Not Kings

A King is a sub-optimal option. Israel wanted a king because they had become dissatisfied with judges, because they had lost God's protection so frequently, that they wanted permanent military protection.

We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles (1 Sam 8:19,20).
The king was not a new role, but a permanent form of a temporary military role. Israel wanted a king, so they could live in permanent disobedience to God without any threat of invasion. The nations around Israel needed kings, because they did not have a decent God. A king is a testimony to lack of faith in God.

Permanent military leaders (kings) are dangerous, because they become a burden on the nation.

This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots (1 Sam 8:11-13).
Kings destroy freedom, and the people pay the price.

Justification for War

While evil remains in the world, war will sometimes be necessary.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace (Ecc 3:1,8).
The only situation where war can be justified is defending against an invading army will be defeated easily. Almost all modern conflicts fail this biblical test. Wars for freedom, to establish democracy or to topple tyrants cannot be justified. Justified wars are extremely rare.

God is the Best Defence

A community that trusts in God will be protected. God will be their defender, so they will rarely be called on to defend themselves against attack. This means that pastors and prophets who keep the people right with God are the best form of defence. Military leaders are only needed when this form of defence has failed.

Christians will find that armies have limited value. People who love God and obey his laws will generally be safe from attack, but those who turn away from God will be vulnerable to attack, no matter how large their military forces. An army that is trying to rescue people from an enemy that God has allowed to attack will be on a "hiding to nothing".

They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers. because they forsook him . In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress (Judges 2:12-15).
Military attack is a sign that a nation has slipped away from God. In that situation, the most urgent need is not defence, but to repent and get right with God. When the people call out to him, he will raise up a military leader to rescue them (Judges 2:16). Until God raises up a military leader, military activity will be a waste of energy.

Political Freedom

Defending political freedom is not a high priority for Christians. We should protect our freedom if we can, but if a large invading force attacks, surrender will generally be a better option. Losing our freedom may be better than losing a large number of lives in war. Anyway, Jesus has given us a freedom that cannot take away. Our freedom is "in Christ" so it does not depend on political rule or military power. History proves that Christianity can survive in any environment. The Church often blossoms under evil empires, so we do not need to fight wars to protect our faith. If we cannot easily defend our community against an attack, we can surrender knowing that the church will survive. It might even grow stronger.

God determines the "times set for the nations and the exact places where they should live" (Acts 17:26, cf Job 12:23, Deut 32:8). If he allows an evil empire to invade our country, there must be a reason, so we should be careful about fighting against his purpose (Jer 27:5-8). Rather than resisting the invader, we should find out why God has stopped defending us, and put things right. Until we have made peace with God, defence is a wasted effort. Christians should not support war to remove evil governments, but should leave that task to God. Prayer and preaching of the gospel can bring down an evil government from within, so wars against evil empires are not necessary. War is also dangerous, because it tends to corrupt everyone involved, including Christians. An evil government might be destroyed, but the winner will be morally weakened. The gospel is a safe and effective weapon against evil, so removing an evil government does not justify war.

The Cause of War

War is almost always caused by kings and governments.

Individuals have no interest in invading the nation next door. If they want to live in another country, they can migrate and buy a property to live on. People do not even try to take their neighbours land. If they really want their neighbour's property, they can offer a price sufficient to buy it. Ordinary people are too busy with the trials of life to be thinking about invading another country. Anyway, for most of us, there is no place like home. Businesses usually have no interest in invading another country. If a business wants to trade in another country, it can set up a subsidiary or buy assets there. Multi-national businesses have proved that they can operate all over the world without having to invade with an army.

Businesses will sometimes connive with the state to get an economic advantage or monopoly, if they can get away with it. They will sometimes try to use government power to get the assets cheap, but they can only do this if the state allows them. A business cannot force the state to go to war on its behalf. This usually happens when political leaders put their interests ahead of the needs of the people.

Almost all wars are started by governments. The reason is that politicians have a lot to gain and little to lose. Provided they win, war boosts the popularity of political leaders. The cost of the war is paid by the taxpayers and the conscripts who give their lives. Political leaders are the ones who whip up their people to hate their neighbours. They benefit from war, because it increases their power and lets them become heroes. The State is almost always the cause of war, so best defence against war is to diminish the power of kings and governments.

Return to Military Leader.