Religious Liberty and the Conscience:

Principles for Governing Leaders

Jeremiah 52 is the foundational model reference for this segment.

There are two other references to set forth the ideal of God ordained principle of governing leaders. We want to have an overall foundation of biblical stewardship. This should be related to our system of government as it applies to the Christian church. This would be in particular the Baptist notion of separation of church and state. These references hope to establish the ideal of God ordained leaders. These are leaders who govern people.

Second Samuel 23:3.

2Sa 23:1 Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,

2Sa 23:2 The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.

Now there is this, a clear explanation of a verbal inspiration of Scripture. The point being aside from the theological notion, is the fact that Paul will now follow this directly as it issued out of the mouth of the Spirit of God when he says:

2Sa 23:3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.

Ruling in the fear of God needs to be emphasized. Remember I told to on Sunday, and I mean it, I will not ever tell you who to vote for. I won't do it, publicly. I figure that with the spirit of God is your guide you're going to do what's right. I have enough confidence in you to do that. So I will go to great lengths, great pains to layout principles that guide the decision. For a lot of good people are confused. They hear certain things but our little too naïve to dig in and around the basis of statements that are made. There wanting to believe certain things to be true because their life stemmed from a generation of things for their born at a time when you could take it person's word for it. When a man stood up and spoke you might not agree with what a guy said but at least you knew that he was coming at you straight. Nowadays it is not the case.

But God says, in this principle here, that, "he that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God."

2Sa 23:4 And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.

And then there is another reference, in Exodus 18: verse 21.

Exo 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Now when one looks at the letter part of that verse, the clear message I get, is, that it doesn't make any difference the level of government that a person holds leadership in. It could be a town Council. It could be a state office it could be a county level office. It could be a national office. It could be an office with international implications. But the rule is the same. He should be able. Before I get into Jeremiah 52, I want to emphasize this.

I learned a long time ago, it was when Dr. Carter was dealing with the medical community over the physical condition of his daughter. He drew some criticism. People were after him because he refused to take his daughter to Christian physicians. His comment was while in open class. He said I would rather take my daughter to a doctor who is competent a doctor who was Christian. Particularly the Christian was not competent or for some reason, was able with the same expertise regarding that which was needed. When he said that I thought, well yes I still hear people do talk like that in different ways.

When we see here in the 21st verse where it talks about able men, understand that while you look at this late of the potential governing officials here, there may be or may not be any Christian men who were available. I would rather that there was. But frankly I don't know how Christian could. But what you must look at is the ability. Is there an able-bodied man among them which has scruples and a level of expertise in an area that will lead to reasonable government.

So also in verse 21 they must be men of truth. Of course there must be some kind of notion of absolute truth. It is like getting into a basketball game with with someone and they're always changing the rules. The thing we always thought about when were kids in Freeport was what constitute a file and what did not. And someone would stand up and be the module and say well we are going to play by NBA rules tonight. But what does that mean? Does it mean elbows count and no fouls? Were on another occasion the slightest little shove would get a whistle. Now you see they have moved the basket down from 10 feet to 8 feet. This makes it easier for people to dunk. They moved the foul shot line from 13 feet into 8 feet. This makes it easy to shoot the foul shot. Or if you don't like where the baseline is under the basket you just ignore and push it back, or you push the sidebars out. You change the rules as you go. You cannot do that. That has to be some absolutes in every area of life. And is fallible human beings, you must something dependable.

As a nation you're supposed to be ruled by the law. Written law. Constitutional law. As fallible as it may be it is a written document. It is as perfect as the men who forged. Never the less it is as we must rally to. And whenever there is someone who feels free to stomp on it, burn it or ignore it; you need to take notice of it.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. But I am going to lay down principles.

My question, having looked at the ideal and second Samuel 21, and Exodus 1821 is this. Is resistance or civil disobedience justified when the ideal is not apparent? Think about that for a minute.

Now I come to Isaiah 52. Is resistance or civil disobedience justified when the ideal is not apparent? My answer to that is absolutely not. That's all you got. I Jeremiah 52 has this. Yes King Zedekiah here. Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah is getting in trouble because he is saying to the leadership, religious and civil authorities, rulers of the day. Look! We've sinned and were about to go into captivity. I here's the best of the story. The best way to work this out according to what God said and I'm paraphrasing what God said. His you just go along for the ride. When the foreign King comes along with his armies you just go along. Everything will work out fine. But the civil authorities and religious leaders, they do like a lot of people today do, they don't see the danger coming so they don't take prudent steps to avoid it. They stick their heads in the sand. They turn their backs. Poor Jeremiah, they kill the messenger because they don't like the message. So, after it all comes to pass, we find Zedekiah in Jeremiah 52:

Jer 52:1 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.

Jer 52:2 And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.

