Category: The King and the People

Authority of the People Over Government

King’s Ruling Overturned to Rescue Jonathan

Interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and the people of Israel during pursuit of Philistines illustrate relationships between the authority of the people and government. Disobedience against government displeases God but he honors collective decision of the people against specific government ruling. Thus, he held Jonathan accountable for disobeying and criticizing the king but upheld a decision of the people to overturn an unjust ruling against Jonathan. We draw from a modern-day system of government to understand a collective decision requires due process based on rules and regulations that a society establishes for the purpose.

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We the People – USA Constitution Page 1
wikipedia.org

We discuss an example from the bible to illustrate the authority of a people over their government. In the example, a government ruling that threatened injustice to a citizen was overturned by a collective decision of the people. Based on interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and the people of Israel as they pursued the Philistines in battle; the example illustrates the effectiveness of a collective decision of the people against the authority of government but does not explain the process for reaching such decision. We discuss briefly a modern-day example to understand that every society establishes a system of due process for reaching collective decisions.

As we discuss in a previous study under Extending Positive Impact—Jonathan Initiates Victory for Israel, the Israeli army launched a hot pursuit after Jonathan’s initial success caused widespread panic among the Philistines. As they launched the pursuit, king Saul gave an order that nobody should eat anything during the pursuit: “… Saul had bound the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies’” [1 Samuel 14:24]. The people obeyed, but Jonathan was not aware of the king’s order and disobeyed by eating honey. Furthermore, he criticized the king publicly when he was made aware of the order.

Jonathan’s act of disobedience became evident and was adjudicated as the Israelites inquired why God appeared to have turned away from them. Saul had convened a conference of army leaders to conduct the inquiry. Jonathan was identified as the culprit, confessed he ate honey in violation of the king’s order, and submitted himself for punishment. Saul decreed that Jonathan will be put to death: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan” [1 Samuel 14:44]. However, the army leaders overruled Saul and declared that no harm will come to Jonathan [1 Samuel 14:45]: “But the people said to Saul, ‘Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.’” Thus, the army leaders conference overturned Saul’s decree and rescued Jonathan. Saul accepted the overrule and called off the battle.

North portico-white-house wikipedia.org
North portico of the white house
wikipedia.org

We learn two lessons based on the interactions. First, God held Jonathan accountable for disobeying the king’s order and criticizing the king publicly. He turned away from Israel (suspended communication with them) until Jonathan’s disobedience was identified and adjudicated. We learn from this that disobedience against constituted authority displeases God, even regarding an order or ruling that appears inappropriate. Second, the interactions illustrate the authority of the people over government in the event of an inappropriate ruling or order by the government. In this example, the king’s decree against Jonathan was overturned by collective decision of a committee representing the people. The bible is very clear about the decision being collective: “But the people said to Saul…” However, the bible information does not explain explicitly how the collective decision of the people was reached. We draw an example from a modern-day system of government to understand that a collective decision of the people requires due process based on rules and regulations that every society establishes for the purpose.

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Extending Positive Impact—Jonathan Initiates Victory for Israel

Strength through Distributed Authority

If you hold a position of authority in government, no matter how small the domain, consider the responsibility a demonstration project, to shine your Godliness and radiate positive impact in every direction. The impact will grow more widespread than you could ever imagine. We discuss an example from the bible based on Israel’s victory over Philistines that started with a small battle initiated by Commander Jonathan. His success was small initially but expanded quickly to become an overarching victory.

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Positive effort by a single individual with limited authority over a small domain could produce an impact that grows to affect the entire nation. We discuss an example from the bible based on interactions between Israel and Philistines during the time of King Saul. The Israelites and Philistines had setup for battle, but Israel was over-matched in people and equipment; so much that their men were afraid and “hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits” [1 Samuel 13:6]. Israel’s army was organized under two commanders: Saul and Jonathan. The army was in despair and afraid of the formidable enemy [1 Samuel 13:7]: “Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear.”

Land army in hot pursuit
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

Commander Jonathan, accompanied by his armor bearer, launched an isolated attack against an enemy outpost and killed twenty Philistines in the battle. News of the attack caused panic among the Philistines. They ran and fought against themselves in confusion [1 Samuel 14:15]: “And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling.” The Israelites became aware of the Philistines flight, re-assembled, and pursued them: “When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit” [1 Samuel 14:22]. Israel won a great victory over the Philistines.

We discuss three lessons based on the account. First, a military structure that delegated authority to commanders allowed Jonathan sufficient freedom to apply his initiative. His action set the stage for God’s favor to Israel through him and illustrates a benefit of governing through a system of distributed authority and responsibilities. Second, Jonathan’s focused effort yielded positive results that were limited in scope initially but grew into a widespread impact that benefited the entire nation. His accomplishments illustrate the effort of one individual with limited authority in a small domain could become the catalyst for positive change through the entire nation. Third, Jonathan sought and relied on God’s guidance as he contemplated attacking the Philistines outpost. His success illustrates faith of God and commitment to Godliness will direct a person’s effort toward making positive impact in his/her domain of authority.

