What Should Our Response Be to a Corrupt Government?
This is a tough one. Like you, I have gone back and forth with this in my head for a number of years. Just when I think I have it figured out, I find something else in God’s Word that makes me take a few steps back and ponder.
First of all, if this is the first article you’ve ever read by me, you are likely not aware of a couple of things that I want to make clear now. First, I do not believe that America and Israel share any sort of “connection,” either physical or spiritual. While Christians are grafted into the vine, we can be grafted out (cf. Romans 11:16-17). To explain that further, I do not believe that it is referring our salvation here at all. Read the entire section of Romans 9 – 11 for context. I believe it is referring to the place of blessing, as Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum notes in his book Footsteps of the Messiah. We cannot lose our salvation and this section of Romans does not prove that we can.
Second, since there is no connection – spiritually or physically – between America and Israel, we need to be extremely careful in the way in which we handle God’s Word and how we apply it to our lives. What took place with Israel or what will yet take place with that nation is not necessarily a pattern of any kind for any other nation and that includes America. What God does with Israel He does because of a special program that He designed for Israel alone.
Third, salvation is and has always been received the same exact way, whether the person is Jewish or Gentile. That has not been different nor will it ever be different. It has always been through faith in God. Why did God give all those laws and ceremonial commandments to the Jews that He required them to follow? He chose to do so because He was using Israel as a shadow of the realities that are found in Jesus – His life, His death, His resurrection, as well as His nature as God.
God said to Israel, in order to approach Him, they were going to have to jump through all those hoops. Those hoops had nothing to do with individual salvation, however, it did have something to do with Israel as a whole nation and how the nation would be treated by God if they obeyed or did not obey.
With all that said, I’d like us to turn to Ezekiel 11 to find out what happens to Israel as a nation. Turn there and let’s uncover a few things. I’ll wait… 😀
1 Moreover, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the east gate of the Lord’s house which faced eastward. And behold, there were twenty-five men at the entrance of the gate, and among them I saw Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. 2 He said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who devise iniquity and give evil advice in this city, 3 who say, ‘The time is not near to build houses. This city is the pot and we are the flesh.’ 4 Therefore, prophesy against them, son of man, prophesy!” (Ezekiel 11:1-4)
Notice that God points out twenty-five men and tells Ezekiel quite pointedly (so that he cannot misunderstand) that those men were devising iniquity and were giving evil advice to those who lived in the city (Jerusalem). In other words, these are Jews who are giving evil advice to other Jews. They were basically telling the people (in spite of the coming calamity) that they were safe just as the meat inside a pot is safe from the direct flame. Yeah, there will be some problems that are coming, but not to worry! The people would be saved.
God told Ezekiel to point out to the nation that these so-called leaders were wrong. In fact, God gave the prophet Ezekiel just the words to say (Ezekiel 11:5-7).
5 Then the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and He said to me, “Say, ‘Thus says the Lord, “So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts. 6 You have multiplied your slain in this city, filling its streets with them.” 7 Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Your slain whom you have laid in the midst of the city are the flesh and this city is the pot; but I will bring you out of it.”
God tells these men through Ezekiel that Jerusalem IS the pot yes, but guess what? God will bring the people (the meat/flesh) out of the city (pot) where they will face judgment! Wow…just wow! Do you see how these twenty-five men spoke truth mixed with lies? They understood that they – the people – were living inside Jerusalem. They failed to understand the proper application though because they thought they were safe. “Don’t build your house outside the walls of the city just yet! Wait until things blow over!” they were telling the people of Israel. Once things calm down, then build your homes outside the walls.
8 You have feared a sword; so I will bring a sword upon you, the Lord God declares. 9 And I will bring you out of the midst of the city and deliver you into the hands of strangers and execute judgments against you. 10 You will fall by the sword. I will judge you to the border of Israel; so you shall know that I am the Lord. 11 This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be flesh in the midst of it, but I will judge you to the border of Israel. 12 Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you.
Wow, check it out. God is seriously onto them and is even going to use their own “prophetic” words (or is that pathetic) against them! This all came about, but let’s look at this a bit more from another perspective.
It was during Zedekiah, king of Israel (in Jeremiah 38 for a recap of all that occurred and how Jerusalem fell), when Nebuchadnezzar came in to besiege Jerusalem. I wish we had time to go through all the nuances and the events leading up to it, because it was a long time in coming. As Dr. Thomas Constable notes…
“In many ways, Zedekiah is a tragic figure. It seems that he is attracted to Jeremiah and his message like iron filings to a magnet, yet he is never able to summon enough resolve to act in response to that message. While such conclusions are speculative, it is possible that Zedekiah presents a paradigm of persons whose rejection of the purposes of God through their weakness of character is every bit as damaging and damning as the aggressive rebellion of Jehoiakim.”
Jeremiah 38:14-16 reads as follows and remember, Zedekiah is the king at this time!
14 Then King Zedekiah sent and had Jeremiah the prophet brought to him at the third entrance that is in the house of the Lord; and the king said to Jeremiah, “I am going to ask you something; do not hide anything from me.” 15 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, If I tell you, will you not certainly put me to death? Besides, if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.” 16 But King Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah in secret saying, “As the Lord lives, who made this life for us, surely I will not put you to death nor will I give you over to the hand of these men who are seeking your life.”
Zedekiah was afraid of other men, just like Pontius Pilate was also afraid of men and instead of doing what was right where Jeremiah was concerned, he said he couldn’t go against the nobles and so Jeremiah was imprisoned. Because of that fear, Zedekiah is unable to stand with God, on God’s side. We like to talk about whether or not God is on our side and as Christians, yes, He is, but it is just as important that we stand with God on His side against all forms of evil. We can never be afraid to choose what is right, what we know God wants us to do or say. He empowers us, after all.
But Zedekiah feared men too much. While drawn to Jeremiah and his message, indicating he wanted to do what was right, in the end, he failed to do what was right and paid the price for his disobedience.
Jerusalem was going to fall. It was coming in Zedekiah’s day. He is drawn to Jeremiah who tries to enlighten him, to help him understand what was going to happen and what was in store for him if he obeyed God. In Jeremiah 38:19, Zedekiah confesses how much he fears the Jews who essentially went over to side with the Chaldeans. He was basically afraid for his life. In verse twenty, Jeremiah tells him point-blank the following:
But Jeremiah said, “They will not give you over. Please obey the Lord in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live.”
Exactly what was Zedekiah supposed to do in order to obey the Lord here? The answer is found back in the same chapter, starting with verse seventeen.
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive.”
Wait, what? Jeremiah is actually telling Zedekiah the king that God wants him to surrender to the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar) and if he does that, he will live and the city of Jerusalem will not be burned with fire, and he and his household will survive? Is that what Jeremiah is telling Zedekiah?
Yep. That’s what he is telling the king. Surrender.
We’ll find out why Jeremiah told Zedekiah to surrender next time and we’ll also find out if Zedekiah obeyed.
Keown, p. 218. (Dr. Thomas Constable’s Notes on Jeremiah)