This past week when I read the following statement in the gospel of John, I was stunned – even though I had read it before. How could God’s chosen people of faith make such a statement concerning any false god?
“So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests [the top religious leaders] answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”
What a tragic confession coming from the leaders of the very people through whom God said He wanted to “bless the nations of the earth.”
With God’s gift of free choice given to each person, people too often choose wrong. God created human beings in His own image, and in the Garden of Eden instructed them to be the caretakers of the bountiful land. Adam and Eve quickly confirmed that all of us wander from the shadow, the shelter of our heavenly Father and the watch care of the Shepherd. Deceived by the serpent, Adam and Eve believed they would actually be wiser and have more knowledge if they disobeyed God and followed the deceiver’s advice. Rebellion set in! Cain killed Abel, and evil prevailed to the point that only the ark of God’s safety built by Noah could preserve life as we know it. Jesus today is that trustworthy ark of safety and security.
The Old Testament journey reveals the results of jealous brothers casting their younger brother Joseph into the pit. He ends up a servant to Pharaoh, demonstrating how God can use what others intended for evil for good. This Old Testament type of Christ counseled Pharaoh and told him how to survive the coming famine. Even the brothers that betrayed him became the recipients of Pharaoh following the counsel that comes only from above. God used Joseph to advise the ruler, avoiding total devastation. But ultimately God’s own chosen people, Israel, sold themselves into Egyptian bondage by foolishly trusting a source other than God (Pharaoh) and they were trapped as slaves.
Even in our day when government is presented or perceived as provident – the provider, the hope – the people will become its slaves. Paul reminds the New Testament believers in 1 Corinthians 10 the things that happened to Israel serve “as an example to us” and that we must “flee from idolatry.” Our trust must be in God. His wisdom is necessary for sound leadership and decisions.
When the plight and pain of Israel became so intense from Egyptian bondage, they cried out for a deliverer. God raised up Moses who led them out, parted the Red Sea, and headed for the Promised Land that God said flowed with abundant blessings and prosperity. After leaving Egypt, witnessing miracles, following the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, they rebelled against God. Out of fear, many wanted to return to Egypt and in unbelief they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Ultimately the only ones who entered into the blessings of the Promised Land were those who believed God and trusted Him for every victory.
Sadly, once they entered the land and received from God all He promised, they again turned away and began to worship idols and desired to become like godless nations. The people asked Gideon or his sons to become their king. Gideon declared, “No, the Lord is your King!” Later they complained to Samuel saying, “We want a king!” When God relented and allowed a human king, He told them how he was to lead. The people rejected God’s ideas and said, “We want a king like the nations of the world.” They got them, and suffered greatly for it. The major and minor prophets continually called them to return to God, trust Him and stop seeking the shadow of Pharaoh or Egypt, along with anything mere men could offer. The story of oppression continued throughout the Old Testament and Jews were subjects of the Roman Empire when the high priests made the awful confession found in John 19:15. Many in present day America desire to be like other nations – God, forbid it, please!
Consider briefly America’s birth. Under the weight of God’s Kingdom influence, our nation was founded by people who wanted to be free. They didn’t want the horrible monarchy and tyrant kings that had crushed free men and families for centuries. Thomas Payne, rumored to be an atheist, helped inspire the revolution that led to the birth of our nation, signing the Declaration of Independence and ultimately the Constitution. Any sound thinker who seriously considers unshakable truth can recognize it! Payne described the powers that prevailed in Europe as “interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men who cannot see; prejudiced men who will not see; and a certain set of moderate men who think better of the European world than it deserves; and this last class by an ill-judged deliberation will be the cause of more calamities to this continent than all the other three.”
Payne knew that governments established by mere men without truth and a sound foundation are doomed to fail. He said to those who asked, “Who is king of America? I will tell you friend, He reigns above and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal brute of Britain! Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter. Let it be brought forth and placed on the divine law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon by which the world may know that so far as we approve of the monarchy that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries, the law ought to be king and there ought to be no other.”
