Saturday, October 27, 2018

What Does the Bible Say about Electing Leaders?

Photo by Mary Ann Reitano 2008
This may seem like a strange question with a very short answer, because in Bible times, there were no nations governed by democratic choice. God Himself was the only authority over Adam and Eve; later He appointed Noah to repopulate the earth (Genesis 8:15-17) and Moses to lead His people (Exodus 3:10-22). 

The book of Judges describes how God designated various judges to govern His nations of Judah and Israel (Judges 2:16-23). Rather than following the righteous example of these judges, the people rebelled against their authority and against God Himself, worshiping false gods (Judges 2:16-23), for “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). 

Throughout the book, we see the repetitive cycle of man rebelling, followed by God judging His people. Then the people obeyed for a time, and God blessed the nation.
When a nation and its people prosper, and there is relative peace, citizens tend to believe they deserve their good fortune based on their own merits and want no part of God, just as the self-righteous sinner thinks he deserves heaven because of his own good works (Isaiah 64:6), and turns away from God’s Son.

But no man can be saved without trusting Jesus Christ Who died and was buried as the perfect sacrifice to pay for all our sins (John 1:29), and Who rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), proving that He is God and giving eternal life (John 3:16) to all who trust Him as Lord and Savior. Similarly, no nation can be blessed without seeking God’s will, obeying and honoring Him.

Samuel was not only a prophet, but also the last judge appointed by God. Thereafter, the people rebelled completely against God’s plan and demanded that they, like the other nations of the day, have a king. In effect, they were saying that they trusted an earthly king more than they trusted God, and that they rejected God’s reign over them. Through Samuel, God warned Israel of the dangers of having a king rather than judges, for a king would be tempted to use his power for his own self-interest and for that of his family, even if it meant oppressing God’s people (1 Samuel 8:4-22).

But the rebellious people did not listen, so God allowed them to have a series of kings. Thereafter, we again see the cycle of man rebelling, usually under the rule of a king who dishonored God, followed by God’s judgment. Then the people realized their need for God, at least for a while, encouraged to do so by the example of a king who honored and obeyed Him, and the nation prospered by His grace.

At times, God’s judgment on Israel was so severe that He allowed her to be brought into captivity, as in Egypt and Babylon. During New Testament times, Israel was occupied by Roman officials who ruled over cities and nations, ultimately answering to Caesar, a type of emperor. Bible history seems to indicate that God gives nations what they deserve – good rulers when the people obey him, and bad rulers when they rebel. No power can take the throne unless God ordains it (Romans 13:1), “for the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:28).

None of these rulers, even the good kings of Israel and Judah, were elected – they took power via inheriting, capturing, or overthrowing the throne. So based on Scripture, how is a Christian living in a democracy supposed to know how to vote?

First we can look at how God Himself distinguished good kings, like David and Solomon, from bad kings like Saul. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), and repented earnestly when he fell into sin (Psalm 51). Solomon’s chief desire was for wisdom to know and serve God (1 Kings 3:7-9), even though he was later led astray by alliances with pagan women (1 Kings 11:1-13). 

Saul, on the other hand, was driven by greed, pride, and ruthless ambition (1 Samuel 8 - 31; 1 Chronicles 10).  God departed from Saul and deposed him because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 28: 15-19) allowing the nation to be defeated by the Philistines and Saul to die in disgrace (1 Samuel 31). 

 King Asa was a good king, for he “did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2), including destroying places of pagan worship, and commanding Judah to seek God and followHis laws. God rewarded his faithfulness by blessing the nation with peace, which Asa used productively to build fenced cities (2 Chronicles 14:3-7). Asa cried out to God in prayer to defend Judah against the invading Ethiopians, and God honored that prayer (2 Chronicles 14:11-12). 

If we as Christians wish to honor God in our civic duty, first we will humble ourselves before Him in earnest prayer for revival that we and our nation would turn from all wicked ways, knowing that He will hear and forgive us and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14). And we must ask Him to give us wisdom as we vote, by choosing leaders who most closely align with His laws. No earthly leader obeys God perfectly, for all are men and women subject to the curse of sin (Romans 3:23).

With voting, as with any decision we face, Christians should seek God’s will, wisdom, and discernment. If we trust Him with all our heart, rather than our own understanding of personalities, political parties or economic issues, and if we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will guide our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Political issues about which Scripture illuminates God’s will include sanctity of life, support of Israel, and sanctity of marriage. God condemned infant sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21); He knew us from even before we were conceived (Psalm 139:16); He guided every step of our development in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-15); and His Spirit indwelled John the Baptist even before he was born, allowing him to recognize and rejoice over Jesus His Savior (Luke 1:41-44). 