Jer 52:3 For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Okay, now so Zedekiah is a patriotic Jew who doesn't particularly like what Jeremiah says before nor what he says now. He is under the thumb of a pagan monarch. You wouldn't think that that would be the will of God in spite of everything that God had said through the prophet. So you have a problem. He has rebelled against the King and it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, this rebellion probably went on probably a year and a half until enforcement proceedings began.

The enforcement proceedings began as you see in verse number five where it discusses the besieging.

Jer 52:5 So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

Now when we we think about besieging, it means that that geographical location was all hemmed in. There wasn't any wiggle room. And of course that's the first thing that despots, from ancient days until modern times do they want to restrict free movement of society. They install checkpoints, walls, and barriers. You have to pass through things to move to another point. And it's constant stop and check and stop and check. In this particular case there was no wiggle room. There was a besieging that was going on.

Then in verse number six they went without bread.

Jer 52:6 And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.

There was no bread. Look at Lamentations chapter 4 for a graphic to help better understand this.

Lam 4:4 The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them.

Lam 4:5 They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets: they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.

Lam 4:6 For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.

So this gives a little picture of the situation I was in place at the time. This passage may not display this precise moment but it is related to the time that leads up to it, as well as what may be taking place here. There was besieged meant. Then there was no bread. These two instances provide a picture of the fruit of unjustified resistance. It was unsanctioned resistance against divinely ordained authority. There is no doubt about it. It was the king of Babylon who was divinely appointed authority over the Jews. They were the situation they were in because of their sin. That's why they were in captivity. They would be there for 70 years. Because Zedekiah did not buy into that package, now we have the consequences of that unsanctioned resistance. The fruit of it

Look at verse number seven. The city was broken up. And all the men of war fled. As just what you want to see, to have the army bolting.

Jer 52:7 Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king's garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.

They didn't make it to far. But please notice when he talks about the city being broken up, you might say that literally there was the breakup. It was every man for himself. Panic struck them. Panic breaks out in the city. There was this cute encampment around about them. There was nothing to eat. Sometimes when the city is in a situation such as this, the people will even begin to cannibalize one another. There is a great lack of food. That is the fruit of unsanctioned resistance to divinely appointed authority. Nothing good happens.

I look at verse number 10. Here Zedekiah makes a break for it. And then he gets caught.

Jer 52:9 Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; where he gave judgment upon him.

The language "carried him up unto the king" has the implication that they likely brutally treated the king after he was caught.

Jer 52:10 And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah.

I would suggest to you here that this speaks of bereavement for Zedekiah. It would be ironic because her going to read here in a moment that they're going to take Zedekiah's eyes out. Ironically, though the eyes would be gone. The mental graphic would be embedded in the man's memory for the rest of his days. That is the consequence of unsanctioned resistance and rebellion against divinely constituted authority – bereavement. I was reading in another place of Jeremiah 25:10:

Jer 25:10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.

Jer 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

In this passage we could clearly see the effect of bereavement.

Jer 52:11 Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

He blinded him there. Keep in mind now though he is blind physically he still has etched upon his mind the death of his sons that was done right in front of him. That was cruel. That is really cruel. The Chaldeans were noted for that. They were not the Middle Eastern version of the welcome wagon.

After they put his eyes out they bound him in chains. They tethered him to an immovable object until the day he died. So there he sets. Once proud, defiant Zedekiah, who rebels against Babylon, he spends his last days in darkness and misery and abject confinement. There you see the fruit of that unjustified resistance to divinely ordained order.

Therefore, as we move forward in our Sunday school class with this theme, this is just an awesome thing making preparation and challenging. It is hard rending. Be sure, at all times be sure, that the framework of any resistance or civil disobedience is fixed honestly and transparently upon Acts 5:29. I would for your own personal viewing suggest you take into consideration Daniel 3:17 – 18, 6: 8, 10. Be sure you check that Scripture is shedding light upon Scripture.

Act 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Now this comes back to the original question, is it justified with the ideal? Is it apparent? No it is not. Regarding any resistance, any civil disobedience, any grievance, any protest, that rises to the level of substance; you had better be sure that that it is fixed right upon the foundation of scriptural principle. It must be according to the Scripture being rightly divided. Many people have wound up in prison with fines, terrible fines, because they had thought they had made a scriptural case for their actions. An example would be guys who are out there who refused to pay taxes. Although they ponied up a place in the Scriptures and claimed that this is what the Bible said. There I stand. I'm not moving. I'm not paying taxes. I remember when we were at Worthington Baptist Academy that Pastor Siliban, out in Nebraska, he wanted to do good and have it out with state and federal authorities with regard to his church and Christian school. As a result what he did, after having made a suppose scriptural case for resistance regarding what was legal and foolish requests regarding the church and school. It all went into court. He lost the case. And then it set up federal precedent for every other church and school in the United States.

Thank God that over the years of the state of Pennsylvania, with we have had men skilled in such matters in the law firm of Ball and Skelly. Even in many situations where they go to court, they may win the case, but they spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to do it. So in conclusion please carefully consider words. Carefully consider actions. We must do everything we can to practice what we preach along the way.