Friday, March 9, 2012

The Godly King Asa and Voting Ethics

Far from enabling idolatry to thrive
during his reign, Asa is commended
for tearing down the infrastructure
of idolatry and enforcing the penal
sanctions of God's Law.
by Caleb Hayden 
Biblical Soteriology

"And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father"  (I Kings 15:11).

"And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God"          
(II Chronicles 14:2).

God's Word commends Asa as a godly King of Judah. His life and service can serve as a pattern for modern civil magistrates who desire to seek after the Lord.

I have recently seen and heard Christians make serious arguments about voting ethics from the life of Asa. While praising Asa, Scripture also seems to indicate a serious flaw in his reign. Therefore, the argument goes, we are at liberty to endorse, support, and vote for a political candidate whom we know to be seriously flawed in light of biblical standards.

The controversy stems from this verse: "But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the LORD all his days" (I Kings 15:14). To add to the difficulty, a different account of Asa records: "For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him" (II Chronicles 14:3-5).

How do we reconcile the seeming contradiction between these verses? We are told that the high places were not removed, yet Asa took away the high places -- indeed, out of all the cities of Judah.

Some might view this as a contradiction, but this explanation is unacceptable to the serious Bible-believing Christian. Furthermore, there is an excellent reason to reject this theory based on historical and textual considerations.

The 18th-century commentator John Gill writes that the high places referred to in I Kings 15:14 "... had been used for the worship of God, before the temple was built, which yet now should have been removed, since sacrifice was now only to be offered there; but he might think they were still lawful, or the people had such an opinion of them, that it was difficult and dangerous to attempt to remove them; otherwise high places for idolatry were removed by him, 2 Chronicles 14:3."

The modern preacher and writer Brian Schwertley provides a similar analysis in his message on "The Reformation of Asa." The high places that Asa left up were not used for sacrifices to false gods, although Scripture indicates that they also should have been removed.

Far from enabling idolatry to thrive during his reign, Asa is commended for tearing down the infrastructure of idolatry and enforcing the penal sanctions of God's Law upon those who practiced this and other grievous sins. As an imperfect analogy, we could compare Asa's actions to a modern civil magistrate who strives to enforce God's Law but tolerates biblically problematic modes of worship toward the one true God (though not toward idols).

Deuteronomy 17 addresses some of God's requirements for a godly king: 
"And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel" (vs. 18-20). 
From this and many other passages of Scripture, we see that a godly leader -- whether in the family, church, or civil government -- loves God's Law and reads it everyday. He seeks to walk in the fear of God and apply God's Law, not just in his "personal life," but in all his duties as God's minister (see Romans 13:4). He meets resistance from God-haters who want the civil magistrate to leave them alone -- from those who claim that they're not, after all, forcing their lifestyles on anyone else.

May we be encouraged to seek out for elected office godly men who know and affirm God's Law as their standard. Our increasingly desperate times call for correspondingly faithful and consistently biblical responses from those of us who name the great name of Christ our Savior.


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