Labor Day weekend Americans enjoyed the holiday that annually marks the end of summer. People visited relatives, camped at the lake, watched the first college football games of the season, grilled hamburgers. But Kim Davis spent the weekend in jail. Davis is a Democrat, an elected official in Kentucky, the Rowan County clerk. She refused to put her name on a marriage license demanded by a same-sex couple.
Kim Davis has received little support from politicians and pundits—even from those claiming to be politically conservative. Mark Davis (no relation to Kim) has a morning talk show on AM 660 in Dallas. He thinks of himself as a committed Christian. And he says that it is a county clerk’s sworn duty to uphold the law. She is “an instrument of the state.” If she cannot conscientiously perform her job, then she should resign.
We Want a King
Samuel was the last judge of Israel. His sons were perverting justice and taking bribes: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations'” (1 Sam. 8:4-5).
Samuel felt sick at heart when Israel asked for a king. He prayed about it. God told him to honor the people’s demand. Samuel was not to take the wish for a king personally. God said, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam. 8:7).
Samuel warned the people that the institution of a monarchy would bring pain. The king would take their sons to fight his battles, farm his fields, and forge his implements of war. The king would take their daughters to cook and bake for the royal table. The king would take their best property and give it to his supporters. The king would impose a 10% tax on livestock. The Bible says that “the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles'” (1 Sam. 8:19-20).
The kingship of Saul, Israel’s first monarch, was more painful than even Samuel envisioned. Young Saul was tall, handsome, and humble. But over time he became arrogant, sullen, and resentful. He hated and envied David. When Saul learned that Ahimelech the priest had helped David, “the king said to the guard who stood about him, ‘Turn and kill the priests of the Lord; because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled, and did not disclose it to me'” (1 Sam. 22:17). The king’s word was law. His authority was absolute. What was the guard to do? What would you have done?
The founders of our own country expressly rejected the British Crown. In the Declaration of Independence, they maintained that governments derived “their just powers from the consent of the governed” and accused King George III of “repeated injuries and usurpations” and “absolute tyranny.” And so the U.S. has no king in royal robes sitting on a throne in the District of Columbia. No, we have nine Justices in black robes sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court in Washington.
Kim Davis went to jail (and may go again) because she refused to uphold the “law.” What law? Was it the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton? Was it the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Kentucky that received 75% of the vote?
What “law” did Kim Davis refuse to honor? It was the word of the Court that takes the adjective “Supreme” far more seriously than our Founding Fathers would have approved of. Our black-robed Justices have dispensed with “the consent of the governed,” and most people don’t care: Appoint for us a king. The U.S. Supreme Court is a de facto monarchy. So now what?
We Have a King
[Note: The principal source for the following exposition is the Expository Notes of Thomas Constable.]
King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people of Judah into Babylonian captivity. The Bible says that he “made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon” (Dan. 3:1). Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, was the ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire from 605-562 BC. “Dura” was an Aramaic word meaning “fortification.” The “image of gold” may have represented an animal, a human, or the Babylonian god Nabu (god of wisdom and writing).
The king “sent to assemble the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image” (Dan. 3:2). These officials were political and military. The Hebrew men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among these officials.
The herald made a proclamation: “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:4-6). Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t demanding the establishment of an exclusive new religion. His officials were free to worship their own gods as before. The worship of the image in the plain of Dura was meant to unite the officials and secure their loyalty to the throne. Refusing to worship was rejecting Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship. The officials were polytheists. The king’s demand seemed reasonable to them and posed no objection to conscience. The horn, pipe, lyre, zither, harp, and bagpipe were wind and stringed instruments. The exact nature of the furnace is unknown. Mesopotamian bas-reliefs depict smelting furnaces shaped like our old glass milk bottles. The fire was heated by bellows.
Daniel’s three friends refused to bow. The first of the Ten Commandments read: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). And the second read: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image […]; you shall not bow down to them” (vs. 4-5).
When Nebuchadnezzar learned of the Hebrews’ refusal, he warned: “If you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image which I have made, well and good; but if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace; and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan. 3:15). The king’s offer of clemency (“well and good”) seems insincere. He was a man of furious temper. But there was one thing the king was completely serious about. “Who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” The king was claiming to be greater than any god. Isn’t this the position of our own supremely arrogant Court? The Justices who handed down the Oberg fell v. Ferguson decision put their own opinion above the moral law of God Almighty and labeled us as bigots for listening to his Word.
What were the Hebrews to do? They were on the job. They were government officials. Worshiping the image was the “law.”
Daniel’s three friends replied to Nebuchadnezzar, “We have no need to answer you in this matter'” (Dan. 3:16). This was a beautiful response. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were respectful but firm. Their position was not negotiable.
Do you remember King’s Saul’s guard? He ordered his men to murder the priests of the Lord. But the king’s servants “would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord. Then the king said to Doeg, ‘You turn and fall upon the priests.’ And Doeg the Edomite turned and fell upon the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod” (1 Sam. 22:17-18). Was Doeg culpable for the slaughter of these 85 men, their wives, and their children? Or was he merely “an instrument of the state”?
On his radio show on Wednesday morning (September 9, 2015), Mark Davis said that the Rowan County clerk in Kentucky was scripturally right. He was emphatic about that. But Kim Davis was not “in church.” This comment goes to the very heart of the issue for people of unwavering conviction. True disciples of Jesus don’t put on and take off “church” as if faith were a suit and tie or a Sunday dress.
The Bible says, “Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). I will never speak disrespectfully to government officials. I will never refuse to pay taxes. But I am not an instrument of the state. I obeyed the Gospel in 1975. I have presented myself to God to be used for his purposes. His moral law stands above any human legislation or court decision.