of our civil masters or go quietly into its subsidized darkness.
Other Old Testament Insights
There are other developments in the Old Testament which we could address. God’s refinement of the degrees of murder and the manner in which murderers or those alleged to have murdered are to be treated is important. Affirmation of the authority of a family member of the murdered victim to act as the Avenger of Blood originally contemplated after the flood and extended to mankind could also be discussed in detail. Likewise trial by the elders of a designated city of refuge and introduction of procedural and substantive rights of the accused identified in Numbers 35 including the right to trial, sanctuary or asylum, and the requirement of multiple witnesses are important. But these developments are more akin to developing law rather than providing insights into God’s view of civil government.
We could also discuss other kings such as Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon which God describes as “my servant.” Jeremiah 25:9. Likewise we could examine Cyrus, king of Persia who says in 2 Chronicles 36:23 “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.” God calls Cyrus “his shepherd” and “my anointed.” Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1. But an examination of these two great kings does not add to our understanding of civil government. It would merely further illustrate that God can use any nation or king for any of his purposes. This is but a truism He can use you or me too. In this context the purpose of God is to either build up and restore a people, or to tear down and destroy a people. God is not arbitrary in this. The building up and tearing down is for all nations as it was for Israel– a system of rewards and punishments in this world for obedience to or rejection of God’s universal law for the nations. Deuteronomy 27.
We could also examine other governments that God has warned of judgment. The city of Nineveh comes to mind. Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city of Upper Mesopotamia, located in modern-day northern Iraq. It was located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River and was the capital and largest city of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, as well as the largest city in the world for several decades. God warned the people of that City to turn from their evil ways. He sent Jonah to warn them which he eventually did. God saw that the king and people repented and how they turned from their evil ways. God relented and did not bring on that city, in excess of 120,000 people and many animals, the destruction he had threatened. Jonah 3:10.
But even that repentance did not last. “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” Nahum 3:1 “He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert.” Zephaniah 2:13. Note the crimes murder, deceit, and taking of property. We should not be surprised. Unrestrained d governments do this. Can you get that into your thinking even as you are trying to argue the government is doing a good thing? But this inquiry does not aid in our understanding of kings. It merely illustrates again that non-Jewish nations were judged by God according to His standard of righteousness. No country is exempt, now or then. None.
National Punishments For National Lawlessness
Ezekiel 14:13-20 also deserves our attention. Here God establishes another universal rule in how he deals with civil governments and the peoples of any nation. Ezekiel reports that the word of the Lord came to him saying:
Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even if these three men Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord. Or if I send wild beasts through that country and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. Or if I bring a sword against that country and say, Let the sword pass throughout the land,’ and I kill its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved. Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.
Note the language. It is not limited or Israel specific. It covers any nation. It covers every nation. How can a country be unfaithful to God? We know that a country can be unfaithful to God by engaging in sexual perversion. A complete listing of these acts which bring judgment upon a country or nation can be found in Leviticus 18. While the prohibitions are specifically directed against Israel, God notes in Leviticus 18:24 that these prohibitions are universal and binding on all nations. He states, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.” He goes on to state that the land itself became polluted because of these acts. This is one way a country can be unfaithful to God. There are others that pertain to idolatry and the shedding of innocent blood.
The point here is that God judges nations and He does so based on objective standards. Our interest here is civil government. God is saying that the civil governments of men cannot save them from the judgment of God. God’s judgment is righteous. If he brings the sword, famine, wild beasts, or plague, no government of men can stop it by force or law, or bipartisan policy. Only repentance and humility have the hope of staving off disaster, judgment, pain and suffering, and a welcomed death. This rule of national repentance was born out in the book of the Judges and Kings in Israel. We should be praying that God would show us those matters requiring national repentance, rather than for an old time revival limited to personal faith questions.
Israel relied on judges rather than repentance. Israel asked for kings rather than asking for God’s favor based on their repentance. This is a universal rule, God judges nations, civil governments and their populations and the only means by which this judgment can possibly be prevented is by its people turning from their evil ways and their unfaithfulness. Nineveh is an example for our benefit. They repented of their evildoing and avoided judgment. Years later they resumed their evildoing and as a result God left “Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert.” You think your nation, state or city is exempt? None are exempt. All are subject to His rule.
