Sabbath Keepers In Government (Part 1 of 2)
By Bill Lussenheide
Currently the newswires and the media are abuzz about the Presidential election in the United States to be held in 2016. Speculation abounds about the candidates and what will be their platforms. As Christians serving as God’s ambassadors, we face interesting questions in regards to what level of participation we should have in regards to political activity, voting, and serving in office.
Should Sabbatarians be serving in civil government? It is a question that many seventh day observing groups have attempted to tackle over the last century, with differing opinions on the appropriateness of doing so. The issue has been debated down to the point of whether or not Christians should even vote.
This article will take an overview of Sabbatarians who have served in office, or have been involved in politics over history. We will discover that seventh day observers have a long history of serving in a Godly fashion in secular government, and in being very effective in doing so.
Political Service In The Bible
Early in the Bible we can take note of Lot. In Genesis 19:1 we can see that Lot is sitting at the city gates. This was a position of honor and rulership according to most commentators. We can take note of Proverbs 31:23 for insight on this. It reads “Her husband is known in the gates, where he sits among the elders of the land”. Lot is regarded as “righteous Lot” in 2Peter 2:7. Although Sodom itself was wicked, there is no evil report of Lot serving in a civil capacity from scripture.
Joseph rose to be in virtual power over the leading state of its era, Egypt. Joseph considered his position in Egypt’s government to be a direct result of God’s will. As he tried to calm his brothers’ fears after their father’s death, he said to them, “God hath made me lord of all Egypt” (Gen. 45:9). He “[sent] me before you to preserve life” (verse 5). Obviously God can, and does work through righteous Sabbath observers in political office.
Likewise, Moses was a chief prince in Egypt as well. Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were selected from among captives in Babylon for training in government. There is no inference of them refusing this task, or being reluctant about it.
After Daniel was promoted to “ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon,” he asked that his three friends might be “set . . . over the affairs of the province of Babylon,” and Daniel’s request was granted (Dan. 2:48, 49). He volunteered for the task! The three companions were promoted again after going through the amazing trial of the fiery furnace (chap. 3:30). Again, they did not refuse to serve.
When Belshazzar became ruler of Babylon, he made Daniel an important ruler after he interpreted the handwriting on the banquet wall, and just hours before Belshazzar was defeated by Darius (chap. 5:29). Darius, the Mede, recognized leadership in Daniel and made him first of three rulers of the whole kingdom (chap. 6:2).
Even after Daniel’s ordeal in the lions’ den, and his meeting of this test successfully, he “prospered in the reign of Darius” (verse 28). Yet again, Daniel did not refuse civil responsibility when he was called upon to serve.
In the book of Esther is the story of Mordecai the Jew, who “sat in the king’s gate” and was one of King Ahasuerus’ “servants” (Esther 2:19; 3:3). The king’s gate was a place where the affairs and business of the kingdom was carried on. When Haman was hanged, Mordecai did not refuse the chance to replace him. In Esther 10:3 we see that Mordecai was placed right next to the king in power.
A Sabbath Keeping American Founding Father
Samuel Ward was born in Newport, Rhode Island, May 27, 1725. Newport Rhode Island is the location of the first Sabbatarian church in America, which was founded by Stephen Mumford in 1671. Both of Ward’s parents were keepers of the Seventh Day Sabbath, and his father was governor of Rhode Island and a descendant of Roger Williams through both his paternal and maternal family lines. He also can lay claim in his lineage to John Ward, a Calvary officer in the service of Oliver Cromwell, who fought against the tyranny of the English crown. On his parent’s tombstones is carved the testimony of their faith to the Sabbath day.
The lineage of Samuel Ward, through Roger Williams gives another strong clue into who he was. Williams the founder of Rhode Island, was a maverick pioneer of religious freedom in America who we owe much. He was one of the first advocates of the concept of “separation of church and state” and for religious freedom. An Anabaptist, Williams can be thanked for creating the first colony that practiced religious freedom. The first Jewish synagogue in America can also trace its history to Newport Rhode Island and only existed because of the freedoms found there.
With this rich bloodline of faith, Samuel Ward served in many political offices in Rhode Island and like his father, was elected to the office of governor in 1762. These were pivotal times for America, and in 1765 the infamous Stamp Act tax was thrust upon the colonies. Of all the governors in the colonies, there was only one who had the courage to refuse an oath to enforce and sustain this law. Samuel Ward, a man of conviction of the scriptures, was also a man of conviction in the secular world. He refused to swear an allegiance to either the crown, nor to enforce the stamp act, at great personal peril to himself.
Through the early 1770’s, Ward was a key man in the organization of the Continental Congress. In fact the first delegates to the Continental Congress came from fellow Rhode Islander Stephen Hopkins and Ward himself. Yes, a Sabbath keeper can lay claim to being a “Founding” –“Founding Father” of the greatest nation in human history!
He had many works to help forge the freest country in the history of the world. Only in America could God find a place where the Sabbath could find free practice and blossom and to be an exporter of that truth to the world. Samuel Ward was the one who nominated George Washington to be the Commander of the Continental Army. Before Ward’s untimely death in 1776, he helped collaborate with Thomas Jefferson in the writing of the “Declaration of Independence”.
His legacy and influence includes his son Samuel Ward Jr., who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Revolutionary army, a grandson who was the President of the New York stock exchange and his great granddaughter, Julia Ward Howe, who was the composer of the well known, historic and beloved “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1862. Like many Sabbatarians of that era, she was a staunch anti-slavery abolitionist. In later years, she was instrumental in creating the first “Mothers Day” as a reaction to the carnage of both the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian war.
We will finish this two-part series next week!
Bill Lussenheide has been a first generation Sabbath keeper for 42 years. He and his wife Terri reside in Menifee, CA.