16. The Ruler

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 18 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture this morning is from 2 Samuel 23:1-7, and our subject is ‘the Ruler.’

Now these be the last words of David.

David the son of Jesse said,

And the man who was raised up on high,

The anointed of the God of Jacob,

And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,

The Spirit of the LORD spake by me,

And his word was in my tongue.

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spake to me,

He that ruleth over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God.

And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth,

Even a morning without clouds;

As the tender grass springing out of the earth

By clear shining after rain.

Although my house be not so with God;

Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant,

Ordered in all things, and sure:

For this is all my salvation, and all my desire,

Although he make it not to grow.

But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away,

Because they cannot be taken with hands:

But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear;

And they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place. 1

This prophecy echoes aspects of the book of Numbers, of Numbers 23:15 as well as verse five. They echo Balaam’s prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah, who shall be a star and a scepter, and shall rule over the nations.

According to Keil and Delitzsch: “This not only shows to what extent David had occupied himself with the utterances of the earlier men of God concerning Israel’s future; but indicates, at the same time, that his own prophetic utterance was intended to be a further expansion of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the Star out of Jacob and the Sceptre out of Israel. Like Balaam, he calls his prophecy a נָאֻם, i.e., a divine saying or oracle, as a revelation which he had received directly from God (see at Num. 24:3).” 2

This is a statement that David makes prophetically concerning God’s ruler. The Rock of Israel declares:

He that ruleth over men must be just,

Ruling in the fear of God. 3

This is he who shall destroy the men who are the “sons of tumult,” and the “sons of Belial” or confusion. The stress both in Balaam’s prophecy and in David’s is on rule, on government, on rulership. And we must remember that this is an emphasis common to most of the Messianic prophecies, because the framework is the kingdom of God.

Now, in order to understand these references, we must first of all recognize that the Bible is a Messianic book. It deals with the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the need for His coming occasioned by the fall, the preparation for His coming through the kings, priests, and prophets. The predictions, very specifically of his coming and then His appearance.

But, we must remember that this is not the only Messianic strand that the Bible presents - the Fall of man is a Messianic event. God created man to rule the earth in terms of God’s righteousness, God’s justice, to exercise dominion under Him. As we have seen on other occasions, the Garden of Eden was to have been a pilot-project, but man chose to be his own messiah, to be his own God, determining good and evil for himself. The whole doctrine of Genesis 3:5, of the Fall, is the doctrine of independent rule, of an independent Messiahship.

Now the Bible is emphatic that all rule is from God, in every area, parents, the state, the church, the school, masters, whatever the area all rule is from God, it must be under His authority and His Word. Man does not make the rules, bot in any area of life can man say: “here I make the rules.” God alone is the Lord, and Jesus Christ, very God of very God, as well as truly man, came to be our Lord.

But man wanted his own rule, and hence the Fall; and Adam became his own messiah. Wherever men seek an independent rule, one apart from God and His Word, they seek to be their own messiahs, their own saviors, and the result is injustice or unrighteousness. It means the rule of the “sons of tumult,” as Number 24:17 declares.

Man’s messiahship is a quest for independent power, power that is separate from almighty God and His Word, and because it is a quest for power it is total power, not righteousness or justice that the sinner seeks. Thus, because the governments of the world today are not Christian, what they seek is total power, not justice. They use the idea of justice as a pretext, but their goal is total power; and power divorced from God’s law becomes more and more evil, it becomes Belialism, confusion, it becomes thorns, not blessings. And power ceases to be dominion and it becomes oppression. Dominion is the ordering of all things under God and His kingdom, but where God’s law is transgressed we have oppression, not dominion.

Another area of dominion is knowledge, understanding, wisdom. But what we have with man's messiahship is the destruction, the radical destruction, of all meaning, deny God and what happens? you have taken meaning out of the universe. All things then are the chance concourse of atoms. David in verse four speaks of the naturalness of God’s government, of the Messiah's rule, and says:

And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth,

Even a morning without clouds;

As the tender grass springing out of the earth

By clear shining after rain. 4

A beautiful image, but it means more because the picture is of a beautiful spring rain, a clear sun, fertile fields, a lush and green growth of things. And what David is saying: ‘The more supernatural the rule, the more natural it is’ things are then as they should be. The more supernatural the rule, the more natural all things are, like a beautiful spring morning. The more faithful to God’s holy and righteous purpose, the more readily and naturally does man and his purpose prosper. There is a reason for this, man’s false messiahship violates God’s order and destroys direction and meaning in every area of life.

The best evidence of this is humanism today. In the past decade, humanism has developed a new dimension to its philosophies, to its existentialism, it is called the ‘philosophy of the absurd.’ Why the philosophy of the absurd? Absurd not in the sense, fully, of ‘ridiculous,’ although it has that connotation, but it has reference to the root of the word ‘surd’ something that is reducible to nothing else, which is totally meaningless. Life therefore is absurd, and death is absurd.

