Forty years the Lord led and fed His people in the wilderness.
All this time He was teaching them the way of allegiance to Himself -- the way of faith.
This He did in order that His purpose might be fulfilled through them in the land whither they were going to possess it.
At the end of the forty years they were encamped in the plain of Moab, opposite Jericho, preparatory to entering the land of their possession.
While there encamped, the will of God concerning them was declared by an irresistible inspiration upon the prophet Balaam, and in words of instruction to His people for all time.
And the words are these: "Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Num. 23:9).
At that time the Lord's people composed "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38); and in thus declaring that they should dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations, He plainly declared His will that His church should be forever separated from every State and nation on the earth.
God never intended that His people should be formed into a kingdom, or State, or government, like the people of this world; or that they should in any way be connected with any kingdom, or State, or government, of this world.
They were not to be like the nations or the people around them. They were to be separated unto God "from all the people that are upon the face of the earth" (Ex. 33:16). The people were to dwell alone, and were not to be reckoned among the nations.
Their government was to be a theocracy pure and simple --God their only King, their only Ruler, their only Lawgiver. It was indeed to be a church organization, beginning with the organization of "the church in the wilderness," and was to be separated from every idea of a State. The system formed in the wilderness through Moses, was to continue in Canaan; and was intended to be perpetual.
"The government of Israel was administered in the name and by the authority of Jehovah. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given. They had no authority to legislate for the nation." For God had declared plainly, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it" (Deut. 4:2).
Thus the principles of their government were solely those of a pure theocracy. And such "was and continued to be the condition of Israel's existence as a nation." In any government it is only loyalty to the principles of the government, on the part of its citizens, that can make it a success. Consequently, on the part of Israel, it was only loyalty to the principles of a pure theocracy -- God their only King, their only Ruler, their only Lawgiver -- that could possibly make that government a success.
But loyalty to these principles demanded that each one of the people should constantly recognize, and court, the abiding presence of God with him as the sole King, Ruler, and Lawgiver, in all the conduct of his daily life. Yet it is "by faith" that God dwells in the heart and rules in the life. And "without faith it is impossible to please Him." Therefore the existence of the original government of Israel, and the existence of Israel as a nation, depended upon a living, abiding faith in God, on the part of each individual of the people of Israel.
And just here, the only point where Israel could fail, Israel failed. The people did not abide in faith. They did not remain loyal to God as their King. And "Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. . . . And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel." "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth" (Judges 2:8-13).
Then all the evils that came upon them only as the result of their apostasy and idolatry, they charged back upon the government of God. In their unbelief and apostasy, they could see in the continued raids of the heathen, by which their country was sacked, and themselves were oppressed, only evidence that for all practical purposes the government of God had failed.
They therefore reached the conclusion "that in order to maintain their standing among the nations, the tribes must be united under a strong central government. As they departed from obedience to God's law, they desired to be freed from the rule of their divine Sovereign; and thus the demand for a monarchy became widespread throughout Israel." Accordingly, they said to Samuel, "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Sam. 8:5).
As their hearts were fully set on having a king like all the nations, and as practically they were much like all the nations anyhow, the best thing the Lord could do for them was to let them have their king. Nevertheless, He said to Samuel, "Protest solemnly unto them" (1 Sam. 8:9).
Samuel did so, but still they insisted: "Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:19, 20).
And of it all the Lord said to Samuel, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them." And Samuel said unto them, "Ye have this day rejected your God," and "have said unto Him, Nay; but set a king over up" (1 Sam. 8:7; 10:19).
It was the same story of Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt, over again. When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. And as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, the arch-deceiver seduced them into idolatry, and from idolatry into monarchy, in order that he might gain supremacy over them and by wordily influence entire them, or by force prohibit them, from the service of God.
It was to save them from all this that the Lord had said of them, "The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations."
If they had remained faithful to this principle, there never would have been amongst Israel a State or a kingdom.
Therefore, in announcing this principle, God intended forever that they should be completely separated from any such thing as a State or kingdom on the earth.
And as when that word was spoken they were "the church," it is absolutely certain that in announcing that principle, God intended to teach them and all people forever that His plainly-declared will is that there shall be a complete separation between His church and every State or kingdom on the earth; that there shall never be any connection between His religion and any State or kingdom in the world.
And, further: As that people were then the church, and as the Lord said they rejected Him when they formed that State and kingdom, it is perfectly plain by the Word of the Lord that whenever the church forms any connection with any State or kingdom on the earth, in the very doing of it she rejects God.
But it is impossible for the church ever to form any connection with any State except by the individual members of the church forming a connection with the State. Therefore, as the church in forming such connection rejects God, and as it is impossible to do this except by the individual members of the church, it is perfectly plain that the teaching of the Word of God is that for members of the church to form connection with the State is to reject God.
And from ancient time all this was written for the admonition of those upon whom the ends of the world are come. Will the people today be admonished by it?