Children are lacking something that most people develop over time: a mouth filter. This can lead to some hilarious comments or embarrassing ones depending on which side of the situation you are on. It can also lead to some frustrating moments for parents. For example, if your boss tells you to do something that you don’t want to do, you might come up with a “clever” excuse, or pawn the task off on someone else, or just begrudgingly do it. An untrained child will look at you and just say “I don’t wanna!” (I know YOUR kids aren’t like that, I’m talking about other people’s.)
Sometimes, however, the authority IS wrong. Sometimes they don’t follow God’s Word, or His principles and precepts. What do you do then? Today’s passages all give insight into this predicament, which is incredibly instructive. Romans 15:4 says “For whatsoever things which were written aforetime were written for our learning…” We can definitely learn from these examples (even the bad ones) about how we are to handle difficult authority situations.
Consider first, Saul, Israel’s first king. He made a hasty decision to make a sacrifice to God because Samuel had not arrived to do it yet. Samuel reprimands him prior to the battle, but then gives explicit instructions on the details of the battle. Saul leads in victory, but Israel takes spoils of the Amalekites. This violated the explicit commands. When Samuel shows up, Saul greets him and says, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” Samuel immediately calls out Saul’s disobedience and, ultimately, his rebellion against God and His commands. The Lord even commented in verse 11 about the grief caused by Saul’s rebellion (repeated again in verse 35). The oft repeated verse from this passage comes in verse 23a: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” So Saul was a king guilty of sins on par with witchcraft and idolatry. Was he a good king or a bad king? A king to be respected or not? We’ll come back to this idea in a moment.
Example number 2: Zedekiah. It can’t get much more explicit than this: “And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Jeremiah 52:2) We read through the rest of the chapter about the first part of the Babylonian captivity (circa. 605 bc) We know the consequences of the king’s actions. We know the heart behind his actions. Was he a good king or a bad king? A king to be respected or not?
Romans 13 sheds light on this difficult topic (and makes it not very difficult). The end of Romans 13:2 says “There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” So who allowed Zedekiah and Saul to be kings? God did. Who gave them their authority? God did. So if Israel rebelled against their king, ultimately they would be saying, “God, I think you messed up and I know better than you, so I’m going to oppose the person you have set up, and in turn, I oppose YOU, God.” We don’t often think that way directly, but I have heard many comments that, if distilled, follow this line of reasoning.
Ultimately, the way we respond to authority, whether at work, locally, or even federally boils down to this: How much do you trust God? Psalm 31 opens up with this declaration: “In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust…” We would verbally say that, but do our lives back up that sentiment? Do we trust God even when we don’t like the way things are going?
You see the psalmist here crying out to God because of the difficulty he is in, yet he returns like a boomerang to the character of God. Verses 9-13, he laments his predicament, verse 14, he returns to the character of God. At the end, he implores you and me with this reminder: “O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
In times where we hear rebellious cries of “Not my president,” “Have it your way,” and “Well, that’s YOUR truth,” we as Christians must recognize that, so long as our authority does not mandate our violation of God’s law, to rebel against authority is to rebel against God. So today, when your boss asks you to do something you don’t appreciate, and your adult brain mouth filter prevents you from blurting out, “I don’t wanna!” remember that God put that authority there, and by submitting to your authority, you are honoring God!