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The Lion Tamer

Wisdom in resisting a wicked leader 

Proverbs 28:15-16

15 Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people.

16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.


Paddington Bear, the beloved spectacled bear “from darkest Peru” recently turned 65 years old. This fictional character of children’s literature is the creation of English author Michael Bond. The polite little bear with a penchant of marmalade sandwiches, sports an old red hat, carries a battered suitcase and is the subject of dozens of children’s books. 

Inspired by sincere and forlorn refugee children that Bond spotted in a railway station during World War II, Paddington bear has captured the hearts of millions worldwide. Bears like Paddington, Winnie the Pooh, and other “lovable fuzzballs” have created a soft spot in the heart of western culture for bears—to the point of being dangerous. 

Wary hikers, hunters, and naturalists know to steer clear of bears as potentially dangerous wild animals. Although not territorial, bears can be ravenously hungry and can defend their young with ferocity. Solomon speaks of this in Proverbs:

15 Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
Rather than a fool in his folly.–Proverbs 12:15

On the American frontier, bears were the stuff of legend, and none more so than Ursus horribilus, better known as the grizzly bear. Only twenty-odd years passed from the time Davy Crockett “kilt him a bar, when he was only three,” and still almost nothing was known of this great beast of the American west. 

In 1804, Lewis and Clark led their expedition to explore and map the newly acquired lands from the Louisiana Purchase. Wintering with Mandan Indians along the Missouri River that winter they heard tales of fearsome, giant bears that roamed the plains. 

Not long after they began to continue their journey upriver that spring, the Corps of Discovery encountered their first grizzly bear. Lewis recorded in his journal that day that it was a, “…verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill…”  

On May 14, this group of hunters and adventurers encountered another grizzly bear. After firing four shots at the bear, the angered beast charged the group. Lewis described the drama that followed:

…for a moment only, the men unable to reload their guns took to flight, the bear pursued and had very nearly overtaken them before they reached the river; two of the party betook themselves to a canoe and the others separated an concealed themselves among the willows, reloaded their pieces, each discharged his piece at him as they had an opportunity they struck him several times again but the guns served only to direct the bear to them, in this manner he pursued two of them separately so close that they were obliged to throw aside their guns and pouches and throw themselves into the river altho’ the bank was nearly twenty feet perpendicular; so enraged was this animal that he plunged into the river only a few feet behind the second man he had compelled take refuge in the water, when one of those who still remained on shore shot him…and finally killed him…   

All of this effort for a brush with death in tooth and claw raises the question:

How do you stop a charging bear?

Why you take away its credit card, of course! 


(Hello? Is this thing on?)

Sorry about that. Lets get back on track:

Bears are mentioned many times in the Bible, and none of the examples are fond of marmalade sandwiches. Instead, bears are used as examples of suddenness, savagery, and ravenous hunger. In Proverbs 28, Solomon employs not only bears but lions to make a point:

15 Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people.–Proverbs 28:15

The wild animals of verse 15 are used as metaphors for an oppressive king or leader. The roaring lion is a symbol of strength and ferocity. The male lion will roar simply to display his power, and as his voice reverberates across desert plains or wild savanna, all in its hearing tremble at his might.

A charging bear denotes suddenness and savagery, the unstoppable force of a beast ravenous in his hunger and ready to tear his prey limb from limb with teeth and claws. Just as the grizzly scattered the hardy frontiersmen of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, one’s instinct is to turn and run than to attempt to stand and fight.

Who is Solomon speaking of here? The idea of a “wicked ruler” can seem to fit a broad category of world leaders and other potentates. With proverbs being one of the books of the Bible that can have specific application to politics and the affairs of state, it is not a big stretch of your imagination to think of many kings, presidents, and even corporate CEOs that match such a description.

All of these tyrants—like all dictators and despots—have one thing in common: they rule at the expense of the poor, wickedly oppressing their own people.

A president whose monetary policy results in a jump in inflation from 2% to nearly 7% in less than 12 months and then tries to tell his struggling people that such a hardship is actually good can seem wicked at worst, and uncaring at best.