Driving in town yesterday I heard a Mahler symphony the theme of which is: “Life is dark and death is dark also.” The only thing Mahler didn’t say is: “Let’s blow our brains out.” But from beginning to end this was the chorus that accompanied the symphony: “Life is total darkness, and death is total darkness.” No difference, “all is absurd,” as the modern humanist would say. The philosophy of the absurd therefore means that there is no meaning, no sense to life, no sense to anything; that the idea of meaning is in itself absurd, nothing can make sense.

It is interesting that this year there was published the Journal of the Absurd. In the preface one of the two editors, Jules Siegel, wrote:

“Philosophy is the mind’s chewing gum. There is a technique of classical logic called reductio ad absurdum, in which you elaborate the possibilities of a situation until it becomes self-evidently absurd. We now find ourselves at exactly that point, as The Age of Reason exhausts itself into The Age of the Absurd.” 5

What is philosophy? It is empty, it is a quest for meaning, but since there is no meaning any concern over philosophy is no different than saying ‘the mind needs chewing gum’ just as supposedly the jaws need it. You play with it, you work it over, but there can be no meaning. Why? Because everything is self-evidently absurd. And so they go on in the Journal of the Absurd to chronicle every kind of insane episode from life in 1980 to say: “You see, life is absurd, everything is absurd.” And so you have 180 pages of clips from the newspapers on the absurdity of life; things like this: A UCLA course, that’s just across the way, on prostitution. A Federal appropriation and program now underway to teach rapists in prison across the country how to woo women; they hope to solve all problems of rape by teaching them how to woo women. Or a man in New Jersey whose neighbor had a very savage Siberian Husky which got loose and attacked his mother, and was trying to kill his mother; and so he grabbed an ax and killed the dog. He was taken into court by the SPCA. Siegel and Garfinkel go on, page after page with this sort of thing. Life is absurd, and the world around us illustrates it.

They go on to say: “Of course, government is absurd, too.” We might be ready up to a point to agree with them on that, the kind of government we have now. And this is what they say concerning the official mind in Civil government: “

It hates logic, simplicity, spontaneity, common sense, and people as individuals. It loves power, regulations, duplication, complexity, titles, penalties, and people as categories. Its philosophy: More is better, even if it’s worse. Its program: There are no solutions, there are only bigger problems.” 6

And yet in a world of the absurd, even such men look to the state or themselves for salvation. They may ridicule it, but the very philosophers of the absurd look for statist solutions because there is nothing else for them except the state and themselves. They prefer the IRS to Jesus Christ. They prefer the state and Federal taxing programs to the tithe. Is it any wonder that we are getting the kind of situation we are; the world of the absurd?

When men refuse to believe in God by their own statement life becomes absurd, and every aspect of the world and of life becomes an absurdity. And what is the result? Well, David tells us. They become thorns, thorns that are not even fit to take in your hand to deal with. And what shall the righteous ruler, the Messiah who is to come, what shall He do? He shall destroy the thorns, “the sons of Belial” or worthlessness; they are fit only for destruction.

But David said: “My trust is in the ruler, from God; and although my dynasty be not so with God, yet God in His grace has made an everlasting covenant with my family, and will bring forth the ruler, who against the absurdity of this world is the Logos, He is the meaning, the purpose that gives direction and sense to all reality, from the smallest blade of grass to the most important fact; all have their place in His government.” But all who rule must rule in terms of God’s righteous word. Dominion means rule in terms of God’s kingdom and law, and so David is saying:

“He who rules over men must be just, must be ruling in the fear of God.” 7

And this the Messiah supremely does, He is the ruler, and all rulers must be in an under Him. And even as Christ is the Son, the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds- as the tender grass, springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain; so Jesus Christ in His coming says:

“I am the light of the world, and apart from me men walk in darkness, in the world of the absurd, not in my light.”

As long as we look around the world and see the absurdity and nothing more, we too are going to look to the absurdities for answers, and the trouble with men is, today they put their hope in absurdities, not in Christ; in a Federal taxing program, not in the tithe. And on all sides there is rebellion, and men put their trust in that ultimate absurdity, rebellion, revolution, violence; when it was rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden that created all these problems, when man said: “My will be done, I will on my own establish good and evil, bring forth a greater garden of Eden, a greater paradise on earth. All we need to do is to rebel, all we need to do is to demonstrate, or to start a riot, or to indulge in some kind of protest.” All of which is saying: “When I say the creative word it shall be done. When I as God declare that this is how things must be, because by my word and not by my act I have said this is the way.”

Why does it not happen? By their vanity they reduce life to an even greater absurdity, and themselves to death and judgment. Men must choose either between the ruler Jesus Christ, or the rule of the absurd; and unless we are members of Christ we are members of a part of the absurdity of things.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God our heavenly Father by thy grace and mercy thou hast redeemed us out of the world of the absurd, out of the world of emptiness, out of the world of meaninglessness, and made us a new creation in Jesus Christ. Thou hast given us the blessed assurance that because thou art the ruler, thou dost command and ordain all things to thy holy purpose, so that nothing is in vain. Not one word spoken for thy purpose and glory ever returns unto thee void. Give us grace to walk, O Lord, not in the government of the absurd, but under the government of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, that we may be rescued, moment by moment, day-by-day, from the world of the absurd to the world of the word, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] These philosophers who admit life is absurd, it’d be better if they took their own advice, and stopped philosophizing, would it not?

