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06/01/2008 - Usurping Authority: Part 1



Usurping Authority

Part 1

Date: 06/01/2008

Issue No. 239

Prostitution is often referred to as “the oldest profession” by those who believe that the original sin was sexual in nature. I do not personally believe that this is what happened in the Garden. In my view, the original sin was the belief that man could overrule God’s authority and choose a course of action for himself that differed from God’s word.

Ever since that time, man has had a tendency to think that he has the right of “choice.” Some also believe that man has the ability to choose which is independent of God’s will or plan. That involves the debate between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. But that is not the issue that I intend to discuss here. It is instead the idea that man has the right to choose for himself what course of action to take and to determine for himself what is morally right and wrong.

Such thinking, in my view, is usurping the authority of God, and it is often done in the name of the God whose authority we are usurping! This is the underlying problem that lies at the root of all rebellion and disobedience against God. Over the years, as I have studied it, I have come to see that it is a major key to see it as usurping authority.

Nimrod

We often read in Scripture about men like Nimrod who usurped the rightful authority to rule the world. He appears to have been the first to raise an army and to conquer men and organize them into kingdoms. He did not have the rightful authority (under God) to do this, but the book of Jasher says that he acquired the garments (skins) that God had given to Adam, and he used these as evidence to prove that he was the rightful king of the earth.

Jasher further tells us that Nimrod received these from his father, Cush, who had acquired them from his father, Ham (J. 7:23-29). Ham had stolen these garments, Jasher says, while his father, Noah, was drunk. The story in Genesis 9 says only that Noah was drunk and undressed in his tent. Verse 22 says that “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.” Jasher gives us the further detail that Ham had actually stolen his garments and hid them for many years. Finally, he gave them to Cush, who gave them to Nimrod. Nimrod put them on when he turned twenty.

Nimrod then built Babylon as the capital city of his new empire. Shem left the area and went to Canaan, where he built the City of Salem (i.e., Jerusalem). Shem carried the Birthright from Adam, though he had been deprived of Adam’s garments—the symbol of rulership. And so we see the “tale of two cities,” Babylon and Jerusalem, the first usurping the authority of the second.

The inner heart-motive of usurping authority thus found expression in a political arena, moving from the personal to the corporate, and from individual to national. The Bible then uses the national expression of this original sin as an obvious illustration for all to see, for having moved from the heart to a national expression, it was unveiled for the whole world to see.

Shem

Shem was ruling in Jerusalem under the title of Melchizedek, “King of Righteousness,” when he met with Abram as he returned from Damascus after rescuing his nephew, Lot, in Genesis 14. Jasher tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah had revolted against the rule of Chedorlaomer, who had temporarily usurped the power from Nimrod.

In fact, we are told that Amraphel, one of the kings of the coalition forces who conquered Sodom, was in fact Nimrod himself. He had been reduced to a subservient king in those days, but he later was able to become the “king of kings” once again. But meanwhile, he was just a vassal king under Chedorlaomer when Abram beat him in battle near Damascus and set his nephew free, along with Sodom and Gomorrah.

On the return trip to Canaan, the king of Jerusalem went out to meet Abram with bread and wine (Gen. 14:18). This event apparently established Abram as Shem’s successor to receive the birthright. Abram was the tenth generation from Shem. But because Abram died before Shem, it was instead passed to Isaac.

There is no indication, however, that Isaac actually took the throne of Jerusalem. It is obvious that another usurper took the throne of that city. Some centuries later, after the children of Israel had spent time in Egypt, Moses led them into the wilderness, and Joshua led them back into Canaan. There we find Joshua fighting a war against the king of Jerusalem, who had taken the title of Adonizedek.

Adonizedek means “Lord of Righteousness.” It means the same as and is interchangeable with Melchizedek, “King of Righteousness.” Joshua 10:1 says,

1 Now it came about when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, 2 that he greatly feared . . . .

The story says that Adonizedek then called for a coalition of Canaanite kings to fight against Joshua.

The point is that this Adonizedek was using essentially the same title as Shem had used when he built Jerusalem some centuries earlier. It is another example of people usurping the throne and the birthright from those whose right it was in the sight of God.

Moses

Moses received training in Egypt for 40 years, so that he would know how to rule Egypt. But then God brought him into the wilderness of Midian to train him how to rule properly. He learned proper rulership by tending sheep for Jethro, the priest of Midian, his father-in-law.

In Egypt, Moses learned how to have servants. In Midian, he learned how to serve. More importantly, he learned to hear and obey the voice of God. Though he knew his calling, he relied upon God to secure that calling when Korah challenged him in Numbers 16.

