“In the Midst of Your Enemies” (Part 3)

A Commentary on 1 Samuel by Joel McDurmon.

Reviewed by Andrew McColl, 19/8/2014

9. We saw how the Philistines gathered for war when Israel returned to God. We can expect that when the saints get serious about their faith, the enemy will mobilize against them. The moment we put those idols away and make the sacrifices of faithfulness, we can expect that new and vexing chal­lenges will confront us, making us doubt whether we have made the right decision. This is nothing but a test of faith, and we must respond to it the way reconstructed Israel responded: prayer and perseverance. We turn to God for help, and then continue in the battle ahead of us until it is finished (p.112).

Positive steps of faith and obedience by individuals or the people of God are often followed by God with a test. This is what took place with Jesus when He was tempted (Mat.4:1-11), and this is what James spoke of: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Now it has come for Israel, in the form of a Philistine attack. God is challenging His people: “Have you really got what it takes to stand your ground, or not?”

Throughout I Samuel 7, Israel had grown in its faithfulness to God. Now they were confronted by an unprovoked Philistine attack, and they responded positively to it, just as we must too.

10. Western liberty began when the claim of the state to be man’s saviour was denied. The state then, according to Scrip­ture, was made the ministry of justice. But, wherever Christ ceases to be man’s saviour, there liberty perishes as the state again asserts its messianic claims. Man is in trouble, and his­tory is the record of his attempt to find salvation. Man needs  a saviour, and the question is simply one of choice: Christ or the state? No man can choose the one without denying the other, and all attempts at compromise are a delusion.[1]

This is one vital area that the church has always had a charge from God, to speak the truth. The idea that the state can save is not only a delusion, but it is something that ought to be constantly challenged by the church, which hasn’t understood the theological, religious and sociological implications of this belief.

The early church saw it with Rome and the Caesars, and their obedience meant they sometimes paid in blood.

Why can’t we see it today? Is it because we have been too engrossed in getting what Caesar could give us, while ignoring what Jesus Christ said? I believe so, and for this, God is bringing His people to judgment, just as He did Israel.

11. There would be a new income tax. The king would take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and . . . the tenth of your flocks (8:15–17). This also was beyond God’s Law. The Mosaic Code nowhere allowed for civil taxation. None was needed if the culture simply followed that Law—that is, lived free, loved God, and loved their neighbour accordingly. The only re­quired payment was God’s command to tithe to the priests and Levites, and to the family for festivals (Deut. 14). These payments were God’s portion, paid to the ecclesiastical establishment or spent in a family and community setting. There was never supposed to be any means of civil enforcement for even God’s portion. But this new administration would impose a civil tax on income. This would send a message as well: the state is rival to God and deserves just as much honour and sacrifice. This is revealed in two ways: 1) the fact that a civil tax was imposed to begin with (the King’s word attempting to improve upon God’s Word), and 2) the fact that the tax would be as high as God’s portion—a tithe, or 10 percent (p.135).

Why was Israel determined to have a new king? They were in rebellion against the God Who was their true King, and so they were really choosing a new law-giver. This would mean over-turning Israel’s structure, shifting the nation from a Biblically religious structure, to a pagan political order.

As Paul later explained about all people who turn from God, “…They became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Ro.1:21-22).

We need to ensure that we don’t think Israel’s choice was some kind of political accident. Israel was self-consciously rebelling in what it was doing. Speaking to Samuel, God said about them that

…they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-so they are doing to you also (I Sam.8:7-8).

Once again Israel was turning away from God to paganism, and their deliberate choice of Saul as their king would be a manifestation of this. They wanted him, and God gave him to them. As He said later, “I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath” (Hos.13:11).

The pagan manifestations of Saul’s regime are with us today;, but more so. And some of us kid ourselves that ours is a Christian nation! The fact that this has happened among the once Christian West, reflects very badly on the church of the West. It’s happened on our watch, and we’ve been responsible.

12. The most important point to take from Samuel’s warning is that the wel­fare-warfare state is divine punishment for rejecting God and His Word in the civil realm. It was judgment for civil idolatry and godlessness by Israel, and it is upon us for the same reasons. So when the Christian observes the same hallmarks of the road to serfdom paralleled in our allegedly free society today, we ought to pause before we call ourselves the “Land of the free and home of the brave.” In light of our taxation and socialistic systems, we might rather consider whether we are in fact the “Land of the fee and home of the slave.” In many instances, our society has far surpassed the tyranny which Samuel described. We are in so deep it is difficult for us to see some aspects of Israel’s tyranny as unacceptable or even undesirable. Parts of it look like greater freedom to us. Who wouldn’t settle for a mere 10 percent income tax today? But rest assured, the welfare-warfare state period is God’s judgment for rejecting His Word in the civil realm. And this means we have a lot of repent­ing and restoration ahead of us; or worse, decline into further slavery (p.137).

McDurmon is specifically referring to the United States today, but he could very well be referring to almost any nation of the world, because we all have the same hall-marks of humanism: a community (led by the church) that has essentially turned from God and His law, taxation of well over 10%, along with numbers of other means of social oppression. We’re up to our eye-balls in nations that are in rebellion against God, but we in the church hardly even know it. And the problems began with us, hundreds of years ago. Indeed, some of the problems began within the first few hundred years AD, when the Church tried to marry Christian theological beliefs with Greek humanistic philosophy. The bastard offspring still lives.

 

[1] Quoted from Rousas Rushdoony, “The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church,” 1998, p.67. Quoted in McDurmon, p.128.