Good government sounds like an oxymoron.
Since the Fall men have sought unsuccessfully to govern themselves. Everything created by fallen man, including systems of government, is tainted with sin (pride, selfishness, greed, prejudices, etc.). Human governments promise lift without redemption, justice without covenant, and end up exploiting the masses while enriching those who govern. Power always attracts exploitation.
Therefore, good governance must come from outside of man—which it does for Israel. Good governance is revealed through the laws that God gives Israel:
Laws establishing a cap on owning property, forbidding accumulating wealth at the expense of others, and canceling debt (examples: Sabbath, Seventh year of rest, 50th year of Jubilee).
- No harvesting the corner of fields and vineyards allows the poor and disadvantage an opportunity to obtain needed food (Leviticus 19:9-10)
- The rights of employees, the poor, the neighbor, the handicapped are protected (19:11ff; 25:35-55); while the Bible forbids showing partiality to the poor in judgment (Ex. 23:3), God does provide for the poor and the needy.
- Vineyard owners are prohibited from reaping the harvest of new fruit trees until their fifth year (19:23-25)
- Men are prohibited from prostituting their daughter/s (19:29)
- Mistreatment of the stranger is forbidden (19:33-34)
- Honest weights and scales are to be used (19:36)
- The appointed annual feasts includes a number of weekly celebrations which require days of rest.
Laws protecting family and marriage
- Forbidden sexual practices and the need for self-control (Leviticus 18; 20:10-21)
- Respect for the elderly (19:32)
- Child sacrifice forbidden (20:1-5)
- Honor parents (20:9)
- Marital fidelity (Numbers 5:11-31)
- Purification (12:1-8)
Laws separating the priesthood to a life of service and self-control.
- Lev. 10; 21
- Limitations and regulations regarding relationships, life in general (Lev. 10; 21), ownership of property,”I am your portion and your inheritance among the children Israel” (Numbers 18:20), and provision (Num. 18:8-32)
Laws protecting monotheism
- Idolatry forbidden
- Divination forbidden (19:26, 31; 20:6)
Laws valuing God’s presence and Israel’s redemption
- Seven Feasts/Day of Atonement (ever mindful of the need for covering) - Lev. 23
- Tent of Meeting regulations
Laws elevating justice and retribution for theft (for one example: Ex. 22:1)
Laws protecting communal health
- Contagious diseases
- Treatment of the diseased person
- Prohibition regarding consuming blood (Lev. 13-15; 20:26)
These and the other regulations that God gives Israel remind them that His continued presence in their midst requires holiness in all areas of life. They are unlike the other nations. Theirs is a theocracy, a nation under God’s good rule. Theirs is a nation where everyone is valued and thus feels safe. Theirs is a nation where covenant and redemption form their foundation. One nation under God.
To remember His rule, God commands all of Israel to add a blue thread in the tassels of their garments, “And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined” (Numbers 15:39).
God’s system of governance is good. They, Israel, are the problem. After receiving the Law and constructing the Tent of Meeting, Israel leaves Sinai. Almost immediately the problem manifests itself in complaining, rebellion, suspicion, and unbelief. Tucked between the two censuses in the book of Numbers are thirty-nine years of restless rebellion. One generation, because of their rebellion, forfeits their entrance into the land of promise. Rebellion and insubordination to God’s good governance is costly.
Laws cannot cure what ails Israel. They don’t need a new system of government; they need God’s mercy—mercy that looks upon substitutionary atonement and pardons iniquity. They need new hearts—hearts that submit to substitutionary atonement and walk in step to the beat of God’s law—hearts that surrender to God’s good governance. Government from the inside out.