God has promised to bless the nation that blesses Israel and to curse the nation that curses her (Genesis 12:2-3). Scriptural views on God-ordained marriage as being between one man and one woman begin with the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:21-24) and are reiterated by Jesus (Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6: 15-20; Hebrews 13:4) in the New Testament.

If we are unsure of where candidates stand on these issues, we can check their voting record online and glean their views from their websites or other media. May we continue faithful in prayer for our nation’s spiritual health, and may we give thanks that no matter who wins the election, God is still on His throne!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, October 20, 2018


One hallmark of a beautiful, expressive singing voice is vibrato, or the regular, pulsating change of pitch that gives the voice a slightly tremulous, vibrant sound. The amount of pitch variation is known as the extent of vibrato, and the speed of pitch variation as the rate of vibrato. Most instruments, particularly stringed instruments, were designed to mimic the vibrato of the human voice.

With no vibrato, the voice is perceived as a pure tone, which may be musically clean if sung at the correct pitch, yet which lacks expression, as in a computer-synthesized tone. Conversely, with too much extent and too little speed of vibrato, it degenerates into a “wobble,” sounding more like the voice tremor that becomes more apparent with aging, or like the effect of playing a warped record on an old turntable.

Some singers try to produce vibrato artificially by moving their vocal apparatus or diaphragm, but in good singers, vibrato is the natural byproduct of the breath and vibration of the vocal cords. Too little breath pressure, and the voice lacks volume as well as vibrato, and pitch often suffers. Too much breath pressure, or attempting to force the voice, results in too much volume, loss of vibrato, and a harsh or strident quality.

But when the right amount of breath passes through the vibrating vocal cords in perfect contact with one another, without the singer pushing, straining, or manipulating the mouth and neck, our natural voice resonates with the unique timbre created by God Himself, as part of His specific design for each of us since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:29-30).

When we breathe, we inspire, or take in air by allowing our lungs to inflate. It is no accident that the word “inspire,” according to Merriam-Webster, also means “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration; to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on;” and to spur on, impel, or motivate.

As born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) saved by our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Luke 11:13).

The noun “Spirit” is related to the verb “inspire,” and it is His role to lead (Luke 4:1), guide, quicken (Ephesians 2:1-5), educate (John 14:26), empower (Acts 2:4) and motivate us to greater love for and knowledge of our Savior (1 Corinthians 2:13; 12:3), as well as to better obedience and service in accordance with His perfect plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Holy Spirit is intimately connected with breath, or moving air, for it was He Who moved across the waters in creation (Genesis 1:2), and Who came to the waiting apostles at Pentecost as a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2). With the other two Persons of the Trinity, the Spirit “formed man of the dust of the ground, and,breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Jesus compared the work of the Spirit in salvation to that of the wind – we can see His effect on the believer, even though we can’t see Him directly or see where He came from (John 3:8).

Singing is one of the most difficult arts to master, because we can’t see our voice or how our vocal cords and apparatus work together to produce sound, and we therefore can’t learn much from visual feedback, at least not to the extent we can in dance, painting or sculpting.

Whether in singing or in life, we can glorify God only by yielding to His Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). We must allow our being to be filled with His presence as naturally as we allow our lungs to fill with air. If we push or strain, we are exerting our own will against His natural flow, just as oversinging leads to harshness rather than beauty.

The singer must open the throat by elevating the soft palate, allowing the sound to fill the larger space thus created and to resonate in spaces of the head most suited to the pitch of the note, with higher pitches placed higher in the head.  To allow fulfillment of the Spirit’s plan for our life, we must also allow Him space, not cluttering our being with distractions (Hebrews 12:1), and we must allow Him to take our thoughts to a higher plane (Ephesians 1:3,20; 2:6; Philippians 4:8).

For optimal vibrato and sound quality, singers are taught to breathe deeply yet naturally; to avoid distorting the column of vibrating air by adding muscular tension from the torso, neck or head; and to allow the breath to grow through the musical phrase, creating a smooth line rather than a disjointed group of notes.

Similarly, yielding to the Holy Spirit, staying out of His way by not imposing on Him the desires of our will or flesh (Romans 7:14-25), and following His lead through each song of our life will enhance not only our own peace (Philippians 4:7) and joy (Isaiah 61:10), but that of all who hear us.

May we always make melody in our heart to the Lord, uplifting one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). May we sing a new song of praise to Him (Psalm 149:1; Isaiah 42:10), filled with breath and inspiration, allowing His glory to ring forth!

© 2018 Laurie Collett