Lecture 26: Politics and Proverbs (part c)
Lecture: Proverbs and Politics Part C
IV. Foundations of Good Government:
A. The Bible and the Mosaic Law
From the Christian view point and the well-being of the world, we start with the Bible as being the main foundation for good government; under which we include the Mosaic Law, the Sage’s Wisdom, and the necessity of Christianity for Democracy. Along with the Bible we include our conscience. Paul would say our Gospel conforms to our conscience. There is no disjunction between the Gospel and a good conscience; they go together. If you embrace Jesus Christ, you will have a good conscience and you will sleep well. In all probability, if you don’t, you will not have a good conscience. You will have an uneasy feeling in life. The Mosaic Law is foundational for government, the Ten Commandments in particular and that runs all the way through the Bible. Paul would say that loving God and loving your neighbor would fulfill the Law. This is according to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thus we must define God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Part of the Book of Deuteronomy sets up the constitution of Israel and how the nation is governed which is by a judge with a priest. The priest instructs the judge giving him the principles by which he makes his judgements. This is found in Deuteronomy 17:8-12. Their supreme court consists of a priest and a judge and once you have a monarchy, the king becomes the judge. The priest represents the Word of God, the Law.
If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge--whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults--take them to the place the LORD your God will choose. Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the LORD will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do. Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the LORD your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deut 17:8-12) Before this were the local courts which would sit at the city gates. The Supreme Court is the priest who knows the Law and can apply this to decisions and informs the judge. So the Book of the Law is foundational and in my judgement the most important book of the Old Testament is the Book of Deuteronomy. Today, the Book of the Law would involve the whole Canon of Scripture.
The king has to know the Law accurately. When the king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then, he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) This is the motivation why you want good government; you will not have anarchy or revolution and because you are doing right by the people. A party that looks to the well-being of the people is a party they will vote for. In David’s command to Solomon, ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before him with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel. (1st Kings 2:1-4) Here, the House of David is forever over the Kingdom. The Book of the Law has had a greater impact on society for good than any other book in the history of humanity. Deuteronomy has had greater consequences for human history than any other single book. The regulations of the Lord’s covenants were the first to establish a universal education and health for all members of a nation and fixed the only welfare system that was in existence in ancient times. (AOTT, p. 479) We also have the prophets who were always trying to get Israel back to the Book of the Law. They were interpreters only, never adding new laws. But Proverbs was different because they were written by a king, giving a foundation on how one should rule. So what is the relationship between the Book of Deuteronomy and Proverbs? How do we relate the two?
B. The Bible and the Wisdom of the Sage
There are greater definitions in social and culture. For example there is a commandment ‘do not murder’ but it is more than that. You feed your enemy and not stealing goes beyond to feed the poor. The Ten Commandments define what it means to love God and to love myself. Interestingly Jesus gave up his right and he was poor; he made himself a no reputation. Proverbs is like a written test for a driver’s license where road signs are like the Ten Commandments. Garrick Kindle said that Proverbs is too fine to be caught in the mesh of the law; they deal with the details of life. So proverbs tell us to feed your enemy, to honor your wife and to feed the poor. For the noble wife, a husband arises and children stand up when she enters the room. If you stand up to honor your wife, you certainly are not going to divorce her. Proverbs are an enhancement to the Law providing finer points. Proverbs 10:12 tells us that hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. For a person that has been found wrong, you don’t put that person on stage so that everyone can see their wrong. You talk to them privately. In doing this you are drawing a veil over everyone transgressions. So if you keep the Proverbs, you are bound to keep the Law.
The Broken Window Theory by J. Wilson and G. Kelling (March 1982); ‘consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars. A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, say the theory’s authors, is to fix the problems when they are small. Repairs the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood. When you learn to feed their enemies, to honor those to whom honor is due, to be generous to the poor and to protect another’s reputations, the larger matters, such as those of the Ten Commandments, not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal and not to bear false witness will become a reality and society will become a place where people love one another as themselves. The sort of culture establishes the City of God and Lord’s blessings crown it.’ The Book of Proverbs takes care of the broken windows.