If My People Called by My Name
In 2 Chronicle 7:13-14 God says to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The foregoing scripture is an occasional topic for sermons. It is preached when the civil government perpetuates some great calamity or the national state of affairs is on a serious downward trend. The usual protocol is for the people to repent of their individual sins against their neighbors. While identification of specific individual sins are left to the imagination of the listener, sometimes specific sins such as abortion, the sexual revolution or drug abuse are identified. The idea is that if we are just be a little bit better and maybe even stop the sins we believe our neighbors commit, God will bless us, forgive our sins and heal our land the United States of America.
If we will be serious about this Scripture, then read what it actually says. First it deals with calamities exclusively within the authority of God to bring about. It deals with drought caused by God. Not just drought that is in the absence of rain, but the effect of rainless days is the calamity. These effects are that all the crops die and national agricultural output is destroyed. You can’t plant new crops because the ground is too dry. Your cattle all die because there’s not enough water. Your trees die. Everything that owes its life from the earth is in jeopardy. God had also made it clear to Israel that one of the punishments which he imposed for the sins of that nation was to cut off rain.
The verses also deal with locusts and pestilence sent by God. You may recall that God’s eighth plague against Egypt in Exodus 10:12, was to send locust to “come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land.” There is a suddenness of this judgment. You may think, “Well it hasn’t rained in a while I better get in my crops while there’s still something left.” Then one day before you know it the locust come and eat everything you have nothing left for yourself.
The people of Israel also knew what pestilence was. Recall that the king prior to Solomon, King David chose pestilence over every other judgment as a punishment for his Satanic inspired act of numbering the people and taking a military census. 2 Samuel 24:15 reminds us what was involved when God sends pestilence. “So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men.” Pestilence is not just something bad. It is a direct punishment of God where people die. It may be a great disease. It may be an epidemic. It may be a contagion or pandemic. Its origins and source are from God directly. The sword, famine and pestilence are the big three judgments directly imposed by the hand of God.
So when Solomon hears these words from God, he knows what’s going on and so do the people of Israel. They don’t need to read about it in the newspaper. They know there is little food, much pestilence and the drums of foreign war and invasion are advancing against the people. This is the context of the above Scripture. The context is that God is actively destroying the food supply by drought and insects, and destroying the people by disease and pestilence and destroying the nation by invasion by foreign nations. A yellow marker would come in handy here.
Now this is a far different context than the occasions in which the Scripture is generally invoked in a religious assembly. We are not saying that a people cannot call upon God or repent unless things get really bad. No, we are saying that things will get really bad if the people do not repent.
But let us move on to the remedy. The Scripture says that when God does these things, then if the people will humble themselves, and pray and seek God and turn from their wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. So what must the people do to be forgiven and have their land healed?
First, they have to show humility. What kind of humility? Individual humility? National humility? People have to show humility that would cause them to pray to God and seek God. And what is the endgame of humility and praying to God and seeking God? The endgame is that the people actually turn from their wicked ways. Now we come to it. What wicked ways could these possibly be?
Prior chapters have identified many evils. We can think of the evil in the beginning where one man murdered another and one man took two wives. We can think of the evil committed by mankind up to the flood where their thoughts were continually evil and violent. We can think of the evil that kings did by waging war. We can think of the evil done by the people of the nations which God was going to dispossess which included all the sexual sins and perversions which destroyed the land and caused the land to reject the people attempting to live on the land.
We can think of the sin practiced by a man and woman who live together without marriage, or a family who refuses to adhere to the commands of God regarding children and dominion and labor. Do the people refuse to work? It is easier to get paid by the government to not work. Will we repent of that evil? Or will we see it as a financial blessing from God rather than slothfulness? We can think of the evil of innocent blood being shed and how it affects the land and needs to be satisfied by the punishment of murderers. There is taking, coveting and murder. There is forced labor and slavery. These are not merely individual evils. We are concerned with the evils done nationwide by the people and by their civil governments and officials. There is the evil that the civil government destroys freedom and makes the people its financial slaves.
