This weekend Jewish people around the world will commemorate the Exodus from Egypt as they gather together for Passover, while Christians will celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In both of these narratives, the political leaders (Pharoah and Pontius Pilate), were instrumental in these significant historical events.
Today, our media is obsessed with reporting about our political leaders because many believe these leaders will greatly influence our history.
Many believers often claim that our political leaders have a special destiny in our history because God appointed them. They will be quick to quote passages from Romans 13 about being “subject [submissive] to governing authorities” who are placed in their position by God. These same people then claim that because these verses tell us to submit to our leaders, we should do so without questioning their authority or actions.
As Jeremiah challenged the false prophets, he also challenged the kings. He tells them to, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jer. 22:3-4).
Here Jeremiah is echoing, in his challenge to the kings, earlier teaching in Scripture from Deuteronomy 17 and I Samuel 8. When appointing a king, the people were given specific instruction regarding who could lead them. He was to be a person who feared God and kept his commandments. His rule was not to be used for his own personal interest, expansion or gain.
“Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).
The people were warned that these leaders would take their sons for war, take their plowman for his benefit; take their daughters, cooks, bakers, etc…. The king would take the best resources from the land and give it to his advisors, families, and benefactors (I Samuel 8:10-18).
In these verses, we see that Kingship is not the ultimate desire of God, rather it is a response to the request of the people. These passages also provide us with a warning and give us insight how to use discernment in evaluating our political leaders. Kings/political leaders have the power to impact the most important areas of our lives: through our sons and daughters, through political endeavors that cause major damages, and through economic disturbances between the rich and the poor, through aiding close friends and family, and through mistreating the weak and oppressed.
There is a challenge for leaders to do justice and righteousness, deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, and to not mistreat the stranger, orphan, widow or shed innocent blood.
Though we need to submit to our governing authorities and be law abiding citizens, like the prophet Jeremiah, we need to use discernment, speak up, and warn others when kings and political powers misuse their power. Remaining silent has a high cost to others as well as ourselves. Speaking up and challenging political leaders and kings in the areas in which they are misusing their power is costly. The prophet Jeremiah also paid a high price. Silence, complacency and shifting responsibility will not deliver us from the consequences of misguided leaders.
Our encouragement is that on the day of Resurrection, Jesus was lifted up as King and continues to be King in every realm of our lives. He is also King of our political leaders and they are accountable to him and his Kingdom. Instead of coming to be served, he came to save, deliver, and serve others.
By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.