Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their turn (William Penn, 1682).
Samuel made it abundantly clear in I Samuel 8:11-17: the king that Israel chose would be a taker. He would take assets from the people of Israel (and the people themselves), consuming them for his own purpose. This would clearly be painful for Israel, for Samuel predicted they would “cry out in that day…” (v.18).
Because nations of the modern era have adopted the same God – rejecting attitude that Israel did, the consequences have been the same today too, and there are a multitude of examples. Quite simply, the costs that ungodly governments inflict upon their people are enormous, in every possible way.
The present Liberal/National government of Australia is not an extreme example, but a typical one. We are buying 3 Air Warfare destroyers. If we’d bought them and had them built in Spain, they would have been about a billion dollars each. But that won’t happen. We’ve decided to have them built in Australia, and the cost? About 3 billion each.
Build them in Australia, and there are ship-building jobs for Australians. That’s good, but for an extra $2 billion per ship? We develop the skills, you see. Wonderful.
In business, no one would have considered such waste, but in government? It seems of little consequence. Spend the money, and be done.
But there’s more. Samuel also pointed out, not just the waste that would eventuate from this kind of government, but that this king would use national resources for his own ends. The first sentence that Samuel uses to describe this king, contains this giveaway phrase: “for himself…” (v.11). Whatever resources individuals had could finish up in the king’s jurisdiction, even their children. This represents a telling commentary on the ambitions and pretensions of the modern socialist state.
Not only would there be national confiscation on a grand scale under this king, but there would be favoured beneficiaries, too.
Who could they be?
Oh, the usual people: “his servants” (v 14, 15). This king would have a multitude of bureaucrats who would benefit from his regime. We see the fulfilment of this much later in I Samuel. Nearing the end of his reign, fearful, insecure Saul knows the prophet Samuel has prophesied his demise (I Sam.15:26-29), and that the kingdom will be taken from him, so he engages in some political pork-barrelling to his attendants:
Hear now, O Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse [David] also give to all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? (I Sam.22:7).
Saul was a Benjamite (see I Samuel 9:1). This was a blatant attempt at nepotism on Saul’s part: manipulating people to support him because they were family or tribal members, and he could pay them off.
It’s painful, depressing, and it’s just the same today. It won’t change, until the nations of the world throw away their various forms of atheism and paganism, and turn to God.
William Penn is famous for another quote. “Men will either be governed by God, or ruled by tyrants.” The problem then is not the tyrant; he is merely a symptom of social apostasy. The fundamental issue then, is that society changes from the grass roots, so that tyranny has no place to put its roots down. That’s God’s plan with the Gospel.
If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land (II Chron.7:14).
When people run from God, they run into bondage. Political tyranny is merely one manifestation of this. Even when Samuel warned Israel what would be the outcome of their foolish choice, they took no notice. God gave them what they wanted.
This itself serves as a warning to us today. Are our expectations of government Biblical, realistic and legitimate? Or have we too, believed lies about the ability of government today, to provide and care for us from cradle to grave, from womb to tomb? If we have, we deserve the fate Israel suffered under Saul.
But the Bible is clear:
If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (Jn.8:36).