7 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
8 Therefore the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years.
9 And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.
10 And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim.
11 And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
Are some revolutions approved by God? Why are some revolutions in the Bible supported by the Lord, and others not? Was the American Revolution blessed and approved of by God? What makes a revolution a Righteous Revolution?
A Righteous Revolution is a revolution that is God approved, God supported, and God blessed. Our passage gives a picture of a righteous revolution. The people had forgotten the Lord to serve Baalim and the groves. (Speaking of groves, the children of Israel was often rebuked for Moloch worship.) Because of this wickedness, the Lord punished them. He allowed them to be conquered and enslaved by their enemies. They lived under this tyranny for eight years. The people tired of the oppression, and cried out to the Lord in repentance. The Lord heard them, and rose up a deliverer, Othniel. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and the Lord through him overthrew the enemy.
From the passage above, we can see three requirements for a righteous revolution: a repentance among the people, a legitimate reason to revolt, and a leadership that is lead by the Lord.
Repentance of National and Personal Sin
In order for a revolution to be righteous, the people must be righteous. The people must TURN from their wicked ways. In the passage above, the Israelites cried out in repentance unto the Lord. This shows that the PEOPLE (and not just the leaders) must turn from their sins. The nation must humble itself before the Lord in sorrow and repentance, in prayer and fasting, and ask Him to forgive their sins. God will never honor the desire of people to be free if they continue to willing entangle themselves in sin. How can God be with us if we are not pleasing Him? How can God be for us if we are against Him? NO revolution for freedom will be successful if the people first do not allow themselves to be freed from the bondage of sin. A revolution will never be righteous if the participants are not right with the Lord. A mass repentance is required for any revolution to be honored by the Lord, because tyranny and oppression almost always is divine judgment on national sin.
Jesus Christ must rule and reign in hearts. Jesus came into this world to defeat tyranny. Sin is the number one tyrant. Sin rules over even the devil. Jesus Christ defeated the tyranny of sin by His death and resurrection. Sin bondage must be overthrown before physical bondage is overthrown. A large majority of the population must repent and seek the Lord. Ideally, the entire population should repent. But since this is a rarity, we rely on a a righteous majority. A repentance must precede a Righteous Revolution.
Second, for a revolution to be righteous, it must have a legitimate cause. There must be very good reasons to overthrow and replace a current government. The Israelites had a legitimate cause. They had been conquered and enslaved.
Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Proverbs 3:30.
Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips. Proverbs 24:28
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: … Matt 5:22.
The American Founding Fathers realized this, as stated in the Declaration of Independence:
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath sown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
For a cause to be legitimate, the existing government must have proven itself derelict in it’s basic duties to man. Exodus 18:21 states that rulers must be able men that fear God, honest and not covetous or greedy. Romans 13 states that the duty of government is to punish the evildoers and praise the good doers. “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” (2 Samuel 23:3). Now, if a government is full of God-rejecting, lying, greedy reprobates that reward the wicked and punish the just, this would be a reasonable cause for revolution. (Most likely, however, this tyranny is divine judgment on national sins.) Revolution must not be over trifles. It must remain a LAST RESORT when all other avenues have failed.
Led of God
Thirdly, the revolution leadership must be lead of and anointed by God. We read many places in the Old Testament where the Spirit of the Lord lead the appointed deliverer to overthrow the oppressor, including the text above. For a revolution to be a Righteous Revolution, it must be led of God. The leaders (the “deliverers” in the Biblical sense) must be possessed by the Spirit of the Lord, must seek Him, must submit to His authority, and must seek guidance from Him. Remember 2 Corinthians 3:17: “[W]here the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Spirit of the Lord came upon Othniel, and he went out to war. The Lord raised up Ehud against Eglon (Judges 4:15). The Spirit of the Lord was upon Gideon against the Midianites (Judges 6:34). In Judges 7, we notice that the Lord speaks to Gideon, and Gideon listens and obeys. Gideon was led of the Lord. The Lord God is his Commander-in-Chief, giving him his military orders. Gideon obeys, and the oppressor is defeated. For a revolution to be and remain a righteous revolution, it’s leaders must seek and follow guidance from the Almighty.
Now if a Righteous Revolution exists, the inverse also exists. The Bible refers to an unrighteous revolution as rebellion. “For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 24:20).