It seems that Korah believed that he was the one truly called to lead Israel. Korah was Moses’ first cousin, as his genealogy in Num. 16:1 shows. If Korah had lived today, we would have called him a great Christian leader. His argument was good, but his motive was to usurp authority.

Korah gathered up his political support, 250 leaders of renown, and then set forth his case in verse 3:

3 And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

Korah set forth the great truth that God is in the Church itself, that is, the “congregation.” But he used this truth in an unbalanced manner to overthrow God’s established authority in Moses and Aaron.

You see, there are two problems that came up in the time of Moses. This is one of them. The other is in Exodus 20, where the people wanted Moses to hear God’s voice, but did not want to hear God for themselves. In that case, they gave Moses too much authority, whereas Moses himself desired that they all hear God for themselves.

So the first problem was to put too much authority upon Moses; the second problem was to try to reduce his God-given authority.

The first problem, in effect, attempted to establish Moses as a type of king; the second problem, in effect, attempted to establish a democracy with no one in authority over anyone else.

Neither course of action was correct. The problem in Exodus 20 set the pattern that would culminate in the reign of King Saul, where the people demanded a king to rule over them—rejecting God as King (1 Sam. 8:7).

The problem in Numbers 16 set the pattern of the problem manifested in the book of Judges, where every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25).

Both patterns were based upon the usurpation of divine authority. In one case, a single man usurped the authority of God; in the second case, the whole nation of men usurped the authority of God. People have had a difficult time finding the right course, because they have not really understood the problem. The problem is rooted in the original sin of usurping the place of God. It is the idea that a man or a nation has the right to legislate its own ideas of morality and righteousness.

Such people do not recognize God as the Creator and Owner of all men and nations. Therefore, they believe that they have the right and responsibility of determining their own course of action. But that, in turn, inevitably leads to the conflicts and wars among men who each want power over everyone else—even in the name of democracy.

Democratic Usurpation

Deut. 12:8 says,

8 You shall NOT do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.

God never gave man the right to choose for himself how he wants to treat his neighbor. The ideal, of course, is for man to come into AGREEMENT with God in all things. In a sense, that means man chooses the same things that God has already commanded in His law. But that is the prime feature of the feast of Tabernacles, which is the one feast that yet remains unfulfilled.

When this feast is fulfilled, we will enter fully into His Rest. We will cease from our own works and will do only what we see our Father do. We will cease from our own words and will speak only what we hear our Father speak.

All usurpation ceases when we enter His Rest. In such a state we stop thinking that we have a will that has the power or the right to think and do things differently.

After the death of Joshua, the people had no national leader, and so divine authority reverted to tribal leaders. Either they did a poor job of leading the people, or the people revolted against them. We are not told. But their rebellion and usurpation led to six distinct captivities.

The theme of the book of Judges is mentioned twice in the book. The first is Judges 17:6,

6 In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.

This comes toward the beginning of a particular story that forms one of two prime examples of this problem. It is the story of Micah, an Ephraimite, who created a god in his own image. He used 1100 pieces of silver to make for himself a graven image (Judg. 17:3). He also consecrated one of his sons to be the family priest (17:5).

Micah apparently thought that an Ephraimite could do the job as easily as a Levite descended from Aaron. But this became an illustration of usurping a calling that properly belongs to another. Ironically, this new family priest was offered a better job when some Danites came through town. They offered him a job as priest over a whole city and tribe (Judg. 18:19). He took the job. After all, it is much better to be the minister of a large church than a small house church.

The children of that Ephraimite priest remained as priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of their captivity (Judg. 18:30).

The other story that illustrates this principle is in Judges 19-21. It is the story of a Levite living among the people of Ephraim, who went to Bethlehem in Judah to get a concubine. On his return trip north, he had to go through the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.

They stopped for the night in the town of Gibeah, where they were invited by a local resident to spend the night under his roof. But some of the local bisexuals in Gibeah saw him and demanded that their neighbor bring out the Levite for a night on the town (19:22).

23 Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly.

He then offered them his own daughter and his own concubine as a substitute. This is bad enough, but it was considered even worse to allow the Levite to be violated by the local men.

The men then seized the concubine and violated her all night. She was dead in the morning. The Levite took her home and then cut her into 12 pieces, sending a piece to each of the tribes of Israel. This scandalized them, of course, and they all rallied to the Levite’s cause.

