When the Wicked Rule
I recently read John Gill’s exposition of Proverbs 29: 2. When I got to the second part of the proverb, though Gill’s exposition was written 250 years ago, I thought, “This could have been an editorial in today’s paper.”
When the Righteous Rule
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” — Few have been the days in the history of the world when righteous men were in authority anywhere. Very few have held authority in the history of the world like David and Josiah. Few have been the kings, prime ministers, legislators or judges in any nation who truly feared God and led the people by example and by precept in his ways. When such men are “in power and dominion,” Gill wrote, “are set in high places, and have the exercise of civil government and the execution of the laws in their hands; for the protection of good men in their civil and religious privileges, and for the punishment of evil men; for the encouraging of all that is good, and for the discouraging of everything that is bad,” the people ruled by righteous men rejoice and have reason to continually give thanks to God for them.
When the righteous rule “the people rejoice.” The rule of righteous men spreads joy in any land. Contrary to the opinions of wicked men, it is not the righteous who are hard, over-bearing and oppressive, but the wicked. When the righteous are in authority; the whole nation benefits, the public good is advanced. Living under the government of men who seek the good of the nation, not the increase of their own wealth and power, the whole nation enjoys the advantage of it. So it was when Solomon reigned over Judah and Israel (1 Kings 4:20-21).
When the Wicked Rule
“But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” — As far as I know, there is not a nation in the world today where the wicked do not rule. Idolatry (will-worship, the idolizing of man) is rampant everywhere. When men idolize themselves, divine judgment is sure to follow (Romans 1), reflected in the rule of the wicked in every realm of society. Politicians, educators and religious leaders, united in the promotion of wickedness, calling evil good and good evil, do everything possible to overthrow the worship of God; and fornication, adultery, homosexuality, the murder of inconvenient children and moral perversity of every kind increase and are promoted.
Therefore the people mourn, groan and sigh, as Gill wrote, “under their tyranny and oppression, and because of the sad state of things; the number of good men is lessened, being cut off, or obliged to flee; wicked men and wickedness are encouraged and promoted; heavy taxes are laid upon them, and exorbitant demands made and cruelty, injustice, and arbitrary power exercised; and no man’s person and property are safe.”
Whether the righteous rule or the wicked, it is God’s doing. He puts men (and even women) in authority as he will for two purposes: (1.) To punish the wicked who despise his rule and (2.) to save his elect. Let us never imagine for a moment that the wicked rule because God has lost control of things. It is still true today, — “The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
Rather than complaining to our neighbors and to one another about the wicked the Lord has placed in authority in this day of judgment, let us pray for those very rulers, “for all who are in authority,” mourning, groaning, sighing to God as Israel did in Egypt because of the oppression of that Pharaoh “who knew not Joseph.” God will take care of Pharaoh and Egypt, disposing of them and their influence at his time, when they have fulfilled his purpose; and he will do it in such a way that they and we shall know that he did it.
You can be sure of this, too: The Lord our God, our ever-faithful, covenant keeping Jehovah, will take care of his Israel. He will save his people. He is gathering and will gather his chosen out of every corner of this Egypt, precisely at the time promised in the covenant to our great Joseph before the world began. Just as Israel came out of Egypt with a high hand, spoiling the Egyptians, carrying all the silver and gold of Egypt out with them, so Babylon and Egypt shall be spoiled in the ultimate salvation of God’s elect. That is to say, everything worth having, everything valuable and useful shall soon be taken away from the wicked and all the riches, and glory, and honor of all the kingdoms of this world shall be brought into the New Jerusalem, the City of God, the Church of Christ, for the glory of God (Revelation 21:24).
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