MULTIPLE NATIONAL DISASTERS FROM ONE BAD RULER
15 For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because THEY have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.
16 And he shall give ISRAEL up because of the sins of JEROBOAM, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.
1 Kings 14:15-16.
Can just one bad ruler bring divine disaster upon a whole nation? Is that possible where there are several holy prophets of God? Can the evil force of one bad ruler be stronger than the righteous force of many holy people? Can one bad king be the source of national disaster capable of affecting even a multiple righteous people? According to prophet Ahujah in the passage above, yes. Other prophets like Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, also support Ahujah’s position. The errors of a bad ruler should not be dismissed as merely that ruler’s problem the judgment for which would be solely upon that ruler’s guilty head.
According to our passage, not only did the king sin, he also “made Israel to sin.” In other words, there was a two-count charge: the sins that the king “did sin,” and also the sins that he “made” the nation to sin. The judgment for the two-count charge was going to be three-pronged: God was going to “smite” the entire nation of Israel, He was going to “root up Israel out,” and He would “scatter them beyond the river,” including those who had had no hand in the sins for which the nation was being charged.
We may also draw a parallel from the life of King David whose stubborn census brought about the death of tens of thousands of innocent residents of his capital city of Jerusalem, who had had no hand in his personal error (1 Chronicles 21:1-14). At the height of the divine national judgment that his personal stubbornness had attracted, David began his private repentance, but then, seventy thousand “men” (excluding women and children) had already died in the space of a three-day plague.
And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued (1 Chronicles 21:17).
Also, Ahab and Jezebel’s idolatry hastened the famine and drought that came upon the nation of Israel, to the point that multiple priests and prophets of God became endangered species who had to be concealed to be preserved (1 Kings 17-18). One bad ruler is a danger even to the righteous aloof.
The CIVIL consequences and DIVINE judgments from a bad ruler do not always fall only upon the head of that bad ruler; the nation suffers, too. Sometimes, whereas the civil consequences (in the form of hunger, civil protests, wars, deaths, etc) might be immediate, the divine judgments (which might also take a civil form) could take years to mature, at which time not everyone is able to connect the present disasters to the past rulership evils. That is how a people begin to seek environmental and other social or political solutions to a crisis whose roots had been fundamentally spiritual.
The therapists will tell us that any disease is likely to persist whose diagnosis is in error. In Jeremiah 15:3-5, the prophet declares that God was going to scatter Israel because of the sins of Manasseh, a past king of over five decades ago, and five regimes previous. That religious perspective of the prophet was very unlikely to make much political analytical sense in the ‘present circumstances’ of the social upheavals of the time. Hunger that results from a famine that results from a drought would be blamed on the drought rather than on some remote ‘religious’ reason. That’s the ‘logical’ perspective, so, not everyone shared the ‘fanatical’ position of the Prophet Jeremiah. Not everyone had the eyes for seeing what he saw, yet he was right. If Jeremiah were in our day, in our nation, what would he say? Will he have been believed?
Two things come out from the subject so far: a king’s sins can affect not only that king but also his people, his nation. Secondly, the judgments for those sins sometimes could be immediate, and at other times they might take years to fruit and harvest, at which time not everyone might be able to connect the present troubles to the past ruler’s sins, making repairs more distant. We should therefore pray for a ruler’s justice not only for now but also for later; not only for ourselves but also for our children in many years to come.
Sometimes even when a bad ruler has been cut off by sudden judgment, they leave dangers no less treacherous than when they lived; legacy-dangers that must be fought as fiercely as the ruler was fought into extinction. A case in point is Honourable Haman in the book of Esther. Getting Haman out of the way was merely the first phase of the battle; dealing with the laws of death that he had birthed against the Jews before he had died was another phase (Esther 8:5).
No ruler’s sins are entirely that ruler’s problem; the nation also gets defiled; and when judgment comes, immediately or later for those sins, the leader does not suffer alone. Sometimes that ruler might even have been long dead. So, we need pray for a ruler’s righteousness not only for now but also for later; not only for ourselves but also for our children in many years to come.