Israel went out to war without repenting. Read the entire story in 2 Kings 25. Kind Zedekiah was a false revolutionary. He had been a puppet king, placed into power by the Babylonian overlord Nebuchadnezzar. He rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar. But he hardened his heart and refused to turn to the Lord. The people also remained in their gross wickedness. There was NO repentance. They did not like the Babylonian tyranny, but the did not want to give up their decadence. Zedekiah also refused to hear the word of the Lord by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah. There was a legitimate cause for revolution, but the people refused to repent, and Zedekiah refused to be led of the Lord. It was NOT a righteous revolution. The attempted revolt turned into further oppression as the people were dragged away as slaves.
If a revolution is not righteous, it will result in WORSE oppression than before. Note the following FALSE revolutions: The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and all other Communist revolutions. These all resulted in a worse state of tyranny than before. Unrighteous revolutions may be successful in the beginning, and may even succeed in replacing the existing government. But the end result of such is further enslavement. If the revolution is quashed, the government will deal with the patriots harshly. If the revolution is successful, it will result in the rise of some dictator, a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon, or a Lenin. The Jews often rebelled against Roman rule, but because they had rejected their Messiah, they only received further oppression. A false revolution is any revolution that is not a righteous one. A false revolution is rebellion. Please note that there is a difference between a Righteous Revolution and rebellion. A true revolution is lead by the Spirit of the Lord. A false revolution is led by the spirit of rebellion, an evil spirit. Rebellion is sin, and sin is bondage. Rebellion leads to bondage. Do not get Righteous Revolution and rebellion confused. NONE of the Righteous Revolutions in the Bible are labeled as “rebellion.” Zedekiah “rebelled” against the King of Babylon (Judges 24.20). The Russian revolution was successful; did the Russian people gain more freedoms than they’d had under the Czars?
Therefore, for a revolution to be anointed by the Lord, it must be lead of the Lord, it must be done in righteousness, and it must have a legitimate cause. Any revolution that does not satisfy these conditions not anointed, and is considered rebellion in the Lord’s eyes.
The American Revolution
This returns us to our question: Was the American Revolution a Righteous Revolution, or was it a rebellion? Let’s judge the tree by it’s fruit. It’s fruit was that of liberty, and not further oppression. The colonists were brought to repentance through massive revivals and public days of prayer and fasting. There was a legitimate cause for revolution as declared in the Declaration of Independence and other revolutionary documents. Revolutionary leaders, including George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and John Hancock earnestly sought the Lord for guidance and protection during the conflict, and implored the patriots to do the same.
Mass repentance is one of the requirements for Righteous Revolution. In the decades preceding the American Revolution, great revivals took place among the colonies. Many were cleansed of their sins by putting their faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and others, having already found Christ, repented of lingering sins. During the Revolutionary period, many days were set aside as days of public prayer and fasting. The Continental Congress issued a call for prayer and fasting on June 12,1775 (Federer 139). The Continental Congress called for a “day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer” on May 17, 1776 to “confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease God’s righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain this pardon and forgiveness” (Federer 141). After the victory at Saratoga, the Continental Congress continued the call for repentance. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving called for
…solemn thanksgiving and praise:
That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, that may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, thought the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance:
(Quoted in Federer, 147)
On June 1, 1774, the day on which the British were to begin a blockade of Boston, a day of prayer and fasting was held through the colonies (Quoted in Federer, 58). In the midst of the blockade, the President of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts John Hancock called the crisis the righteous judgment of God, and implored the people to repent of their sins:
We think it is incumbent upon this people to humble themselves before God on account of their sins, for He hath been pleased in His righteous judgment to suffer a great calamity to befall us, as the present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies. [And] also to implore the Divine Blessing upon us, that by the assistance of His grace, we may be enabled to reform whatever is amiss among us, that so God may be pleased to continue to us the blessings that we enjoy, and remove the tokens of His displeasure, by causing harmony and union to be restored between Great Britain and the Colonies. (Quoted in Federer, 59)
So it can be seen from these few instances that people were humbling themselves before the Lord and repenting of their sins leading up to and during the American Revolution. Some even saw the British tyranny as the judgment of the Almighty. All of these factors indicate that the American Revolution met the requirement for repentance.