C. For a Democracy to Work, Christianity is a Necessity
The dangers to democracy according to Graebner’s book on Christianity and Democracy include selfish individualism, desires of consumerism become insatiable, individualism but no certainty about absolutes, a disregard for the past and future and the ultimate establishment of a despotic nanny state. This came out of an evaluation of democracy and why did it work. This community is being slowly destroyed through individualism with people moving about and this is especially true today. Know that Christianity is a power in any Christian country, especially America, Britain and other Christian based countries. For America it is an established and irresistible face which no one undertakes to attack or defend. There is not a country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation in the world. There is a concern for community, better values than materialism, a conscience over conformity and a concern for past and future. There is a care for the poor not only in the States but also throughout the world. So democracy works because of the Christians that back it as a government. Christianity is assumed and no one even debates it reality, it is a good foundation for government. There must be a belief in afterlife, for a psychology of ultimate responsibility. Without Christ there are inadequate solutions for things like mental-health issues, prevalence of violence, etc. The western ethic expected science, psychology, counseling, a sophisticate intellect to replace ultimate accountability as a control of evil, but it has not. The foundation of good government is a realization of ultimate justice and this goes back to the Fear of God. Without a Fear of God, there is not sense of ultimate justice. And to conclude, Martin Luther King Jr says there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
V. Characteristics of a Good Ruler
A. Righteousness and Good Principles
The Characteristics of a good ruler is inseparable from the character of the person. A good ruler is righteous and seeks the best for others, not self. They stand for principles, not for parties. Richard Armour, an American poet and author said, ‘politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.’ And Alexis de Tocqueville says that there are many men of principles in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.’ John F. Kennedy says, ‘let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the flame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.’ John Quincy Adams states, ‘always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.’ Gandhi says that the seven deadly sins are wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, knowledge without character, politics without principles, commerce without morality and worship without sacrifice.
B. Leads by Justice and Equity
A good ruler leads by justice and equity. He does what is right and just and fair, acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent and both are an abomination to the Lord. He cannot be bribed; the generous person has everyone for a companion, but the wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice. He defends the poor and doesn’t exploit the poor because they are poor and does not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for a life. (Proverbs 22:22-23) A good ruler is reliably kind and gracious. Proverbs 20:28 says that kindness and reliability guard the king; he upholds his throne with kindness. He surrounds himself with good adviser because a lack of guidance will cause people to fall, but safety lies in many advisers in Proverbs 11:14. A good ruler disassociates himself from the wicked where the righteous searches out his confidential friend, but the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26). He also seeks the truth as Proverbs 16:13 say that kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right. He exposes and punishes the wicked; this is a ruler’s obligation and he winnows out the wicked; he drives the threshing wheel over them (Proverbs 20:26). He is beneficial to society and tempered by mercy.
VI. Political Influence
In being wise, the king’s favor is toward a prudent servant who acts wisely, but his fury ruins a shameful (Proverbs 14:35). In order to have political influence one should be gracious as he is one who loves a pure heart. He is a patient and humble person. Proverbs 25:6-7 cautions us to not initiate ourselves into a higher social rank and dignity of the king and his nobles. It is better to be elevated by those around you. Be temperate as Proverbs 23:1-3 suggest that when we sit down to eat with a ruler, we should consider carefully what is before us and not crave their delicacies. Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were very influential in government, even though they were young and a political prisoner. They were chosen to hold positions of power because they were skillful and wise (Daniel 1:17, 19-20). Likewise, Pharaoh chose Joseph to be second in command in spite of the fact that he was a Hebrew, for whom the Egyptians had little regard, because he manifested greater wisdom than any other man in Egypt. Above all, fear the Lord and live by faith in him. So the conclusion is to live by faith in God. God is the authority and the ruler and we should put our hope in him. In Proverbs 11:7, it says that any hope we place in a mortal will be pointless and die with us with their promises of power coming to nothing. We need to commit ourselves to the Lord in whatever we do, and he will establish our plans. Can we really believe and trust in God to do what is right? There is no wisdom, no insight, and no counsel that can succeed against God. Our hope is in the Lord.