“…but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19b-20
Israel’s cry for a leader is nothing new. As it is, Israel stands before a possible change in leadership come the end of January 2013. Current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dissolved the current government in October and called for early elections, which were originally supposed to take place in November 2013. Whatever the motive for his surprising move, it is safe to say that Israel stands at a crossroads historically; whoever is chosen to govern our fragile country may very well face the difficult decision of having to give up more land for “peace” or else…
Why does this matter? Why should we, believers in Yeshua the Messiah, keep a watchful eye on these elections? Before I address these important points, I’d like to give a brief background of Israel’s current system of government, the Knesset, and how our leaders are elected.
Israel’s governing body, the Knesset, is a parliament. This means that many political parties form the main governing body. The Members of Knesset (MKs) are elected every 4 years, within the framework of parties that vie for the peoples’ vote. The 4-year time period that each Knesset session can hold power is the maximum; very often, the acting Prime Minister will dissolve the government and call for early elections, which is the case in the current Knesset.
During election season, each political party chooses its own members, and elects a leader. In reality, when the Israeli population votes, they are voting not for an individual, but for the party; the leader of the winning party then becomes the Prime Minister, and is responsible for forming a government. To that end, the Prime Minister holds a great deal of power in Israel, which makes our future elections all the more critical.
This is where things get interesting and the real “politics” come into play. The Prime Minister must form the government from the parties that have won seats in the Knesset from the election. There are many late-night meetings, back and forth negotiations, and the like when the Prime Minister is seeking those to fill the required positions in his new government. Needless to say, this is when questionable deals and promises are made to satisfy the desires of the parties. Why? Well, if the Prime Minister cannot successfully form his new government in time, then someone else in the Knesset will be tasked with doing so. And he certainly does not want anyone sabotaging his efforts to form a government, thus sweetening the deal at times to entice opposing parties to join.
All in all, there are 120 seats in the Knesset up for grabs, and they are assigned in proportion to the votes that each party receives. Therefore, the more votes a party gleans, the more seats they hold, and therefore, the more influence they wield over the governing body.
In the current elections, there are over 34 parties running. This is a huge number, yes, but there are only a handful of frontrunners that are expected to receive the most significant amount of votes. They range from the extreme political left, to center, to the extreme right. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party, Likud Beitenu, is the frontrunner in the polls to date, but there are a few other parties that, even if they do not win the majority of the vote, they will glean a large amount of seats in the Knesset. Those parties to watch are Kadima (led by Shaul Mofaz), Labor (Shelly Yachimovich), Shas (Eli Yishai), Hatnuah (Tzipi Livni), and the Jewish Home (Naftali Bennett).
It is important to note that all citizens are represented in the Israeli Knesset, regardless of ethnicity or religion. In fact, there are quite a few Arab parties that hold seats in the Knesset, as the Arab population is the second largest in Israel.
So, what does all this have to do with us, followers of the Messiah? First, we must keep in mind that the modern nation of Israel, while a fulfillment of prophecy and a shining example of God’s sovereignty, is a secular nation. While it is the Jewish homeland, the government does not publicly recognize God or out rightly create its laws based on the Scriptures. It is not a Theocracy, but rather a Democracy – a government by the people, and for the people.
For believers in Messiah, we are commanded to pray for our leaders, that God would impart His wisdom to them. While we are not out rightly commanded to vote in Scripture, it is indeed our privilege to vote for those who represent our values, as our leaders often determine the direction society follows. It is crucial for us to be on our knees for our leaders, as they need God’s direction more than ever, and there is much at stake in these days.
For Israel, the question of who will lead is actually not as important as how he will lead. Israel is God’s inheritance; yet, our ancient-rooted desire to “be like all the nations” has led us to seek guidance from our earthly leaders more than our Heavenly Father. How tragically this has turned out for us. This is why, now more than ever, it is vital that we elect a leader who will courageously lead out of a fear of the LORD, and will seek Him first before all others. We desperately need a leader who will not bow to international pressure, but who will stand on the Word of the LORD regarding this land, and who will have a deep understanding of His promises to those who honor His Word.
I must reiterate how much Israel is truly at a crossroads. Looking at the environment surrounding Israel is very telling: the Arab Spring, the violence that has ensued, the tightening of Islam’s grip over the Middle East (and indeed, throughout the world), and the cry within Israel for “Peace! Peace!” at any cost are all signs of where we are at in God’s timeline. The next four years could very well usher in the time when Israel will be completely alone as foretold in the Scriptures, or they could be a period of grace and quiet. No one can say for sure.
What we do know, however, is that the time is short, and the clock is ticking. Let us join together in praying for a leader who acknowledges it, and is willing to seek Him. May the LORD have mercy on our nation!
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