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Punishment of Saul Conveys God’s Promise

Saul Violates Separation of State and Worship

Saul was punished swiftly with termination of his kingdom over Israel when he violated a principle of separation of state and worship. The punishment conveys a promise of God’s intervention to provide relief against a government that violates his principles. He provided principles to guide performance of individual responsibilities in government versus people relationships. Any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing. Therefore, it is important to remain faithful and committed to Godliness even in the event of ‘bad’ government. The people must believe God and rely on him to guide interactions with the government.

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The separation of state and worship (see previous study under Separation of State and Worship) introduces two principles in people versus government relationships. First, government does not have authority to regulate worship, therefore, has no role in a person’s relationship with God. Second, God establishes a hierarchy of worship leadership (referred to as the clergy in modern-day societies) independent of state authority. The clergy is self-regulating and determines the training and qualification requirements for its membership. A king (or any other person in rulership position) is not a member of the clergy unless duly qualified by the appropriate regulatory authority.

Apparition of spirit of Samuel to Saul
Apparition of spirit of Samuel to Saul
wikipedia.org

King Saul violated both principles. He violated the second principle first when he assumed the authority of the clergy to lead burnt offering. He was supposed to wait for Prophet Samuel but “…felt compelled to offer the burnt offering” [1 Samuel 13:12] because he was overcome by fear of the apparently superior Philistine army. He believed that the kingship conferred on him the authority to lead offering, which was a violation of the second principle of separation of state and worship. Samuel rebuked Saul and informed him God will terminate his kingdom because he disobeyed the principle [1 Samuel 13:13–14]: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue.”

Saul was not penitent after the violation and punishment because he went on to violate the first principle in a subsequent incident. The violation was that he failed to respect clergy independence. He was suspicious of an interaction between David and the priest of Nob, Ahimelek; assumed authority to interrogate the interaction; passed judgment against the clergy; and executed the judgment. On that day, he massacred 85 priests and destroyed their city, having accused one of them of conspiring against him with David [1 Samuel 22:13]: “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword, and have inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as it is this day?”

Punishment in Hungary
Punishment in Hungary
wikipedia.org

We discuss Saul’s violation of the principles of separation of state and worship and his punishment for the violation. The punishment was swift and conveys a promise that God will provide relief against a ruler that disobeys his principles. The events provide two lessons regarding people versus government relationships. First, the principles of separation of state and worship are commandments of God. He frowns at any person that disobeys his commandments. Second, God has provided principles to guide performance of individual responsibilities in government versus people relationships. Any person (leader or recipient of leadership) that violates the principles will be punished for the violation at a time and in a way of God’s choosing.

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Separation of State and Worship

Samuel Addresses Israel at Inauguration of King Saul

Prophet Samuel explained the principle of separation of state and worship in his formal address at the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel. He explained God delegated state functions and authority to government but expects every individual to relate to him directly based on the covenant. He will be God to every person that lives up to the covenant but will turn his back against those that don’t. Government is not an intermediary and does not have authority to regulate worship.

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Samuel spoke to Israel at the inauguration of King Saul to explain their relationship with God in the new era that includes “a king as your leader” [1 Samuel 12:1]. He explained that hitherto God had been both God and king to them but from now on has delegated to the king the state functions and authority to perform the functions (see previous bible study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King). However, he remains their God and holds everyone by covenant to worship and serve him. He will be God to those that “fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart” [1 Samuel 12:24] but will turn his back to those that “persist in doing evil.” Every person including the king is individually responsible to live up to the covenant. Thus, every person has opportunity to relate to God directly. The government (king, in this case) is responsible for state functions but is not an intermediary and does not have authority in the people’s relationship with God.

Modern day inauguration
Modern day inauguration of new government
wikipedia.org

Thus, Samuel defined the principle of separation of state and worship. The government has responsibility for state functions and authority to perform the functions but does not have authority to regulate worship. Instead, every person is individually responsible and free to choose a relationship with God based on his covenant (conditional promise) to be God to those that worship and serve him. Also, Samuel used the occasion to illustrate accountability of state leadership to the people by inviting public examination of his record of service before God, the new king, and all people [1 Samuel 12:3]: “Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.”

We discuss Samuel’s formal handover of state functions to Saul and declaration of the principle of separation of state and worship. He performed both functions as part of his formal address during the inauguration of Saul as first king of Israel.

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Government for All—Supporters and Opposition Alike

King Saul Declares for Peace and Unity

The people of Israel chose Saul to be king through election-by-lot. Some people supported the choice, others opposed, while several just accepted. Saul declared for peace and invited the people to unite under his leadership. The events illustrate government is for all irrespective of support for the election result, opposition against, or acceptance without complaint. Samuel assembled the people thereafter to reconfirm Saul as king and celebrate the process of choosing their own ruler.

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We conclude a two-part study on the formation of government based on biblical accounts of making Saul first king of Israel. The first part of the study (Call to Rulership—Saul Anointed King) led to understanding that God selects a ruler for a people but also allows them freedom to choose their ruler. In the case of Israel and Saul, the choice of the people aligned with the choice of God. The current study focuses on the people choosing Saul and confirming him king not knowing God selected him prior to the election.

