DISCERNING MESSIAHS (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Rulers and Deliverers

God made Moses “a ruler and a deliverer.”  Not every ruler is a deliverer, and a deliverer might be no ruler.  In Moses, both roles were combined.

In all of this, the spiritual element should not be missed.  Moses was a natural leader on a mission from a supernatural Agency; a mortal man empowered by a Spirit: “the same did GOD SEND.”  

So, God sends.  God is not uninvolved in earthly governance.  Some are rulers from God, others are sent by men; some are deliverers sent by God, some are made by men, and others still are sent from the opposite side of God and goodness, sometimes purposefully from the altars of Ishmael.  Many a leadership, good or bad, has its unseen spiritual side.  That might also have been implied in the query with which the Hebrews confronted Moses:  “Who made thee … who sent you?”

God is not uninterested in human governance and politics, otherwise He might not have selected Saul as king, then sacked him later and replaced him with David, and thereafter preferred Solomon to Adonijah on the throne of Israel.  He is involved not only in local politics but also in global politics.  He sanctioned King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, predicted the coming of Cyrus, and rudely took one Herod off the public stage.  By the way, His title is, “King of Kings.”

Sometimes, in the Church, in civil societies, and in nations, good intentioned kingmakers have brought prolonged trouble upon a people by not distinguishing between rulers and deliverers.  They have forced thrones upon deliverers who were no rulers, and the thrones have consumed them (John 6:15; Judges 8:22-23; 9:8-15); or they have sent rulers into battles who were no deliverers, and the battles have swallowed them, forcing the bitter lamentation of unheeded prophets.  King Josiah the mighty revivalist of Judah was one great ruler consumed while trying to also be a deliverer in a battle into which he conceitedly and stubbornly sent himself (2 Chronicles 35:20-26).

A ruler is someone that has civil authority over a people and a space, for example, a king, a chief, a governor, a pastor, the head of an institution, a father (1 Timothy 3:4; Genesis 41:43; 43:16; Judges 9:30; 2 Samuel 6:21).  A judge or deliverer is a change agent, a saviour, a revolutionary, like Deborah, Jephthah, and Samson in the days when there were no kings in Israel (Judges 18:1).  About the call of Samson, for example, the mandate was clear: “and he shall begin to DELIVER Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

A ruler is an administrative head; a deliverer is a fighter, a war captain (but not necessarily a soldier in the sense of the regular uniformed army of any people).  Sometimes rulers become deliverers also, or deliverers become rulers also, or they emerge with both oils on their head.

It might be thought that Moses was first a deliverer before he was a ruler over Israel, yet Acts 7:35 reports him as RULER first, before DELIVERER.  Why?  Probably because he was already a leader in the government of Egypt, as well as during his exile in Midian, before his call to contend with the powers of Egypt and lead his people into freedom.  Ancient history has the records.

Some are called specifically as rulers; others are called strictly as deliverers (judges); some, still, could have both roles in their mandate, like Moses, who was both “a ruler and a deliverer.”  When kingmakers are more sentimental than they are discerning of these roles, they might ordain good men, but good men who are tragically unfit for the role – like proverbial square pegs in round holes.  Also, when kingmakers are unable to tell the season that their land is in, whether it be a time to fight and free their people from bondages; or a time to build, because others have finished the wars; or a time to start fresh fights, then transit into building and rebuilding, they could ordain good men, but good men unfit for the season.

O, that in the sanctuaries where priests are raised, as well as at the gates where kings are made, the hands that hold the horn for anointing would hear them that have “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).  Amen.  Every good person is not good enough for every role.  Every fit person is not fit enough for every season.

In this season, may kingmakers seek the Lord for what their land really needs, whether a ruler, like Solomon the wise builder, to develop and establish the land, because their fathers had finished the fights and gathered the treasures for building God’s House; or a deliverer, like Gideon the warrior, to confront and conquer the enemies and prepare the land for the kings that should come thereafter; or one like David that is both ruler and deliverer (or deliverer before ruler), to fight our wars, redeem conquered territories, and establish a perpetual throne for God in the land; or like Moses, to defeat ancestral enslavers, spoil proud and powerful empires, and lead us out of bondage into promised land.  Amen.

In more contemporary history, we could speak of people like Martín Luther of the Protestant Revolution, who was a mass leader and change agent without being a pope in Rome or the emperor in Germany; like Rev Martin Luther Jnr of the Civil Rights Movement in America, who was no President yet was a mover of the masses and an unforgettable change agent; like the unarmed but fearsome Indira Ghandi of India, the people’s leader; like George Washington of America who was a military officer and leader during America’s Revolutionary War, and became that nation’s first president, towering first as deliverer, then also as ruler; like Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, who was an appreciable ruler and developer (at least more assessors now agree so) but no fighter, because he was very mindful of the blood of his people; like Nelson Mandela of South Africa who was, first, freedom fighter,  then president of his country, and many more.

Somebody might more technically prefer the word “leader” – the perfect team player, to “ruler” – the boss who give orders; but for this discussion, may we allow the concept of “ruler” as leader in time of peace, and “deliverer as leader in time of war.  May we also allow the concept-defying Moses who could straddle multiple roles.

What does your land need in this season?  A ruler? A deliverer? A deceiver? Or someone with both rulership and deliverance mandates on their head – a ruling fighter, a fighter-ruler?  May the kingmakers hear the seers.  Amen.

Gideon was a deliverer, so successful a deliverer, that the people sought to make him a ruler.  He refused, but subsequently conceded reluctantly as the people urged him on.  The tragedies that followed that choice have been unforgettable in history: national idolatry, assassinations and bloody succession bids, lingering civil strifes, many more deaths.

The Lord had said to Gideon, “Thou shalt save Israel”; in other words, you are a deliverer (Judges 6:14), but the people said to him, “Rule thou over us” (Judges 8:22).  There was thus a conflict between the mandate of the Lord and the mandate of the masses.  Gideon could not resist the lure of power, or the pressure of the people.  His children became casualties of his undiscerning choice.  The kingmakers had been sincere.  Their motive had been good, but it was not God.  That something is good does not always mean that it is of God (John 6:15), and the majority might not always be right.

When a people miss their messiah, they often prolong their enslavement, until another generation when he reappears.  When Moses’ people first refused him in the streets of Goshen, it was not until forty agonizing years later that his voice was heard again on behalf of their freedom, in the palace of Pharaoh.  When Jerusalem could not discern their season and their messiah, it provoked the bitter millennial lamentation of Jesus:

42 … If thou hadst known, even thou, at least IN THIS THY DAY, the things which belong unto THY PEACE! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 

 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 

 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; BECAUSE THOU KNEWEST NOT THE TIME OF THY VISITATION (Luke 19:42-44)

That would appear to be the Master’s second and final cry over that land and its very religious but blind and stubborn people; a people who had all the prophets, but always killed their own.  The same writer had recorded an earlier, more chilling and sobering lamentation over the same city:

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and YE WOULD NOT! 

35 Behold, YOUR HOUSE IS LEFT UNTO YOU DESOLATE: and verily I say unto you, YE SHALL NOT SEE ME, UNTIL the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Luke 13:34-35).

In the words of an Old Testament prophet, it might have been said of Jerusalem (maybe not of your land), “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).  In these darkening days, may that be nobody’s lamentation for missing their season and their messiah.  Amen.

From The Preacher’s diary, 

December 29, 2022.

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