11 Thus all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united as one man. 12 Then the tribes of Israel sent men through the entire tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What is this wickedness that has taken place among you? 13 Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel.” But the sons of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the sons of Israel.

It is unfortunate that the men of Israel did not truly understand the problem. They could see only the fault of the men of Gibeah, but could not see the deeper problem that every man—of all the tribes—had been doing what was right in his own eyes. And so the Israelites made no attempt to follow any lawful procedure. They were simply a lynch mob who demanded that these men be put to death for their crime.

The tribe of Benjamin then refused to submit to the will of the lynch mob, nor did they offer a lawful trial to see that justice was done. Instead, they decided to protect the criminals and turn it into a matter of “us against them.” This is done all the time by organizations and nations even today in the name of patriotism or organizational loyalty. Such misguided notions have caused many wars.

The fact is, both sides of this dispute were right in some way and wrong in another way. So God judged both sides accordingly. The tribe of Benjamin, of course, was most at fault, for they were responsible for harboring criminals. But God judged the self-righteous tribes first, since they were acting as the judges in this case.

The Israelites inquired of the Lord in 20:18, “Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?” That was the wrong question, for it presumed that it was God’s will that they go to war in the first place. God gave them the answer according to their prior assumptions, “Judah shall go up first.”

The first battle was then fought, and the Israelites lost and suffered 22,000 casualties. The people then wept before the Lord and finally asked the right question:

23 . . . “Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against him.”

Once again, the Israelites lost the battle, and this time another 18,000 Israelites were killed. By this time, the people were totally devastated and confused, wondering why God would tell them to go into battle and then allow them to lose the battle!

The fact is, they had appealed to the Divine Court, where God judges the accusers before the accused. He judges all sides of a dispute with equal justice, and He knows the matters of the heart that most people miss. It is obvious that God intended to bring judgment upon all the tribes of Israel for doing what was right in their own eyes. The only difference is that the sin of the men of Gibeah was exposed, while the sin of the self-righteous ones was yet hidden.

Only after God had judged the self-righteous ones did God allow them to bring judgment upon the guilty ones. It is a principle that the Apostle Paul, a Benjamite, no doubt had studied carefully. In speaking of spiritual warfare, he wrote in 2 Cor. 10:6,

6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

The word translated “punish” is ekdikeo, which means “to vindicate, retaliate, punish.” In other words, one should not presume to judge until one has dealt with one’s own heart problems. Self-examination was an important time of preparation for taking communion as well. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:31 that “if we judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” The principle is that a judge should first judge himself before judging others, for both parties will be judged by the same standard of measure (Matt. 7:2).

The tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed in the third battle with the Israelites. They were judged severely, but God first judged the judges. It is a sobering lesson.

The problem in the book of Judges is the same found in the Church many years later. As we will show, the Church is typified by King Saul, who was a classic usurper of God’s throne. The problem was not that he was made king, but that, as king, he did things his own way. He believed that being king meant that he had the divine right to make his own laws and that God would rubber-stamp whatever decisions he made. That is the classic definition of Antichrist, which means “in place of Christ” in the sense of usurping the place of Christ.

Whereas Saul was a type of Antichrist, David was a type of Christ. Both were kings, but each ruled in a very different way. A usurper of Christ’s authority and/or His throne is an Antichrist.

The institutional Church has followed the pattern of King Saul. King Saul’s self-righteousness is manifested also in his persecution of the Gibeonites—the Canaanites who made a peace treaty with Joshua—as well as the persecution of those involved in witchcraft (1 Sam. 28:3; 2 Sam. 21:1). It is not that this was unlawful, but rather that Saul himself was in rebellion against God. Samuel had told him, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Sam. 15:23). What right did Saul have to persecute those into witchcraft when he himself was guilty of the same thing in the sight of God?

The day before Saul died, he consulted the witch of En-dor (1 Sam. 28:7), thus putting the monarchy into Cursed Time. As a result, King Jehoiachin of Judah was deported to Babylon 414 years later and cast into a dungeon for 37 years. The Babylonians also took away the temple vessels.

The point is that Christians ought to be careful about following the example of King Saul, knowing that God is even now judging the Church for usurping the authority of Christ and for its lawlessness (anomia in Matt. 7:23).

The Church is supposed to live differently from the rest of the world. It is supposed to be the example to others and to manifest the love of Christ. Yet too often they have only shown self-righteous zeal, manifested by persecuting those who openly do what the institutional Church has done secretly. This is why it is important to learn the patterns in biblical history, so that we are able to avoid repeating the mistakes and sins of the past.