Forms of government in the Bible

In today’s highly charged political atmosphere, I have read all kinds of posts by Christians. Some favor one kind of government and some another. A few were outright nasty, and some were looking for an argument. It’s their right, of course, to express opinions and to differ. I personally think many could use an infusion of kindness and grace. But, that’s not what this post is about.

What does the Bible say about governments?

Which forms of government are found in the Bible? When I started brainstorming, I was surprised. Maybe you will be, too.

Theocracy = God rules. Actually, God always rules. Since the beginning, God has ordered the world. He created both the world and man and set His rules in place. Man disobeyed, but God kept ruling. When Israel was in the wilderness, ultimately God ruled. In the New Testament also, God ruled. Today, God rules. One of the most comforting concepts in my life is that God is ultimately in control. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations (Psalm 145:13).

Strong leader = One leader rules. Throughout history, God ordained strong leaders for His people. Some did wrong, but they led Israel. Examples include: Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and good and bad kings. In the New Testament, we don’t see a governmental structure like this until the millennium, when Jesus reigns (Revelation 20:1-6).

Monarchy = One family rules. The longest ruling monarchy in Israel was David’s, through sons and briefly, one mother, all the way up to the Babylonian captivity (993 BC-586 BC). Ultimately, Jesus, a descendant of David, will complete this monarchy’s rule as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

Representative = Representatives of the people rule. Moses needed helpers, and his father-in-law wisely suggested representatives for groups of people. (Exodus 18:17-22). Later, God gave judges to the people.

Direct democracy = The people vote. We don’t see this much in Scripture. Joshua asked the people to choose whether to obey God or serve idols. Their answer: And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey (Joshua 24:24). Gideon had an army of 30,000 men to go against the Midianites. He told them that anyone who was afraid could leave. Twenty thousand left (Judges 7:3). In this case, God later whittled the minority down to three hundred men, and He got the glory for the miraculous victory.

Communism = Everything is shared equally. Communism was tried in Acts 2:44-45, due to great persecution and financial need in the church at Jerusalem. Christians pooled their money, food, and goods. This system didn’t work for very long because of greed. Remember Ananias and Saphira, who told the disciples they were giving everything, but they held money back for themselves? (Acts 5:1-10) Their deaths were the beginning of the end for this form of government in the Bible.

I don’t know where you live or what form of government you live under, but wherever it is, the Bible is true. Let’s read some encouraging verses about governments.

  • Hezekiah prayed, Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth (2 Kings 19:15b).
  • The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1).
  • Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (Romans 13:1-7).

What’s my take-away from this little study?

The Lord is in control. This doesn’t mean that we fold our arms and don’t vote or that we shouldn’t be active in political affairs. It means, rather, that God works in governments. There’s no need to panic. We can rest in His sovereignty.

God’s purposes will be done on the earth.

Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah (Psalm 68:32).

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15).

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