When kings go to war, it’s not usually the kings that die but the soldiers that serve them – and a multitude of hapless civilians. To my knowledge, the average rank and file soldier has never started a war. Nor has the average citizen. Wars are typically instigated by rulers to serve their own interests. Those who fight on the side of aggressors are at best cannon fodder – a mere means to a deadly end.
From earliest times, the omnipresent cloud of war has hung over the tranquility of the human race. Spasmodically, it has released its loads of thunder, lightning and death. Today, wars are being fought all over the face of planet earth and the ominous clouds of major conflict are again boiling on the horizon.
The best efforts of the United Nations notwithstanding, unstable, in some cases demonized, tyrants continue to keep the world in tension with their malevolent intent. They relentlessly test the resolve of the free world. They probe for weakness. They lie, deceive and manipulate in order to enhance their positions of power in the world. They are like Adolph Hitler who, in 1938, said to Lieutenant-General Franz Halder, “You will never learn what I am thinking. And those who boast most loudly that they know my thought, to such people I lie even more.” Hitler, like Satan himself, lied and murdered without conscience (John 8:44). There are thugs who run nations today who are qualitatively no better than Hitler. They too kill with impunity. Their will to power transcends all other considerations. They kill so easily because they know that if they do not, someone will kill them. Consequently, anyone or everyone who gets in their way is expendable.
Writes John Stoessinger of Hitler, “What he really yearned to do, with all the passion of his demonic nature, was to destroy Russia altogether – to crush her government, pulverize her economy, enslave her people, and eliminate her as a political entity” (Why Nations Go to War, p. 27).
Said Hitler himself, “…I have no feeling at all about wiping out Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg” — no feeling, no pity, no empathy for the hapless masses who would die in his spate of hatred. This is the mind of the tyrant. This is the mind of a Saddam Hussein, an Idi Amin or a Pol Pot. The world today is full of deadly potential because such people have found their way into power. So long as they are allowed to hold on to that power, they are a threat to free people everywhere.
The Role of God
God is sovereign. He gives an evil world the kind of leaders it deserves. Today as always, he “removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:21). The kinds of kings we get are either the kind we want, or the kind we deserve.
Israel’s first king, Saul, was an example of the kind of king the people wanted. God had been their king, and Samuel his prophet. The people were not satisfied with that arrangement. They said to Samuel, “Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (I Samuel 8:5). Samuel was deeply disturbed about this request (I Samuel 8:6). He prayed to God about it. God approached it democratically, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me that I should not reign over them” (I Samuel 8:7). Human nature was then what it is today. As Paul wrote, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).
It is natural for natural man to rebel against the kingdom – that is the rule and authority – of God. God understood this. Though we all claim to seek God, when he gets too close to us, we back off – just as did the Israelites at Sinai (Exodus 20:18-19). For most of us, the direct sovereignty of God in our lives is a scary thing. That’s why we instinctively seek to create human buffer zones between God and ourselves.
The Nature of Kings
God instructed Samuel to warn the people of the nature of kings: “…solemnly forewarn them and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them” (I Samuel 8:9). Then follows a list of the things the king would take from the people: land, taxes, sons, daughters, animals etc. (I Samuel 8:11-17). The working principle here is that kings take – they don’t give. And when they take, they take for themselves the best of everything.
Samuel’s warning fell on deaf ears. The people demanded their king. They wanted to be “like all the nations” (I Samuel 8:20).
God had wanted Israel to be the model nation so that all of the other nations would look at Israel and want to be like her. Instead, Israel abandoned God and sought to imitate the goyim(the nations, or gentiles). God gave them the kind of government they wanted and the results are history – sad and bloody history.
The story of the divided kingdom is a long and tragic one. Many of Judah’s kings were evil, and most of Israel’s were. Only a minority sought to return Israel to holiness.
The Kings They Deserved
As Israel continued to depart from the ways of God, God gave them the kind of kings they didn’t want, but did deserve. Because the people had rejected God’s kingdom, God gave them dynasties of men as carnal as themselves. They went from excess to excess. Reheboam, the son of Solomon, whom in rejecting the council of his father’s elders and his peers set the tone, “…thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist!’” (I Kings 12:10b). Instead of lightening the burden of government, he increased it. This has been the abiding pattern throughout human history. The burden of human government grows ever heavier, seldom lighter.
As cultures coarsen and deteriorate, as in today’s America, the quality of leadership follows suit – for leaders emerge from the people. God gives us the leaders we choose and the ones we deserve. If we insist on being relativistic when it comes to morality, we will have moral relativists in the White House. If we as a culture tolerate lying, injustice, and immorality, then that’s the kind of people who will make up the Gang of 535 on the Hill in Washington. If we elect politicians who are cavalier about the Constitution, then we can expect them to appoint judges who share the same mentality. Eventually, they will interpret the Constitution out of all practical existence.
If Americans, Brits and Canadians do not insist a Justice System that produces justice, they will have one that produces its opposite. As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). People like Saddam Hussein and common street criminals do evil for one simple reason: because they can get away with it.
When a society tolerates evil and injustice that’s what it gets. Those who seek to live godly lives under such circumstances become prey. We have reached a point in our degenerating culture where traditional values have been turned upside down. Yesterday’s good is today’s evil, and vice versa. We have arrived at the place ancient Israel arrived at when God said through the prophet Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”(Isaiah 5:20).
Thrones of Iniquity
In today’s America, presidents, lawmakers and judges and are making sin a “civil right,” and they are rendering God’s moral standards, and the public expression of them, illegal. In Psalm 94:20-21 we read these indicting words: “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with you? They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.” When law and justice become politicized, they are corrupted.
The words of Isaiah again ring true: “Justice is turned back and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (Isaiah 59:14-15). These words are a portrait of today’s Western democracies. Moral relativism has rendered justice a joke. Truth is dead in its tracks. As Gregory Koukl writes, “The death of truth in our society has created a moral decay in which ‘every debate ends with the barroom question “says who?” When we abandon the idea that one set of laws applies to every human being, all that remains is subjective, personal opinion” (Relativism, p. 20).
A nation cannot retain its greatness or its integrity on the basis of relativistic personal opinion. All that can come of this is moral anarchy. This would soon be followed closely by political anarchy.
To the degree that modern America abandons its Constitution, it abandons its raison d’être – its reason for being. To the extent that our culture jettisons traditional values, we lose our way morally and ethically. Under such circumstances, the center can’t hold. The proverb that says, “When the blind lead the blind, they both fall in the ditch” (Matthew 15:14) is coming to life in today’s America. As a nation, we are losing our reason for being, or moral compass, and our way in the world.
Kings still go to war. When they probe for weakness in America, they will surely find it. When they do, they will go to war against us. If America’s moral center does not hold the whole will collapse. And when it does, “mighty will be the fall thereof.”