Vol. 8-08 – 02-19-2023 – Leaders and Responsibilities
And the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Are you, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Then declare to her all her abominations. You shall say, thus says the Lord God: A city that sheds blood in her midst, so that her time may come, and that makes idols to defile herself, you have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. –Ezekiel 22:1-4
There is a saying that bears much truth: Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. What kind of world do we live in? Think about the leaders of North Korea, China, Iran, Russia, Argentina, and the U.S.A. Where are their leaders taking their people? This week we remember the presidents who have served our country. Actually, there are more who have served themselves rather than the nation that elected them as president.
Our text that leads into this blog issue is quite abrupt. It is God speaking. Our pastor often opens his remarks with a call to open the Scriptures to the passage of focus for the morning. Then he pauses to say: the book that you hold in your hand – be it a printed copy or an electronic copy – is unique. There is no other book in the world or in our world history that is like this book. When you open this book, the Bible, it is the words of God. It is He who is speaking. We need to hear what He has to say.
Back in Ezekiel’s time, leaders in the nation did not listen to what God had spoken. You may be surprised to discover they were only interested in themselves. How long do you think this problem has existed? It is not just in our own country; it is a problem throughout the world; throughout history.
God appointed messengers to go through the Promised Land to make sure the people and their leaders understood what was expected. He had His expectations recorded. In the form of covenants. The Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant were given to the people of Israel. At this time, Israel was divided. They had fought a civil war (not very civil). The outcome was a split nation, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah. For thousands of years, the division stood. Sad, you say. Our nation divided and fought a civil war (also not very civil).
The war officially started on March 11, 1861, lasting until April 12, 1865. Many thousands died. Sadly, the war goes on. The Confederates still disdain the Union and vice versa. No elected president from any political party has eliminated the division. Ronald Regan came the closest. No political party has served the benefit of all the people, only the interests of their political party’s philosophy. Thus, we have not done well in electing leadership. And the elected persons have not done well in their total leadership.
The book of Ezekiel, in chapter 22, divulges the sinful hearts of people, particularly as it applies to leadership. God’s prophets (appointed by God) were called upon to attack the leadership that failed to rule under God’s righteousness, His holiness, and His justice. The reason for this is that the nation never approached being righteous, holy, and just. They did not want that kind of life.
All societies and nations have leaders. Categories vary. Most citizens respond to the calls of their leaders—not all. The founding of the U.S.A., historically, has been an effort to work in harmony, willing to be together in following the examples and words of their leaders—except when?
In the Ezekiel economy there were eight categories of official leaders: 1) kings/princes, 2) government officials (including the military, 3) priests/elders, 4) prophets, 5) prominent landholders, 6) clan chieftains, 7) the wealthy, and 8) the wise. Five are mentioned in chapter 22.
- The kings/princes were excessive in their control of the people. Heavy taxation. Foreclosures. Putting people in debtors’ prisons (where most died), leaving wives widowed.
- The priests/elders were partly the responsibility of the kings/princes. Their obligation was to keep the nation pure in worship and general good behavior by teaching what the Law required, including holy living, and maintaining obedience to the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.
- Government officials were supposed to protect people; the first obligation was to establish fair order for all. Nation and community laws were established, and property regulations and rulings regarding disputes. However, their focus was on making wealth for themselves; they incurred the Lord’s wrath.
- False prophets outnumbered true prophets in Israel’s history. True prophets were often suppressed due to their messages of truth and judgment rather than messages that tickled the minds of the people. True prophets were ignored. False prophets were trusted because they said what the self-indulged people wanted to hear.
- Prominent landowners compared to the kings and officials. They used their power, wealth, and influence to gain more wealth and power. They also accumulated influence. Their positions grew at the expense of the poor, needy, and hungry who were unable to stand for themselves.
There is no indication that the people of Jerusalem/Judah were completely corrupt; however, many were. As God judged them, what people deserved, they got. Accountability is primarily individual before God. However, nations are judged as well. People that live a dedicated spiritual life also suffer in the judgments upon the nations.
The history of Judah brings us back to the observation: if a nation does not learn from history, they repeat history in ignorance or intention. While the nations are held accountable, nations are made up of people. Individuals in nations support leaders that might bring them what they want. They expect their leaders to provide—all their wants.
Not so many years ago, our county’s president-elect spoke to the nation. In his remarks, he said: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. How would that go over today? In the thinking of today’s crowd, the government is responsible for you. One politician promoted that it was the village’s responsibility to raise your children.
What can you do to help your country go back to individual responsibility? How many churches are actively helping their members recognize their responsibilities to their families and neighbors? It is not hard to find God’s instructions.
There are some who truly need help and we should not deny that help.