Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings, He who stands at the axis of Christian worship; whose birth divided time and multiplied heaven. His obscure birth changed world history, though His kingship was not centered in opulent palaces with prestige and a worldly crown. He taught peace, charity, and morality. He was the Perfect One, Isaiah’s “king, the Lord of Hosts”, whose life patterned happiness and whose death ransomed Man. Beside Him, few kings have stood the test of time.
History, unfortunately, testifies that most kings fail at unselfish leadership. Power seduces lesser men. The Bible’s history of civil government records a sampling of good kings, and an excess of monarchs marked by deceit, intrigue, and calamity. Europe’s history declares the same: few kings rule wisely.
Our Founding Fathers knew tyranny from kings. Some had lived with it in Europe; the ancestors of others had fled oppression to settle in America. As they pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in the fight for God-given rights, they vowed to never yield to despotic rulers. Tyranny would not come on their watch. So great was the Framers’ distaste for monarchy that their first attempt at national government, the Articles of Confederation, eliminated central authority altogether and plunged the country into chaos. While too much government is destructive, so is too little; and the need for good government became obvious by its lack. In 1787 the Constitution’s system of divided but delicately balanced power gave rights and protection to the new nation’s resolve to grow strong and free.
In place of a king, the Constitution divides power by establishing three separate, cooperative governing branches. Congress creates law, the executive branch oversees its enforcement, and the courts assure constitutional compliance. These three branches are supervised by the people and the states. The Founders’ system was brilliant—a true original, conceived long before in the minds of scholars such as Britain’s John Locke and William Blackstone, but never before brought into reality. Even more than the influence from the great minds of past centuries, however, the Founders took counsel from the teachings of the King of Kings, found in the Bible.
The route of good government flowed from ancient Israel, as written in the Old Testament’s Five Books of Moses, to our original governing document for the infant United States of America. Parallels and protections tie the two together, as do similar operating systems. Our Constitution’s representative government contains a legislature, an executive, and a court system. Ancient Israel also had representative government, which divided into families of ten, fifty, one hundred, and beyond. These groups elected leaders who answered to Moses, and later Jethro, the executive authority. A council of elders offered general leadership as does our Senate, a judicial system was in operation, and checks and balances protected the freedoms of the governed.
Basic principles also parallel each other in these two pivotal civilizations: both had written “constitutions” that were ratified by the people. Both honored and respected the rights of private property, and believed in the dignity of individual effort to produce individual reward. Both embraced an economy based on items of intrinsic worth coupled with stringent taxation, and both placed provision for the less fortunate with the private sector. Both societies kept government close to the people, where they could have influence, and both interwove freedom and morality—the obedience of the people to ethical laws in exchange for liberty.
The liberating principles of the great and perfect King of Kings have come full circle. They flow from ancient Israel to our Constitution, as it came from the pen of the Framers, then back to the Giver of all Law through our actions. We honor Him as we teach and protect the freedoms His laws originally provided. At this Christmas season, we celebrate not only the babe in the manger, but the liberty He gave ancient Israel and our Founding Fathers.