In our family, the Fourth of July ushers in the year’s second half with watermelon, a far-flung fireworks pilgrimage and, of course, home-made ice cream. We usually gather with family and friends on the Fourth to share our best home-made ice cream and patriotic recitations, capped off by a reading of the Declaration of Independence. While we are all familiar with the famous Jeffersonian platitudes on human equality and self-evident truths, the real meat of the Declaration is found in the “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” which required our forefathers to “declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The Declaration’s rationale and sense of compulsion is remarkable for its clarity.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The modern reader would do well to pay close attention to the “history of repeated abuses and usurpations” of the late King of England by which he abolished the free System of English Laws. For the litany of his tyranny reads like it was ripped from today’s headlines. The governmental overreach that drove our forefathers to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to resist is met in our day with sighs of resignation. The Achilles Heel of any Republic is that it may easily throw off one tyrant for a more corrupt collective tyrant. As John Adams noted.
“Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Our leaders are a reflection of “we, the people.” Our rulers are not hereditary kings or vassals of some foreign power. They are our vassals. They reflect our interests and our character, good or bad. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln observed that we have a government, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” But what kind of people are we?
Nothing is more devastating to the life of a nation than for its people to live with their backs to God. Every nation has some king. While that king may not be a monarch on a throne, nations are ultimately governed by what its people seek to serve. As Judah drew near to the brink of destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, the prophet Jeremiah’s calls to turn back to the Lord fell on deaf ears. Like their forefathers in Samuel’s day, Israel had forgotten that the Lord is their only King.
Israel’s kings were not dynastic. They ruled by the assent of the people. The people were not hapless victims of tyranny. Their kings, like ours, reflected their concerns and character. Though God had graciously given them a wise and godly ruler in Josiah, their loves and lives longed for the idolatry of Manasseh.
As Jeremiah called them to turn back, they sighed, “It is hopeless, for [we] have loved [foreign gods], and after them [we] will go.” When Josiah died, the people sought out his sons, who looked more like their great-grandfather, Manasseh, than their father. Jeremiah noted that prophets, priests and rulers ruled by lies and deceit, because “my people love to have it so.” (Jeremiah 5:30)
Today, our nation is awash in anarchist fervor. The cry goes up to tear down and overthrow. But the tyranny that grips us is not the tyranny of presidents, senators, representatives, judges, governors, mayors, or police. No, the tyrant that rules our nation is “we, the people” living with our backs to a gracious and loving God. We have sought every king except the King of Kings and served every lord except the Lord of Lords. Jesus struck a nerve when he declared, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin… [but] if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36
Who rules your heart? Who reigns over your strength, mind, and soul? Where do you look for deliverance and freedom? In Jeremiah 21-23, the enemy is at the gates. God’s judgment is at hand. After forty years of resisting God’s call to repent, Judah’s king finally seeks an audience with the prophet. Zedekiah vainly hopes for a miraculous deliverance as in the days of Hezekiah.
But Jeremiah offers only the gospel. He calls out the sins of Judah’s kings, calls the people to repent, and points them to a new king – a king of righteousness, justice and peace, King Jesus. We are facing God’s judgement. We cry out for some miraculous deliverance and God offers the gospel. Repent, trust in His grace, and serve a new King. It’s time for a change. It’s time for new leadership. It’s time for a new King – King Jesus.
Join us this week as we examine Jeremiah 21-23 and consider what king we serve. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Or join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP.