Part 13 in a series of excerpts from my book, With Christ in the Voting Booth:

Both tyranny and anarchy are religions of the imagination and they must be cast down by the Christian before he casts his vote. Our fathers in Israel watched as the clash of these two philosophies resulted in the breakup of their nation following years of idol worship under Solomon (1Ki. 11:33).

A series of events in ancient Israel demonstrates what often happens when governors attempt to control people too much. It happened after the death of Solomon, as Rehoboam began his reign as new king. Jeroboam had persuaded the Israelite Coalition for Smaller Government into holding a massive demonstration outside the palace demanding that Rehoboam reverse the growing bureaucracy started under the previous Solomon administration.

King Rehoboam responded by seeking counsel from two different groups. He first asked the wise and experienced old men what he should do. They suggested that he should serve the people and reply favorably to their requests for less intrusive government, for they knew that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov. 15:1a). Rehoboam was not satisfied, and instead got advice from the bullies he grew up with, who suggested that he consolidate his power and oppress the people even further (1Ki. 12:6-8). His heart inclined him to go with those whippersnappers and so he told the people,

My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. I Kings 12:10f

How did the smaller-government conservatives and Jeroboam respond? First, they stomped off in anger and decided to live in passive rebellion (v. 16), perhaps pouring bottles of milk and honey into the river in protest. When the king sent a member of the IRS (Israelite Revenue Service) to collect the taxes due, they murdered him (v. 18). Eventually they decided to secede from the union and start their own country, nearly bringing God’s people to civil war (which surely would have been known in the secessionist region as The War between the Tribes or The War of Southern Aggression!). But when Rehoboam was ready to respond with a huge military attack, God intervened through a prophet:

Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD. I Kings 12:24

What perhaps started out as a harmless Milk and Honey Party movement, after three days had turned into out-of-control Occupy Shechem-Street protests. Perhaps Jeroboam and his band of rebels had threatened to overturn chariots and set tents on fire; we don’t know. We do know they considered revolution, for they said they would serve Rehoboam if he met their demands (see 1Ki. 12:1-5).

When it was all over, God’s sovereign will had been accomplished in spite of sin on every side. God had avenged the idolatry that Israel had engaged in during Solomon’s reign. The over-reaching government of Rehoboam had lost control of over 80% of his kingdom, leaving only Judah and the small tribe of Benjamin loyal to the throne.

Nevertheless, the hopes of a better life for Jeroboam’s subjects soon disappeared, too. He led them into idolatry and rebellion against God, setting up the worship of not one but two golden calves, even creating a false religion with a false priesthood, man-made holidays and false worship (1Ki. 12:28-33). The ten northern tribes of Israel would never have a single godly king to rule over them and they would eventually be dispersed over the whole world.

We must be aware that every revolution carries within itself the seeds of the revolutions that follow. Growing discontent against governmental oppression (whether real or imagined) so easily leads to rebellion. The era of the French Revolution demonstrates that war does not satiate the bloodlust stirred up by rebellion. Hardly had the dust settled after the American colonists rose up against King George when our nation—less than fifty years later—would break into a civil war that would kill over 600,000 Americans.

In light of Romans 13, we ought to at least reexamine whether or not many of our ills stem from a national attitude of rebellion spawned by the American Revolution. John MacArthur goes further: The United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings that God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience of the Founding Fathers.[1]

Even if MacArthur is right, we cannot go back and undo what has been done. But we can ask that God put a guard at the door of our rebellious hearts. There is only one way to guarantee that your country, your future home, is a place of peace. Abraham knew that God himself was the source of that place of tranquility:

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. … These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (emphasis mine) Hebrews 11:9, 10, 13-16

If God’s people have survived, even thrived, under the persecution of dictators or in the chaos of anarchy, just as Abraham did, it is because our primary citizenship is in another place. At times, the best a Christian can hope for is found in Paul’s command to Timothy concerning prayer:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. I Timothy 2:1, 2

Application in the Voting Booth

First, we should examine the policies and proposals of all candidates. Do they contribute to anarchy or to tyranny? We should be respectful, but skeptical of all politicians, as they suffer the same temptations to power or lawlessness as the rest of us.

Second, it is entirely proper for Christians to petition their civil government for relief of the burdens placed on them by over-regulation and over-taxation. Likewise, we should not directly seek to place in office those who would burden us so. Here is where comparing a candidate’s promises with his or her actual record comes in handy.

Third, we have chosen a bowl of pottage over blessing if our desire for more stuff (better jobs, more pay, lower taxes) leads us to abandon the priorities of the Kingdom of God. Shrinking the bureaucracy and the national debt is a good thing unless it is done by trading away the lives of our neighbors yet to be born.

Fourth, neither tyranny nor anarchy tends to the peaceable lives God has called us to. Barry Goldwater conceived the balance as a picture of liberty:

Freedom under a government limited by laws of nature and of nature’s God. Freedom balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the slavery of the prison cell; balanced so that liberty lacking order will not become the license of the mob and of the jungle.[2]

Tyranny may be preferable over anarchy because anarchy always leads to tyranny, eventually. However, it would be better not to vote, if you have to choose between tyrants and libertines. God will do as he pleases, but woe unto us if we deliberately choose to stray from the straight path of righteousness found in Scripture.[3]

[1] John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism by John MacArthur (2000) Word: Nashville

[2] Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Acceptance Speech for the GOP Nomination for President

[3] I do not have in mind here the political distinction between right and left, but the errors of tyranny and anarchy. Politicians on both the left and right can be inclined to tyranny or anarchy. I would hope that members of all parties would mend their ways and seek the face of God in Christ.

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