The second requirement for a righteous revolution is a legitimate cause to replace the existing government. As documented in the Declaration of Independence, there was indeed a righteous cause for revolution. The colonists had repeatedly petitioned the British Crown for redress of grievances, and received only more oppression in return:
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petition have been answered only by repeated injury…
(Declaration of Independence)
Since the king and Parliament refused to hear their cry, they appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world,” bringing their complaint to the court of the Lord. This shows that not only did the Founding Fathers have a legitimate cause for revolt, but they also sought leadership and direction from God.
There is very much proof that many of the revolutionaries regularly sought guidance from the Lord. I will cite but a few examples. George Washington was known as a man of prayer:
And now, Almighty Father, if it is Thy holy will that we shall obtain a place and name among the nations of the earth, grant that we may be enabled to show our gratitude for Thy goodness by our endeavors to fear and obey Thee. Bless us with Thy wisdom in our counsels, success in battle, and let all our victories be tempered with humanity. Endow, also, our enemies with enlightened minds, that they become sensible of their injustice, and willing to restore our liberty and peace. Grant the petition of Thy servant, for the sake of Him whom Thou hast called Thy beloved Son [ie Jesus Christ]; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.
George Washington (Quoted in Federer, 644).
John Adams called for a National Fast Day (Federer, 11). Concerning seeking guidance from God and His Word the Bible, Adams wrote:
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God…What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.
(Quoted in Federer, 5)
The Lord as King
In addition to seeking guidance from the Lord, the Patriots and Founding Fathers sought to make Him their only king. One of the slogans of the Revolution was “No king but King Jesus.” After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Samuel Adams declared:
We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.
(Quoted in Federer, 23)
Adams believed that they were restoring the throne to the Lord, rejecting an earthly king for the King of Heaven. The opinion that Jesus Christ was the only King was shared by so many, that it prompted one British colonial governor to write back to England,
If you ask any American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor, except for Jesus Christ.
(Quoted in Federer, 59).
The American Patriots believed that the Lord should and would be the only King to rule over them. They rejected the tyranny of an earthly king for the blessings of the heavenly King. But for the Lord God to rule and reign over a nation, He must first rule and reign in the hearts of the people.
Appointing the Lord as King over a nation has a very important spiritual significance. In 1 Samuel Chapter 8, we read of a free people demanding a king to rule over them:
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
20 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.
Israel had been a free people, with the Lord ruling over them. But they rejected the Lord. They rebelled against His commandments. They did not want Him to rule them. They wanted to live like the other nations. They wanted to be like the other nations. They wanted to rule themselves. (Just like the world today.) In response, the Lord told them, you want a king, I’ll give you a king. He will be a tyrant, and you will be his slaves! And when you complain to Me about him, I will not listen! The people refused to listen to this warning, and got the king that they deserved.
It is important to note that Israel had been free before, when the Lord had reigned over them. But they rejected God for an earthly king. Contrary to this, the Founding Fathers rejected the rule of an earthly king for the rule of the King of Kings. And with the Lord as their King, truly did the United States enjoy the blessings of liberty.
In conclusion, the American Revolution was a righteous Revolution. The revolutionaries looked to the Lord as their source for guidance and direction. The revolutionary leaders along with the revolutionary preachers led the people into repentance for their many sins, as they fought for a just cause against a king who had proven himself unfit to rule.
Howbeit modern America has repeated the sin of Israel, and rejected the rule of the Lord. We are now receiving the same judgment, oppressors ruling over us. We need to repent, and return to the Lord, and cry out for mercy if there is yet hope that our Constitutional Republic can be restored. There is NO forgiveness of sins but through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. For we are all sinners, and none is righteous on their own accord. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from Heaven to suffer and die to free you from your sins. He took upon Himself the punishment for your sins. He offers you His free gift, pardon of sins, and eternal life in Heaven. You need not fear death, if the Lord has given you eternal life. However, this gift is like any other gift. You must RECEIVE it in order to possess it.
To receive this gift is simple. You must repent of your sins, and ask the Lord Jesus to forgive you. Some might say, “I don’t want the Lord to lord over my life.” If the Lord doesn’t rule over you, then your sin will rule over you. And sin is a merciless tyrant. As for the Lord, His burden is light:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Be revolutionaries. Revolt against sin. Sin is the greatest tyrant. Even satan is a slave of sin. And only Jesus Christ can free you of your sin bondage.
Federer, William J. America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations. St. Louis: Amerisearch, Inc, Copyright 2000
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informative and historic purposes only. I do not advocate physical revolution.