Besides being Bible characters, what do Pharaoh, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jehoshaphat, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehoram, Jehu, Joash, Hezekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazar, Darius, Caesar, Xerxes, Herod, Antipas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Cornelius, Felix, Festus and Agrippa have in common?
Give up? This is a short list of political rulers or public officials in the Bible who were directly confronted or counseled by great men and women of God. Many of them got their personal morality challenged.
What do Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Deborah, Samuel, Nathan, Shemaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah-son of Jehoiada, Daniel, Esther, Jesus, John the Baptist, Stephen, Peter and Paul have in common?
Answer: They are among the many Bible heroes who confronted or served political rulers or public officials. Many suffered for their courage and some were slain by political authorities.
Honor is owed to such humble heroes as Job, Hannah, Ruth, Mary, Timothy, Titus and countless others who bravely performed less public roles. But when I hear people say that Christian leaders should avoid public moral and political conflict, I wonder if they have read the Bible. Here are a few agents of truth God inspired to confront moral and/or political concerns, often at great cost:
confronted Pharaoh, the most powerful politician on earth, under God’s charge to boldly demand, “Let my people go!” (Exodus 8:1).
bravely called King David on the carpet for his adultery, deception and conspiracy to rub out the loyal husband of the woman David impregnated (2 Samuel 12). David could have rubbed Nathan out for confronting him with the truth but Nathan didn’t care. He did his job undaunted.
with Isaiah’s counsel and much prayer, held firm under the threat of a huge Assyrian army whose general tried to undermine Hezekiah’s confidence and break down the morale of the last remaining Israelites (Isaiah 36-38).
bluntly confronted King Ahab three times, and King Ahaziah and Jehoram at least once. Each confrontation carried serious condemnation for the evil influence each king put into play with their political power.
bravely confronted King Xerxes (her husband) knowing that it would put her life on the line. She said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). She took the necessary political steps to reveal Haman’s evil plot to destroy her people. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and guardian, also boldly refused to bow down to the haughty politician Haman (Esther 2:3).
showed moral courage as a man of God throughout his public service in the Babylonian political court. When the Medo-Persians rose to power, he became a top Persian politician and administrator. His competence in this governmental role inspired the jealousy of his fellow administrators who managed to get Daniel thrown to the lions (Daniel 6).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego
bravely defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to bow down and worship a golden image in Babylon (Daniel 3). Trusting in God, they enraged the king so much he had them thrown into a fiery furnace.
Nehemiah and Ezra’s
teamwork illustrates the political nature of religious leadership in Bible times. Both governor and priest were outraged that previous kings, leaders, and priests had not kept God’s law (Nehemiah 9:34).
The list would seem endless if I illustrated the political courage of all the prophets who proclaimed God’s word in rebellious and wicked times, challenging public sin and sin-pushers.
John the Baptist
fearlessly blasted Herod Antipas for stealing his brother’s wife, and for “all the wicked things which Herod had done.” (Luke 3:19). For his undaunted bravery, John lost his head.
described his generation as “evil and adulterous” (Matthew 12:39 and 16:4). Yet, he wept with compassion for them (Luke 19:41-42). He engaged in local political conflict by standing up to the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees in his theocratic culture. Jesus defined marriage as a union God joins together as two (male and female) becoming one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6) and commented on controversies related to divorce laws. Moral and political conflict was a huge component of Jesus’ earthly ministry and it got him killed.
had the moral courage, while on trial in the face of false witnesses, to boldly confront the Sanhedrin, the center of local political and religious power and they killed him (Acts 7).
boldly charged audiences in Jerusalem with putting the Lord Jesus to death (Acts 2:35; 3:14-15; and 5:31) and boldly disobeyed strict orders from local religious politicians (the Sanhedrin) to stop. He explained, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).
faced tremendous pressure to back down from his faith but never did. A Pharisee turned missionary, he confronted a hostile Sanhedrin and a high priest described as “the ruler” of the people (Acts 23:5). As a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), he went on to confront a Roman procurator named Felix with the gospel. Then, he stood before the Roman governor Festus and found it necessary to appeal to Caesar Himself (Acts 25:11). Paul also worked to raise funds to relive poverty. Later, he advised Timothy to pray for kings and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Jesus identified His followers as “salt” because he expected them to be sprinkled into the mix of real life on earth, including arenas involving art, culture, entertainment and politics. The gospel is not primarily political but it should be brought to bear for the good in any human realm, public and private. Political conflict may not be your calling but it is biblical.