All the kings of Israel and most of the kings of Judah did evil. If we read the history of each king we could identify the specific evils they committed. Samuel has given us a summary of what we can expect from these kings. He states that these kings will take everything and make us their slaves. They will take our children, take our money, and take our property. The government will take our land, take our increase, and make you and me its slaves. These are all evils. Are these the evils of which we are to repent of on Sunday mornings in our pews during the sermon on 2 Chronicles 7? The evils of civil government will probably not be mentioned since we elected “good people” to office who perpetuate these policies.
On top of this we also know these evil kings worship the Baals, Ashertoh, Chemosh, and Milcom. These are all the false gods of the foreign governments that lived around them. Idolatry is a tremendously significant sin committed by the rulers and practiced with vigor by the people. We know in particular that King Manasseh shed innocent blood by offering children to these false gods, a sin God said he would never forgive.
Perhaps a good sermon might identify these sins and even contemplate them for modern America. How might this play out at election time? Just about every one encourages their neighbor to “Vote.” But voting is simply choosing. It is choosing this candidate over that candidate. But where the candidates promise to take your children, money, property, things and freedom, do we not also do evil by choosing one who promises to take less?
In summary, 2 Chronicles 7 doesn’t apply where general economic, social, or moral decline is present though repentance is always in order. It applies where God sends drought, destroys the food supply, and sends pestilence and disease upon the people. But if you still believe that a nation can call upon God and turn from its wicked ways, then let us be clear about what wicked ways we are talking about.
The people should turn from the wicked way of selecting public officials who as a basis for election, promise to do things which the law ( including the law of God), does not permit. This means they will take authority or civil power which is given to another branch of government or not given to any civil government. This includes a civil government that will take or usurp or regulate the authority of the family or church. It is evil to vote away liberty for security. It is evil to choose slavery under Caesar, when God made us free under Him. Are the people ready to repent of voting for this type of candidate from their favorite party? Sorry to tell you, there appears no evidence in modern elections that the people are ready to repent of their electoral empowerment of lawbreakers and usurpers. As a matter of fact, they promote the election of such as these under the spirit of party because the other candidate is more evil.
The people must turn from their wickedness and selecting leaders who will take their children to be educated in a manner contrary to the will of their parents. Are Christian public school teachers and administrators sitting in the pews ready to repent of their complicity in a system of education that takes children and educates them contrary to the will of their parents? Are they willing to repent of their employment in a system which uses criminal law, misdemeanor charges, and fines and imprisonment against parents who fail to compel their children to attend a state approved school? God gave the authority to educate to parents, but the state has empowered teachers to do that job in defiance of that God given authority. Is that fine with you?
The people must turn from their wickedness in selecting leaders who will take their money in a tax structure and give it to their neighbor, or their neighbor’s money and give it to you. It is evil to vote covetousness into office. It is evil to vote for a candidate that promises to wage non-defensive wars of foreign aggression. It is evil to vote for a candidate that promises to take your neighbors land by condemnation or by regulation for a public purpose.
It is evil to vote for a candidate that guarantees the shedding of innocent blood will remain unpunished, or who misrepresents the morally damaging nature of sexual perversion and idolatry. It is evil to vote for a candidate that will perpetuate or expand the government’s control of your land by zoning and regulations, of your vocation by occupational licensing and permits, and of your freedoms by governmental regulations. It is evil to vote for a candidate that will perpetuate or expand the government’s control of your body thought mandatory vaccinations and masking and whatever evil is yet to come. It is evil to vote for a candidate that will limit your right of self-defense including the right to acquire, make, bear and use self-defense items, machine guns, firearms and edged weapons of any length or design. There are other evils to repent of but these are a good start.
What do you say? Do you think this list will be referenced in the next sermon? Will any of these make it to the list of national evils of which to repent? Is it evil to ask for a government that will legalize covetousness, theft and murder? Is it evil to ask for a government that will promote sexual perversion and idolatry? So, if people are to turn from their wicked ways with the hope of God healing their land, then they must ask forgiveness for their love of their civil government and the evil it does on their behalf. Until the people are ready to do that, invocation of 2 Chronicles 7 will be unavailing and hypocritical.