* Disclaimer in a footnote
As Christians, we struggle with what “God allows” to happen to the Isrealite nation when Isrealites separate into a north and south kingdom, and the much larger northern kingdom gets laid seige to for three years, is conquored, and most of God’s people get decimated and mostly dispersed by the Assyrians and the best and brightest picked out and relocated by the Babylonians.
The short answer is that there are consequences for not following God’s recommendations or listening to warnings. Sure. We can do what we want, but we should not blame God for the results if we don’t like them.
An example would be not studying for a test, praying to God to somehow pass it, and still failing. Another in 1 Samuel Chapter 8, despite being told that if Israel set up a political system with a king like their neighbors instead of listening to prophets, they would complain about being taxed, 1/10th of their grain would go to the king, and political rivalries would tear apart the nation, and having the Isrealite elders still asking God to appoint a king, God reluctantly did do this and allow for it to happen as it was the wishes of the Isrealite elders, but hard lessons were learned. But were they forgotten?
Seeing how often adapting to the bad practices of neighboring cultures, which God allows as a consolation, not a command, tends to eventually make way for corruption and replacement of following God’s moral code for things that bring personal satisfaction instead of harmony in the community.
Example 1: God didn’t want to establish a king. Read 1 Samuel 8, especially versus 10-20 where God tells the prophet Samuel to relay to the information back to the Isrealite elders demanding a king that if a king is established, he will take the sons of people to be commanders in his army and people will die, that a king will take a tenth of their grain, will take the best from their vineyards, cattle, donkeys, and that the people will cry out for relief, but the the elders demanded in 1 Samuel 8:19 “But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No” they said. “We want a king over us.”
Perhaps because He knew that power and cultural expectations of rulers of the day typically corrupts people. We don’t know. But the Isrealites saw their neighbors all had kings and wanted one too, so God eventually conceded and allowed Saul to be appointed King with that warning. How did that turn out? Saul turned away from God, tried to kill David after David killed Goliath as he was afraid of losing power and popular opinion to him, David gets the upper hand twice and spares Saul’s life (1 Samuel 26). Saul consults a medium to conjure up the prophet Samuel to ask what he should do as he starts loosing the kingdom (1 Samuel 28) and it works, but Samuel tells him that he disobeyed the Lord and that as punishment, many Isrealites would be captured by the Philistines and the remaining people would be commanded by David because David followed the Lord. So the consequences for several selfish mistakes of Saul are real. Eventually Saul committed suicide. (1 Samuel 30).
Example 2: Though there is debate on the topic, another is polygamy. God said that marriage is to be between a man and a wife in Genesis 2:24, but the scriptures descriptively talk about wealthy people having more than one wife. This is not to be considered prescriptive practice. We can derive that it’s something that God tolerated but didn’t condone, as it could lead to problems, but perhaps it was a way of dealing with circumstances of the time when women could not support themselves in that culture and essentially needed a man with means to take care of them.
Some problems that came out of having multiple wives were that King Solomon, despite his wisdom, accepted concubines and wives from neighboring kingdoms, and allowed them to worship their own gods. (Read 1 Kings 11 ‘Solomon’s Wives’.) Though eventually, if your wife says’ “Sure. I’ll worship your God with you, but won’t it be more fair if you worship my god with me as well?” You get into an awkward situation, which he did, and Solomon eventually ended up practicing other religions as well and fell away from favor with the Lord.
Solomon also got caught up in being a king by heavily taxing the Israelites to build Solomon’s Palace and other self-glorifying projects, something Samuel warned the elders who asked for a king would happen. The Lord punished Solomon by letting a majority of the Isrealites be conquered (1 Kings 11:13).
We wrestle today with how it appears to us, in an individualistic culture, that a group of people would be punished for the actions of one leader. Back then, communities and families had an identity, not individuals. The sins of the father were paid for by the son. This was the norm in that society. An individual could bring shame on his family. One guess is that this responsibility was in place as a way for internal correction, or a form of self-policing without paying for police.
For example, if you have a son that is mad that a bully stole his lunch and punched him, and he tells his family that he wants to kill that guy that night after supper, the family might have a bit more incentive to lock him in his room if they know that if he does go through with it, the entire family would be cut off from their friends, unable to trade at the market, unable to worship and see their friends, etc. because the whole family would be responsible for the actions of the son.
Today, in an individualistic society, we pay (and look at the rates of lawyers and court costs) for police, judges, and juries to try the individual and not the family. And in an individualistic society where we don’t live with our parents and grandparents, but rather alone or with a spouse and kids, we tend to be less close to social groups that would stop us from making rash decisions.