Our founders established this nation as a constitutional republic. The founders understood the danger of a mere majority foolishly changing direction on a whim or a sudden urge. We were to be a people bound by the Constitution. They established a sound foundation upon which free people could build and live. Our founders believed this nation and the freedoms we have can only be maintained by people who are responsible and live under control. This nation will only be secure if we live as a nation under the influence of truth, for it is truth that makes us free. Jesus did say, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and Paul said that we are to submit to authority. But neither Jesus nor Paul for one moment endorsed or embraced what the coins forged by Rome stated, claiming Caesar to be divine. No one understood the Divine better than Jesus. He was “God with us.” He is “the Son of God” and ever lives at this moment to “make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.” He still longs to be our Shepherd. God continually invites us into the shelter and shadow of His presence.
Far too many Americans have made Caesar or some other source their god. They depend on it and look to it as their hope. What a tragic mistake. Perhaps more tragic is the fact that many professing Christians are also looking to the wrong source and too many pulpits are silent in pointing us to God as our source – our certain help and our hope. The Manhattan Declaration which I signed closes affirming that we must “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but never render unto Caesar what is God’s.”
Consider again what the High Priests (the big religious leaders) had to say concerning Jesus when Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your king?” Their answer, “We have no king but Caesar.” They chose to trust a godless empirical government rather than God.
He was asking the very people God had referred to as the family of faith through whom He wanted to bless the nations of the world. These were people He said would be so blessed as a nation they would not have to borrow, but would lend to others. (Not to imply that borrowing was wrong or He never would have told His people they would be blessed to lend.) God teaches those who trust Him that they are not live in bondage to debt or any idolatrous power on this planet.
Many national leaders have led America to borrow even from those who have pledged to overthrow freedom as we know it while denying the existence of God and mocking biblical truth. As Christians, we should be witnesses to all people, while refusing to be owned or controlled by them. We must not trust Caesar or any earthy power as our source. There is but one who is Provident and that’s who our founders referred to as “Divine Providence” and declared our rights as given by “nature’s law” and “nature’s God.”
In our present day, just as when Pilate asked the people and religious leaders if they wanted him to crucify and do away with their King, many seem to be answering as the High Priests did: “We have no king but Caesar,” who represents the god of this world. I must ask, have we allowed our leaders, much of the media, the entertainment community, and greed driven manipulators to determine our king? Will we begin to stamp on our currency “In Gov We Trust” and declare we are looking to “the hill” rather than the “hills whence cometh our help.” Or will believers encourage people to focus on God and His will holding to a foundation and principles that even an atheist and deists recognize as solid ground? May God forgive any priest, preacher, pastor or American who would imply that Caesar is king.
In the face of foolishness and out of control government, I see hope arising! There is the dawning of a new day and the light of God’s glory is coming! I have been in ministry for nearly 50 years and I am witnessing more truly Christ-honoring churches, the greatest expressions of Christian faith and confidence in God with genuine love for their neighbors and those who suffer. I am seeing the strongest desire for true believers to come together in spiritual unity as a mighty army that literally overpowers the influences of deception, division and destruction. I am confident and convinced we are about to see people stand up and become that light that refuses to be covered, will not compromise and will not be conformed to this world.
My heart leaps with joy at the hope God has placed before us if those who know the truth will refuse any message that points to Caesar or any other source as our hope. We must have government of the people resting “on His shoulders”. This suggests that sound thinking, unshakable truth and principles will be carried on the shoulders of godly people, not those who pretend to be righteous, but those who truly “love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and love their neighbor as themselves.” The local churches and pastors are the best way to share the necessary transforming truth and encourage sound thinking within our local communities inspiring citizens to accept personal responsibility.
The federal government although necessary for law and order must never be America’s king. Out of control government masquerading as God consumes the productivity and opportunity created by the people. Paul declared truth to the Philippian Christians when he said, “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” This is a God grant, not a Gov grant. May each of us respond to the challenge of Joshua in the Old Testament by answering as he did: “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Transformed people who trust God and take a stand as “salt and light” can correct our course.