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The Men of Issachar

Barry Sheets

As the men of Issachar, who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do,” those who hold to the sovereignty of God in all of human affairs should strive to be so informed and ready to offer counsel and direction.

However, oftentimes we who have been called to be salt and light to a dying world, messengers of the gospel of hope and the victorious reign of Christ over all, accept a premise that leaves a vacuum in a significant area of life.

The premise is that in the public square, that nexus of civil government, law, family and social policy, business and commerce, all viewpoints should be and are equally valid, except the one which holds to an absolute standard of truth and an exclusive claim to the control of all areas of life. Any promotion of such an “intolerant” view is tantamount to treason against the prevailing orthodoxy of political and social pluralism.

The spirit of pluralism, a philosophy that holds that no absolute standard exists and that all (well, almost all) viewpoints have equal political and ethical validity, encompasses and is the accepted ethos of our culture. Given, as Henry Van Til observed, that culture is religion externalized, it can then be seen that pluralism has had a significant impact in our various levels and jurisdictions of government.

However, it has not always been so, and is not a permanent situation which people of faith should expect to endure silently and with resignation. In fact, with a commitment to the unwavering principles of God’s commands and a vision for the advancement of His claims of righteous ownership over our political and governmental spheres, we can and will see the unfolding of the blessings promised to the nation whose God is the Lord. II Chronicles 7:14 states “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land.”

Seeking God’s face, i.e. searching his revealed revelation in the Bible for the application to our lives and endeavors, is a high calling and necessary ingredient for Godly governance. Daniel Webster, noted statesman of the 19th century stated the axiom well: “God intends for you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God…If citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupt.”

In the American system of representative governance (which is directly taken from the Biblical framework found in Exodus 18), citizens have a right, in essence a duty under God to choose their “rulers” (elected officials). These should be officials who hold to, who promote the standards of faith and practice that are mandated and/or derived from Scripture. Scripture also clearly gives a charge, scope and limitation of the authority and reach of that Divinely-established polity, especially in the book of Romans.

Contrary to some views, the concept of social and political pluralism was rejected by the framers of our Constitution. Although not expressly Christian in content, the Constitution of the United States was built upon the principled framework of governance given in the Bible to the nation of Israel, with rulers over tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands, and with separate executive, judicial and legislative spheres (review the structure found in Deuteronomy 16:18 – 17:20; Isaiah 33:22).

Even in our own state of Ohio, in the Congressional Land Ordinance of 1785 establishing what would then become the Northwest Territory, one 640 acre plot in each township was set aside as “Ministry lands,” and Ohio is the only state in the union to carry this over upon becoming a state. Although respecting a clear (and Biblically based) true separation of (institutional) church and (legitimate) state, honor was given to the high place of religion in the life of the people, the culture and the society.

Let us carry, through our individual efforts in the public square, and through the work of the Institute for Principled Policy, the standard raised by our forefathers and expressed by Dutch theologian and former Norweigian Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper: “One desire has been the ruling passion of my life. One high motive has acted like a spur upon my mind and soul….It is this: That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.”


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