When Democracy Fails

The idea of a God-led democracy has roots in Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Moses was chosen by God to speak to the pharaoh and to lead the people of Israel out of slavery. Following God’s instructions, the people successfully left Egypt through the Red Sea. Even though they grumbled, as a nation, they followed God’s instructions as given through Moses.

While at Horeb, it became obvious that Moses was unable to serve as judge for every matter that required a decision. So Moses gave the following orders as described in Deuteronomy 1:

Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ 14 You answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have said to do is good.’ 15 So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and appointed them heads over you, leaders of thousands and of hundreds, of fifties and of tens, and officers for your tribes.
16 “Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment…

Notice that it was the people who chose the heads from each tribe – a democratic idea. The purpose of the appointed leaders was to judge cases among the people. However, there is a sense that democracy gives power to the people, and it appears that this was true here for soon the people were making suggestions about God’s plan to enter the promised land. God said that they should enter the land and not be afraid, but the people approached with their own idea.

22 “Then all of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up and the cities which we shall enter.’ 23 The thing pleased me and I took twelve of your men, one man for each tribe. 24 They turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the valley of Eshcol and spied it out.

We know what happened next – 2 voted to go into the land, and 10 rebelled at God’s plan to enter the land. Rather than trusting God completely, they chose to make decisions for themselves – democracy! They chose wrong.

The moral of the story? The people are not always right. In a day and age where democracy is held up in Western countries as the ultimate right way to govern a land, many have failed to follow God’s instructions.

I fear that “democracy” has replaced God in the Church. Many churches rely on the will of the people to make the right decisions, but I have seen many of those decisions made on the basis of emotion rather than biblical, godly principles. God has given us His Word and the Holy Spirit to guide us, but very often we use democracy to guide us. This is when democracy fails!