[Rushdoony] When they say ‘philosophy is absurd’ of course they are saying that they themselves are, and that their life is dedicated to absurdity, and they feel that the only course of wisdom is to say that, to renounce any hope of meaning. Yes?

[Audience Member] Didn’t Mark Twain have honesty enough to recognize that some of his best friends were in Hell, and that was probably where he belonged.

[Rushdoony] Some of the early existentialists, in particular Camus, had that same kind of clarity. Mostly now your humanist lacks the clarity of vision of some of these earlier men, who still had the benefit of the discipline of a Christian background, a Christian world and life view; so they could see things in terms of the totality. Now with that lacking, there is no orderliness in men's minds. If you do not believe or have in the background a belief in the ultimate rationality of all things because God has made them, then one and one do not necessarily mean two, they can mean anything; then nothing adds up for you, so that you cannot think logically or sequentially, and come to any intelligent conclusion on anything. Yes?

[Audience Member] Aren’t people that get cremated saying thereby that they belong in Hell? Isn’t that what it symbolizes?

[Rushdoony] That may be true in some cases, but I don’t believe that is necessarily so.

[Audience Member] Is cremation something Christians cannot do?

[Rushdoony] No, I wouldn’t say that, I don’t feel that we can call anything a sin that Scripture does not call a sin. Yes?

[Audience Member] Where can I find the Journal of the Absurd?

[Rushdoony] The Journal of the Absurd, you can find at almost any large bookstore, it was published in New York, 1980, by Workman a small publisher. But if you go, say, to Walden books and ask for the Journal of the Absurd you can by the copy, most of the Walden book stores carry it. Yes?

[Audience Member] A suit against the Los Angeles city schools argues that school children are, in effect prisoners, only perhaps with fewer rights.

[Rushdoony] Well, that is very interesting. I hadn’t heard about it, but I think he is right, the public schools are guilty of child abuse in the way they deal with the children, and the children are virtual captives of the courts and public schools, and they are held or bussed to the most atrocious schools, and even their neighborhood schools are frightful. I think that is an excellent point. Yes?

[Audience Member] Is there evidence to say that the U.S. Supreme court are coming to change their thinking on abortion?

[Rushdoony] I do not believe there is any change in the thinking of The US Supreme Court on abortion. I think they are afraid of the growing public sentiment against abortion, and are therefore watching the election returns and the public sentiment very closely, and their decision gave a mild concession to the right to life people. Yes?

[Audience Member] Tax funds are being used to facilitate abortion.

[Rushdoony] They are taking our tax funds for abortion, and it is being channeled into pro-abortion causes in a number of ways. The only way we can fight it is to continue to raise the pertinent issues, and bring more and more people into an organized opposition to it. I think the fact that Bernard Nathanson, the doctor who headed up the pro-abortion movements in the sixties and early seventies and admits to having supervised seventy-five thousand abortions has now written a book which while an arrogant one and extensively unrepentant, is anti-abortion. 8 I think we need to keep the pressure up on this issue because it is a very critical one, there are a million unborn babies killed each year in this country. Dr. Nathanson does give a grim account of what goes on in these abortion mills, under very prestigious names. His is a sickening account.

I think the warning of Dr. Charles Rice of the Notre Dame law school is particularly important, because as Rice points out the courts have said that it is a matter of state definition what constitutes a person, and if the state says an unborn baby is not a person, they are not. And they made it clear that at any age the person could be declared a non-person by the state, so Rice expects unless we change things by the end of this century, euthanasia will be routinely practices simply because people of a certain type or age or illness will be ruled non-persons, legally, all the legal bases are there right now for such a ruling. Yes?

[Audience Member] I know it sounds a little bit far out, but with the number of cases of legionairre’s disease being reported now in the veteran’s hospitals, it almost seems as if it [euthanasia] is coming, it’s here, in one degree.

[Rushdoony] Dr. Rice believes that long before there is something open in this area there will be things pointing towards it.

Are there any other questions or comments? Yes?

[Audience Member] In 2 Samuel 22:3 we are taught to choose those who rule in the fear of God. Now we have people who have no absolutes in life, they have no fear of God and therefore everything and anything is right, I think that is what you are seeing today.

[Rushdoony] Yes, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and understanding, and without that there can be neither wisdom, understanding, nor rule.

Well, let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 2 Sa 23:1–7.

2 Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 2, p. 694). Hendrickson.

3 2 Sa 23:3.

4 2 Sa 23:4.

5 Jules Siegel, in Jules Siegel and Bernard Garfinkel: The Journal of the Absurd. (New York, N.Y.: Workman, 1980). p. 8.

6 Jules Siegel, in Jules Siegel and Bernard Garfinkel: The Journal of the Absurd. (New York, N.Y.: Workman, 1980). p. 112.

7 See 2 Samuel 23:3.

8 Nathanson, Bernard N., and Richard N. Ostling. Aborting America. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1979

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