The present financial crisis has handed members of the world press a field day. Most current affairs journalists are having a go at both America and Europe—decrying the lack of political leadership. Why are we in this monetary mess, and what does God require of our leaders?
Wrote Fareed Zakaria in Time magazine recently: “Americans need a government that works. What the debt crisis highlighted is that Congress—the heart of today’s government—is utterly and completely broken” (“The Debt Deal’s Failure,” Aug. 15, 2011, p. 15). Alternatively, some observers blame U.S. President Barack Obama. The title of The Economist ’sLexington column labels him “an underperforming president”—the article’s drophead stating that he “allowed the Republicans to rout him over the debt ceiling” (Aug. 6, 2011).
A Sunday Telegraph article by Peter Oborne broadened out this grim picture to include European leaders, the drophead summarizing, “Washington and Europe seem powerless in the face of the economic tempest” (“In a Crisis Like This, the World’s Leaders Are Out of Their Depth,” Aug. 7, 2011). Oborne further warns, “Wake up: the eurozone is very close to collapse.”
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown blamed the euro-crisis on both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (“Brown: I Blame Merkel and Sarkozy for Financial Crisis,” The Independent on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011).
Clearly, there are myriads of magazine and newspaper articles that assign blame or report on others assigning blame and telling readers what needs to be done to restore order. Trouble is, the various observers are all over the political spectrum, as is the advice the proffer.
One British observer came closer to defining the cause of America’s financial ills. “The country is in the middle of a moral crisis,” wrote Christopher Caldwell in The Spectator (“Divided We Stand,” Aug. 6, 2011). This observation implies that we may be falling foul of absolute standards and values not of human making. It even suggests that God may be involved. That, in fact, is the proper perspective.
Divine judgment at work?
God is certainly involved in the leadership of nations. And Scripture reveals that our lack of adept leadership today may be the result of His judgment. The prophetic Word explains in Isaiah 3: “For behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah . . . the mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder; the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter” (verses 1-3).
Clearly, the various functions of skill and leadership are expressed in the terminology of that day. Competent leadership across a whole range of national fields and endeavors was to surely disappear from ancient Judah. And the same applies to our societies today. Remember that Bible prophecy is dual in nature. Prophetic fulfillments can occur more than once—the later and greater fulfillment often coming in these latter days. Our free booklet You Can Understand Bible Prophecy explains this basic principle of proper scriptural studies.
But in the nation of Judah, who wound up taking the place of professionally competent leaders? God said: “I will give children to be their princes [rulers], and babes [people sorely lacking in maturity] shall rule over them. [As a result] The people will be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor” (verses 4-5). Poor leadership adversely affects the general populace of a nation. The common people often suffer immensely when governments go wrong: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
In ancient Judah, the ruling classes either reached the point of lacking sufficient maturity to make proper decisions or lacked the courage to implement what needed to be done in spite of popular outcries. It’s the same today.
The moral causes
But why would God cause financial adversity to happen to a nation? Isaiah 3 goes on to say: “For Jerusalem stumbled and Judah is fallen, because their tongue [what they say] and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of His glory . . . And they declare their sin as Sodom [shamelessly]; they do not hide it. [Is it not the same in Western society today?] Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves” (Isaiah 3:8-9, emphasis added throughout).
Ultimately nations and individuals reap the results of their own actions. God made a moral universe in which evil brings its own tragic consequences. God’s laws are self-enforcing. This is one way our Creator points us back to right paths. Jeremiah 2:19 explains, “Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you.”
Returning to Isaiah 3, we note that God strongly rebuked the wrongs of ancient leadership: “As for my people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the ways of your paths” (verse 12). Again, these principles apply to our own day as well.
Essentials of proper leadership
The Bible identifies the type of leadership that pleases God Almighty: “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor [humble] and of a contrite [repentant] spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Our Creator desires rulers who have a healthy respect for His Word and the spiritual laws it reveals.
Moses’ father-in-law rightly instructed him on whom to appoint to lead others: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place them over them” (Exodus 18:21). Leaders should be competent as well as men of truth who fear and respect their Creator.
King David plainly relayed the words of his Creator: “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just , ruling in the fear of God’” (2 Samuel 23:3). David himself made some mistakes and on one occasion sinned very seriously. Yet according to the apostle Paul, the witness of God stands firm: “He raised up for them David as king to whom He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will’” (Acts 13:22).
David became the standard bearer for the kings of Judah and Israel who came after him. Why? “Because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5). This constitutes an overall divine judgment of David’s life.
A few kings of Judah followed his righteous ways, but most did not. Tragically, all the kings of the northern nation of Israel imitated a bad example, that of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who introduced false elements into national worship.
What God requires of leaders
Anciently God sought through the Book of the Law to strongly encourage Israel’s rulers to follow His way of life. One way was to require, as Deuteronomy 17:18 states, that the reigning king write a copy of God’s laws for himself. The next verses explain: “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes. That his heart may not be lifted up above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel” (verses 19-20). In principle, the Old Testament reinforces the importance of daily Bible reading today.
Sadly, we’re a long way from that today. Ignorance of the Bible has reached unbelievable proportions in the 21st century. In Britain leading intellectuals who appear on popular radio programs that test their general knowledge do very well—until they are asked to name the four Gospels.
The testimony of God’s Word remains clear. “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). Is this not basically true of our Western nations today?
When it comes to serious issues, our national leaders truly are out of their depth. More and more, it appears that this is the result of the curses our nations are accruing to themselves as they continue to ignore God or defy Him outright (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). Why can’t we get it right when it comes to the economy and other pressing matters? Because we refuse to get it truly right in matters of right and wrong. That is the real bottom line.
Thankfully, a day is coming when the right kind of leaders will govern not just the Western nations, but the entire planet. When Jesus Christ returns to reign, all will learn the right way to live. Blessings will mount up instead of curses. And all people everywhere will thrive.
But be warned: Things will get far worse before they get better when that new day dawns. So stay close to God. Our free booklet, Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion can help you in building a relationship with your Creator.
Even if our national leaders don’t turn to Him now, you will be blessed personally if you genuinely commit your life to Him and His ways. And you will be preparing to be the kind of leader God requires for the new society He will soon set up.