Is the Voice of the People the Voice of God?
THERE is a Latin saying, Vox populi, vox Dei, that is, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Many persons hold this time-honored saying to be true, it being especially acceptable to those who believe in democracy. But does it necessarily follow that the voice of the people or the voice of the majority is the voice of God?
Of course, if it were literally true that the voice of the people were the voice of God, then it might well be argued that minorities or dissenters have no rights, since they would be on the side of the opposer, Satan the Devil, in keeping with Jesus’ words: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” While not many would think of saying that in so many words, the fact remains that to the extent that majorities are intolerant of minorities, to that extent they are in effect, at least by their thoughts and actions, saying that very thing.—Matt. 12:30.
That the voice of the people is not the voice of God, that is, not necessarily so, is seen from the fact that in varying lands the people have chosen different types of government. If the voice of the people is the voice of God, then God must be all confused. But God is not a God of disorder or confusion, but One of order and peace.—1 Cor. 14:33.
Then again, if the voice of the people were the voice of God, it would indicate that God was fighting against himself. In Italy’s recent elections the Communists made decided gains. If it should happen that one day they became a majority in that Roman Catholic country and took over the reins of the government, could it be said that it was the voice of God that a professedly Christian rule be replaced by an avowedly atheistic rule? Would God cast out God? Not even the Devil would do that!—Matt. 12:26.
Far from the voice of the people being the voice of God, more often than not just the opposite has been true. Follow the voice of the people and most likely you will go wrong. Thus Aaron, who became ancient Israel’s first high priest, listened to the voice of his people in making a golden calf for them, to his own later chagrin and embarrassment. To that same people Moses said, shortly before his death: “I well know your rebelliousness and your stiff neck. If while I am yet alive with you today, you have proved rebellious in behavior toward Jehovah, then how much more so after my death!” Moses should have known, for he led, judged and ruled those Israelites for forty years!—Ex. 32:1-4, 21-24; Deut. 31:27.
Another Biblical incident that might be cited is that when the people of Israel in the days of Judge Samuel asked for a king. This was the voice of the people, but was it the voice of God? Judge Samuel, who was also Jehovah’s prophet, felt hurt at his people’s rejection of him, but Jehovah God told him to accede to their demands: “Listen to the voice of the people as respects all that they say to you; for it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them. In accord with all their doings that they have done from the day of my bringing them up out of Egypt until this day in that they kept leaving me and serving other gods, that is the way they are doing also to you.”—1 Sam. 8:7, 8.
In view of the experiences of Aaron, Moses and Samuel, it should not be difficult to understand how it was that the voice of the Jewish people when they rejected Jesus Christ as the long-looked-for Messiah some nineteen hundred years ago was not the voice of God. As Luke records the matter, after Pilate for the third time wanted to release Jesus, “they began to be urgent, with loud voices, demanding that he be impaled; and their voices began to win out.”—Luke 23:23; John 1:11, 12.
If the voice of the people really were the voice of God, then the men elected to office in modern times would be God’s choices. But how could elections be indicative of God’s will when more often than not success depends upon the amount of money spent, or upon who makes the strongest bids to the passions and prejudices or selfishness of the people by vain or conscienceless promises?
Pertinent in this regard are the remarks that Poland’s Cardinal Wyszynski made in an interview at the recent ecumenical council in Rome. He told that the Catholic Church in Poland feared that in the elections of January, 1957, the temper of the people would cause them to register a huge protest vote and so he ordered all the Catholic clergy to instruct their flocks to vote for the atheistic communistic candidates appearing on the ballots. This the Polish Catholics obediently did. But did this approval of the atheistic communistic candidates by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and the common people make their election an expression of the voice of God?—Die Weltwoche (The World’s Week), Zurich, Switzerland, March 1, 1963.
That the voice of the people is not necessarily the voice of God is further underscored by the fact that Jehovah God has his own government for the ruling of this world, his kingdom with his Son, Jesus Christ, as its king. Concerning his government Jesus, when before Pilate, said: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) It did not represent the voice of the people of this world but the voice of God. It is the kingdom for which all Christians, professed and genuine alike, have been praying for nineteen centuries, but only genuine Christians have been acting in harmony with that prayer.
If the voice of the people were the voice of God, it would not have been necessary for the apostles of Jesus Christ to say: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Whenever there is a conflict between what God requires and what the worldly governments demand, then those practicing apostolic Christianity will reply in the same way, for they well know that the voice of the people is not necessarily the voice of God.—Acts 5:29.