This week, America began the process of choosing the next POTUS. For Christians and conservatives, the choices have rarely been so diverse and contrasting, primarilydue to the strong early showing of Donald Trump. Even though Trump has hit on a theme that America’s ruling class has failed them, he is a deeply flawed candidate.
While the Democrats have a leading candidate who has severe handicaps as well, it is Donald Trump and his significant support from Evangelicals that is most perplexing. Rectitude and uprightness still matter. Integrity and honor must be qualities we demand from leaders. It seems as though America has replaced those standards with clever sound bites. Thoughtfulness has been replaced with entertainment.
America professes exacerbation with its leaders, yet few will admit the leaders are a reflection of the electorate. The leaders are simply a representation of the country. There is an understandable fascination with Donald Trump because he refreshingly speaks his mind, paying no heed to consequences. It’s bracing and invigorating to an audience tired of flimsy rhetoric.
Invective and brashness, however, are no substitute for a godly, principled leader. Even a nation that is increasingly secular would benefit profoundly from choosing leaders of decency and probity.
The perception of leadership is often vastly different from actual leadership. How one looks and sounds has little bearing on actual substance. In the end, America has rejected any semblance of true godliness, and has instead replaced it with buffet-style morality, and it is reflected in our current generation of leaders.
America would do well to learn from Israel’s history. In both the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, a clear relationship is seen between godly kings and the health of the nation. Kings such as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah provided leadership under which the nation prospered.
But it is the story of Israel‘s first King, Saul, that most closely shows the consequences of disobedience. Whereas theocracy was the standard of governance for the nation of Israel, God relented to the demands of the people for a King.
Saul appeared to be the ideal King in terms of stature and presence, but his character lacked discipline and was irresolute. When presented to the people, Saul immediately gained favor because he looked the part.
Saul’s story however, would expose him as a man given to greed, pride, and an unwillingness to do what he knew was right. Unlike his successor, David, who drew “mighty men” to his side, King Saul died the death of a coward, surrounded by men who were unable to rescue him.
And it was because of disobedience.
The disobedience of King Saul germinated with a single decisionthat not only affected his life and future, but it also imperiled the very existence of his people.
America should take note.
We read about the existential threat to the Jews in the book of Esther. This story has become part of the national identity of the modern day State of Israel. In fact, in his recent speech before the United States Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted parallels between the threat facedby Israel from Iran to what the Jews faced from the Persian Empire 2500 years ago.
This story of Esther is one of the more gripping stories in all the Bible. She was a young Jewish girl who became Queen of the Persian Empire during the reign of King Xerxes. In the story, Queen Esther’s people, the Jewish people living in the Persian Empire, faced extermination from a man who was second only to the King. His name was Haman.
The roots of the story of Esther reach far back in Israelis history to the book of Exodus. As the Israelites were traveling through the desert from Egypt to Canaan, the Amalekites attacked when Israel was most vulnerable. Joshua and the army defeated them, and God said “I will completely block out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:8-15)
Later, in Deuteronomy 25,still hundreds of years before Saul becomes King, God tells the people to remember what the Amalekites did and reminds them how the Israelites were attacked when they were weary and worn out. God further commands the Israelites when they were settled in the land to “block out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”(Deuteronomy 25:17-19 NIV)
After Saul became King, God was ready to punish the Amalekites. Through the prophet Samuel, he told Saul to destroy them and all that belonged to them. Dutifully, Saul attacked the Amalekites and completely destroyed the Amalekites with the exception of Agag, whom they kept as a prisoner. Then greed entered the equation. They kept the best of all the flocks and herds. Everything that was of great value was spared (1 Samuel 15:7-9 NIV). Saul disobeyed God in that while he destroyed all the people in the city of Amalek, he spared the most important person, King Agag.
Seven hundred years later, in the story of Esther, the Jewish people are experiencing great difficulty. Mordecai, the cousin of Queen Esther, would not kneel down or pay Haman honor as was customary. “Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, ‘Why do you disobey the king’s command?’ Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply.
“Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.” (Esther 3:3-6 NIV)
Something hidden exists here. Haman, furious that Mordecai would not honor him found that Mordecai had Jewish roots, and he thereby devised a plan to destroy not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people in the kingdom.
What is the connection between Saul, the Amalekites, and the story of Esther? The link is Haman! “After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles” (Esther 3:1 NIV).
Scripture reveals that Hamanwas a direct descendant of Agag!Scripture also illuminated that Saul killed all of Agag’s people. The implication seems to be that between the time Agag was captured by Saul and the time he was killed by Samuel, he fathered a child. Hundreds of years after those events, the ancestral offspring of that union was looking to exact revenge.
Saul partially obeyed the Lord in killing the Amalekites, but he made a horrible choice in letting Agag live. It may have seemed like a minor detail at the time, but it nearly resulted in a genocide of the Jews. It was Saul’s lack of discipline and obedience that not only destroyed him, but nearly destroyed his people.
There is a little bit more to the story. You see, while the city of Amalek was the capital city, there were other Amalekites dwelling in the region. God had told Saul, “Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.”
Saul was not to have stopped with the city of Amalek, but he did. This tragic decision would provide a fitting end to Saul’s life. At the end of Saul’s life, surrounded by Philistines (1 Samuel 31) as he took his own life, there was a person there to witness this sad end. While scripture doesn’t name him, he is identified as “an Amalekite” (2 Samuel 1:8).
An ironic end to a life lived for self and in disobedience…
For America, the clarion call must be for statesmen of integrity, virtue, and honor. It may be difficult at times to discern the substance of a candidate, but with Donald Trump, nothing is hidden. Though he looms large, his lack of character illuminates his smallness.
In this election season, the Church must be heard. Evangelicals cannot afford to squander their civic and moral duties. If the Church abstains from voting or sets its affections on a candidate with whom there is no true commonality, the Church will have readily contributed to,and hastened, its irrelevance.
Hosea 8:7 says, “They that sow the wind shallreap a whirlwind.” When the church sows foolishness and squanders opportunity, America reaps a storm of consequences that none can foresee. The consequences may not be felt in the current generation, but the compounding effect of time will multiply culpability.
If Evangelicals will act quickly and wisely, problems can be chosen. If time and opportunity is wasted, the problems will do the choosing!