by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario, Canada, February 2006


On Monday February 6, 2006 Stephen Harper was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Canada. Here is some wisdom for him valued by both Jews and Christians from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs :

When King Solomon was young he was known as the wisest man who had ever lived. Later in life he became stupid by marrying hundreds of foreign wives. But before things went so badly wrong his observations about good and bad politics are astonishingly relevant for us. This is what he wrote in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs three thousand years ago:

Politics is one branch of human wisdom "For gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice and fairness" (1:3). God’s wisdom is available for leaders in every branch of society. "I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just" (8:14,15).

This kind of wisdom is ours for the asking. "I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you" (1:23). "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously" (James 1:5).

A nation is made up of cities with the villages around them. And the happiness of each area depends on the quality of the citizens. "When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is jubilation" (11:10). Every one of us influences the political situation by the way we pray and the way we use our tongues to bless or create confusion. "By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (11:11, see 16:13).

Whether we are ruled by a monarchy, a dictatorship, or some form of republican government, a leader is needed to make decisions. He or she can ruin a country or make it prosperous. The key is listening to the advice of others. "Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in the abundance of counselors, there is safety" (11:14, see 24:6). "Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed" (15:22; 24:6).

When religion is taken over for evil purposes, God removes his hand of blessing, but the prayer of honest people has a huge influence for good. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD but the prayer of the upright is his delight" (15:8; 21:27). "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice" (21:3).

A nation will enjoy peace and prosperity whenever God is pleased with its social life. "When the ways of people please the LORD, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them" (16:7).

Hearing both sides of a case is at the heart of justice. "The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines" (18:17).

"The wicked accept a concealed bribe to pervert the ways of justice" (17:23). Which is why the prevention of bribery in high places is a supreme priority. "A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor; but one who hates unjust gain will enjoy a long life" (28:16).

A basic need is for a country’s weights, measures, and accounting to be exact instead of giving opportunity for fraud. "Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD (20:10, 23).

The police and judicial system must be known to be fair. "When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers" (21:15).

Similarly the system of land titles and property rights must protect the weakest members of society. "Do not remove an ancient landmark or encroach on the fields of orphans" (23:10). And when the poor are oppressed a country needs those who will defend their cause. "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy" (31:8-9).

Jesus told us to love our enemies. But a thousand years before that King Solomon had concluded that enemies must be treated with respect. "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall" (24:17). "If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink" (25:21). This principle has been enshrined in the Geneva Convention. Soldiers are allowed to fight, but as soon as enemy troops hold up their hands or run up a white flag prisoners must be given proper food, shelter, and medical treatment.

Excessive taxation ruins a nation. "By justice a king gives stability to the land, but one who makes heavy exactions ruins it" (29:4).

So among his proverbs King Solomon collected this list of characteristics of good and bad government. Evidently politics has hardly changed in three thousand years. These principles are the foundation of what we view as modern civilization.

The Book of Proverbs enable us to notice the main causes of the happiness or misery of nations in our modern world. It also encourages us to pray, and exercise our influence in directions that really make a difference in our world. When people are oppressed we can use these principles to understand what is causing a nation’s misery. And when we vote we know what to look for in the agenda of each candidate.

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