Direct democracy in Switzerland
Direct democracy in Switzerland
wikipedia.org

After his anointing, Saul was introduced to the people through an event that presented him as special and placed his name on several minds among the people of Israel. Thereafter, Samuel invited the people to assemble at Mizpah to choose a ruler. They chose Saul through a process of direct democracy. However, though the choice was clear and unambiguous, there was lack of unanimity: some people supported Saul but others did not. Furthermore, some of the people that did not support him expressed strong disappointment with the election result.

Therefore, the outcome of choosing a ruler caused a division among the people. We discuss an event that brought the disagreement to the surface and provided Saul an opportunity to address the division. He declared for peace and invited the people through his deed to unite under his leadership. Thereafter, Samuel assembled them again to install the new king and celebrate the process of choosing their own ruler.

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Call to Rulership—Saul Anointed King

Samuel Anoints Saul to be First King of Israel

God calls a person to rule a people as king, queen, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or other similar positions. Through the call, he tasks the person to lead the people toward a specific objective. A person so called will know because God will choose a way to communicate to him or her effectively. However, the information is held confidential: revealed only to a select few, thus preserving the people’s freedom to choose their ruler. Therefore, a person called to rulership still needs to win the people’s choice to become ruler.

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The biblical account of making Saul first king of Israel illustrates a three-step process for elevating a person to rulership: Call, election, and inauguration.

Samuel anoints Saul to be king
Samuel anoints Saul to be king
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

The first step is the call: God calls a person to rule a people. In the case of Saul, the call was manifested through Prophet Samuel anointing him to be king. God selected Saul and directed Samuel to anoint him. Samuel did not know Saul but prepared to meet him at a dinner event. On his part, Saul set out from his home on a normal errand but a sequence of events during the errand led him to Samuel and the anointing to become king of Israel. The anointing was private, known only to Samuel and Saul. Furthermore, although the anointing set Saul on a path to becoming king, he did not become king until the people chose him.

In a separate event after his anointing, the people of Israel chose Saul to be king without knowing that God selected him. The event illustrates the second step in the process of making a person ruler: that is, the election, whereby the people choose a person to the rulership position. The call and the election are independent from a human viewpoint because the people are generally unaware of God’s selection. The people were free to choose and chose Saul but did not know that God had selected him to be king. Therefore, we can understand that the people’s choice aligned with God’s choice in making Saul king, which leads us to wonder what would happen if the people’s choice should fail to align with God’s selection. The question is not answered in the current study but will be explored through future studies in the series.

Having chosen Saul to be king, the next step in the process was to install him king in a ceremony that present-day systems may refer to as inauguration.

The current bible study focuses on the first step, i.e., the call to rulership. We discuss the call of Saul to become king of Israel. The anointing of Saul illustrates that God may call a person to rulership, to lead a people through a specific objective; chooses how and when to communicate the call; and will reveal the information only to a select few.

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Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King

Samuel Responds to Israel Demand for King

Based on Samuel’s interactions with Israel regarding demand for a king, we understand the authority of government comes from God and is exercised on behalf of the people to fulfill government responsibilities. The authority includes collecting taxes, raising military and security services, redefining use for landed property, and representing the people in international affairs. The interactions define general principles for relationships between a people and their government.

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We begin a bible study series on The King and the People focused on understanding God’s purpose for relationships between people and their government. The study will be based on information described in the bible, particularly several messages that God sent to Israel regarding interactions with their rulers. We pray for understanding the messages to potentially contribute toward reducing the apparent gap in expectation between people and governments in several parts of the world. What should governments expect of the people and what should the people expect of their government? We believe the bible provides answers to these questions in enough details to guide our everyday interactions as government leaders or recipients of government leadership.

Spiritual leader and judge
Spiritual leader and judge
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

The study begins with Prophet Samuel’s interactions with the people of Israel in responding to the people’s demand for a king. At the time, Samuel was spiritual leader and judge over Israel: he guided them through interactions with God and in all matters requiring a leader. However, the people of Israel became increasingly dissatisfied with their form of leadership as time approached for a leadership transition. They asked Samuel to appoint a king for them, with the expectation that their dissatisfaction with the current form of leadership will be resolved through the appointment of a king: “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” [1 Samuel 8:5].

Samuel prayed about their demand and received God’s direction to accept the demand: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you …” [1 Samuel 8:7]. Furthermore, God directed him to explain to the people that the leadership they demanded will come with certain authority and expectations: “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights” [1 Samuel 8:9]. He directed Samuel to accept the people’s demand for a king and their expectations of the king that they conveyed through the demand. Additionally, Samuel would explain to the people that the form of government they demanded will come with expectations and authority to compel them to fulfill the expectations.

Therefore, we discuss Samuel’s interactions with Israel in these events to understand how the interactions define government responsibilities to the people and people’s responsibilities to government. Furthermore, we discuss the source of government authority as defined through the events. Information from the events indicate God delegating authority to government to provide a range of services for and on behalf of the people, obtain resources from the people to support the services, and interact with the people according to rules determined by them through the government.

Continue reading “Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King”