Self-thought: Perhaps we as a society can reflect on what we need to do to have more community responsibility. Get people to talk with each other daily and with many people to improve our social well-being, mental health, give us more purpose, and have more self-policing in place to reduce the likeliness of someone thinking it’s OK to go do something negative to the community. How many school shootings could have been prevented if those people had a loving social network and community instead of sitting alone watching negative news (as it gets higher ratings, so it keeps on getting produced) and selectively reading extreme opinions they agree with instead of getting objective feedback from their, what should be, diverse, kind social network?
A friend of mine who served in Afghanastan said that their culture still practices some familial policing, but without proper guidelines, even that can be abused if education and standards aren’t in line with a good moral code. Families have honor and a reputation, so if a member of their household does something wrong, that member is disciplined. In rare instances, families have taken it too far by our standards, such as some extemist Muslims (whose actions are absolutely not condoned by the Muslims I know in the US) by killing their daughter in what they felt was an “honor killing” when she eloped with someone her parents’ didn’t approve of.
We can argue that the US is “way better” because we have police and a more or less unified set of federal and state laws that protect against this kind of wrongdoing. Well, look at the case of Breonna Taylor who (according to at least one report whose accuracy is unknown) was in her apartment with her boyfriend, when suddenly some people in regular clothes violently broke into her house with weapons drawn, her boyfriend shot one shot as a deterrent, hitting of them in the leg, and those people breaking in fatally shot the girlfriend 8 times with over 20 shots total fired, and then arrested the black boyfriend and put him in jail for shooting a policeman when neither he nor neighbors claimed to have heard the intruders identify themselves as police. Allegedly, plain clothes police broke in on the wrong house for a drug warrant for a person who was already in police custody. As of May 21, 2020, the girlfriend who was watching TV in her apartment is dead, the boyfriend defending his girlfriend from intruders is now in prison, and there is no comment about the policemen, who seem to not have done their due diligence, who killed an innocent woman.
Both of these scenarios are extremes and do not reflect the total effectiveness that both systems do work. But in both scenarios, someone who most people agree should not be dead is. Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” It is easy to point the finger at cultures that do things differently than what we were raised with.
This is especially difficult in the United States, which, according to UK-based Business Insider, has 11 different cultures with different values and expectations. Smaller, homogenous populations and countries can have an easier time creating rules in line with the majority’s values, but the bigger and more diverse a governed population is, the tricker it can get.
Discussion point: We don’t live in a perfect society. But I’ll propose that is our moral obligation to actively make our society better. How? Well, we do have some guidelines from God. Those are a good place to start. What are some rules we can all agree with, including non-Christian people?
What are some of the issues we are dealing with as a society today?
- I’ve been reading that the US has increasingly become an oligarchy. If we don’t like that and don’t do anything to stop it, aren’t we allowing it? Inaction is consent.
- “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” source
- ” The modern United States has also been described as an oligarchy because economic elites and organized groups representing special interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” Source
- U.S. Obesity is over 40% now Source and we still perpetuate it by choosing, as a culture, to bring cookies, instead of butternut squash with pine nuts, to people’s friends and houses.
- Mental Health is not adequately addresed with people becoming less and less physically social and many choosing to not associate with people who have different opinions than them causing extreme disdain for those with different opinions instead of cooperation to work towards common goals
- You probably have better ones, and I would love to hear them.
Tangent: Should the US be criminalizing the actions of drug addicts and their suppliers to the point of deadly force? If there is no demand, there is no need for suppliers. How many people have died, unrelated victims, police, and illegal suppliers alike, because of a lack of a societal support system that ends up in despair and poor mental health, whose symptoms can be temporarily aleviated with drugs like heroin and krokodil? Whose fault is it? What do we need to do to change that in society? How can we be a positive support system and friends our neighbors? Do you know all your neighbors?
Summary: God gave us guidelines, but humans throughout history are stubborn, wanting things that may not be good for us. God still loves us, but allows for consequences. Throughout history, people have been held accountable for their leaders’ actions. So that means it is our absolute responsibility that if we choose to live in an area with a government, that we make informed descisions about who is in power and create a demand for the right kind of people, and get rid of people who abuse the power because, again, the people are accountable for the actions of the government.
These are unreviewed participant-submitted notes and thoughts quickly jotted down during Bible Study so people can get an idea about what was discussed as well as personal tangents with the objective of us better exploring the history, context, and growth of God’s people. There are going to be mistakes and statements that do not reflect the church’s, pastor’s, or people’s actual beliefs.
Bible Study is a place to ask questions, play Devil’s Advocate, and question things as that is how we learn and grow. You’re encouraged to suggest edits or update these notes for future readers, and e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org so these can get updated for future people. We absolutely invite you to be part of the learning community as we support each other.
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