Western world leaders have been inflicting far more troubles on their people in recent years than overseeing the rise of gas and grocery prices. More and more laws are being passed to restrict freedom, such as Scotland’s “Hate Crime and Public Order Act” that seeks to police offensive speech to the point of charging and jailing its citizens for up to seven years for things that they say online. 

Meant to protect and unify its disparate groups of people, the law has only sown more division. 

The result of this and other similar laws that seek to curtail freedom add further hardship on people who see traditions and social institutions such as the traditional (biblical) family being demolished in an effort to gain ever more control over the individual. As people are separated into identity groups, they begin to lose their identity to one another as fellow humans and God’s children.

The world under that of wicked leaders becomes one where truth becomes extinct in favor of maintaining an approved narrative, and ones conscience is salved as he or she distances themselves from their neighbors, friends, and even family. 

C.S. Lewis describes this in his novel That Hideous Strength. One character, Mark Studdock, is coerced into supporting a wicked organization. As a writer, Mark is called to write glowing things about the oppressive rule of those he represents. As a consequence, he found himself speaking in terms of “statistics” and generalities, and avoiding thought of the actual human toll of the policies he supported: 

His education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laborers were the substance; any real ditcher, plowman or farmer's boy, was the shadow. Though he had never noticed it himself, he had a great reluctance, in his work, ever to use words as 'man' or 'woman.' He preferred to write about 'vocational groups,' 'elements,' 'classes' and 'populations:' for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.–C.S. Lewis, “That Hideous Strength”  

But that’s just it, is it not? For every oppressive royal edict, government regulation, or company policy, there is a genuine human cost. Solomon pictures an ancient king, awash in the wealth of his nation—gained on the backs of his hard-working people. He would remember the stories of God’s people in Egypt:

14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.–Exodus 1:14

No matter how successful such a ruler or elected official can appear, his or her time is short-lived. Whether he falls to the blades of revolutionaries, or on his deathbed, he will meet his final punishment before God. Solomon, ever mindful of his young pupils, offers advice for a righteous leader:

16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.–Proverbs 28:16

Verse 16 implies that the schemes and plans of wicked rulers are but short-sighted measures. Indeed many corrupt world leaders are simply wanting to enrich themselves while they can, just as an oppressive company manager may callously treat employees as he seeks his own advancement. Commentator Tremper Longman explains the radical difference between wicked and wise leaders:

Wisdom is an ethical category, and by not exploiting people in economic ways, the prince is showing himself to be wise. As is well known in Proverbs, wisdom leads to life.–Longman

Solomon speaks plainly about how the people react to such wicked or wise leaders in chapter 29:

2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.– Proverbs 29:2

Do you feel that you can hear the roar of a powerful, uncaring government that seeks to keep you in your place? Do you read of the troubles of your fellow citizens and fear at any moment it could come ravenously charging at you with an audit, an accusation, or another draconian law at your expense?

You are not alone. Not only do you share in the same experiences as your neighbors you also have knowledge of the One who has come to liberate you from the oppression of this world! Jesus has conquered sin and death—and all powers on earth that deployed them against the children of God.

Christ, in His ministry, repeatedly confronted and rebuked the oppressive leaders of His day. Those who had been charged with shepherding God’s people were instead feeding on them by their hypocrisy! Jesus angrily denounced them in Matthew:

For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.–Matthew 23:4-5a 

It is little wonder that Jesus called these leaders “sons of hell,” for they followed their father the devil. Peter describes Satan in his hunger to oppress and destroy: 

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.–I Peter 5:8-9

When it comes to considering everything from politics to your personal faith, do you completely rely on Christ? Or do you feel that somehow, it is all still up to you to fight and overcome these things? When Peter tells you to be “steadfast in the faith” he is telling you that the only real way to fight these things is to strengthen your faith. Read God’s word to bolster it! Fellowship and worship with His people to unify it! And pray—PRAY—for His protection as you go about your days in harms way.

No matter how oppressive a roaring president may be. No matter how savage a charging opponent to your faith and well-being may appear, never forget that the victory has already been won. Empires of earth rise and fall, but Christ reigns forever! He has conquered all:

15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.–Colossians 2:15

You and I are not part of an occupying army that seeks to pacify this world, we are soldiers in a victorious army whose King of Kings has won the battle! Let us resist the enemy together, and serve the King with gladness! 


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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