Obeying those in Leadership

Obeying Rulers

Ecclesiastes 8:1-9

“I say, ‘Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God.’”

 

            Solomon knew well the importance of government and the role of leadership.  However, he also knew the effects of sin and corruption.  In the book of Proverbs, Solomon challenged those in leadership to act with wisdom and righteousness.  A righteous king brings a blessing to the land as he promotes justice and righteousness (for example, see Prov. 20:8; 20:26).  But Solomon also reminds us of the devastating effects a wicked leader can bring upon the people (Probs 17:23, 29:12, 28:10).  As Solomon is searching for wisdom in a fallen world where sin has distorted and corrupted all of humanity and everything we do, he now turns to our attention towards those in government.  In a world where sin has twisted and distorted God’s purpose for humanity, how do we respond when that corruption has reached the highest levels of government?

            Solomon begins by reminding us that the wise recognize that God has ordained the government of a nation to be the agents of His justice.  As Solomon reflects upon government, even government marred by the effects of sin, he proclaims the same message that Paul would emphasize in Romans 13:1-5 (see also Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-18).  In a fallen world, we must recognize that God establishes human governments to promote justice and righteousness. Our obedience to the government is not only a civic responsibility but a moral and spiritual responsibility (vs. 2). Therefore, we are not to oppose those in leadership (vs 3).  Furthermore, we must recognize that if we submit to the government, we do not need to fear those in leadership, for the laws they establish promote what is right.  In verse 5, Solomon echoes Paul’s instruction that the government is God’s agent for judgment, and if we are doing what is right, then we do not need to fear their authority (Romans 13:4).

            However, Solomon is also a realist who examines life in a fallen world in which sin distorts and twists all things.  As Solomon examines all of life, he finds that sin has also infiltrated the role of government. Because of sin, those in government who are established by God to promote righteousness instead can become the promoters of injustice and sin.  Instead of protecting those under their care, those in authority can inflict harm. 

            This brings us to the question woven throughout the book:  How do we live in a fallen world where sin has corrupted everything, including the agents responsible for upholding righteousness?  He asks, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?”  If there is a time for everything (3:1-11), how can we live when we do not know that time?  Sin clouds our perspective so that we cannot understand God's timing and purpose.  This includes His purpose in government.  How do we understand God’s purpose when the government that God places in power is equally corrupt? 

            Solomon provides the answer in verse 8.  As powerful as the government is, it is still limited in its power.  The things that matter: The control of creation (the wind), life and death (the day of death), the movements and power of a nation (time of war), and the heart condition of man (evil) are controlled by God rather than man. While the government has power, it is still powerless to usurp the purpose of God.  While the government may be corrupted, instead of promoting righteousness, it promotes evil (vs. 9); God remains in control of the events and purpose of government, humanity, and our lives. Those in power are under the authority of God.  Therefore, we are not to fret or become fearful.  Since God determines those in authority based upon His sovereign plan, we can rest in God’s purpose and movement of history.  God is in control.  We do not need to become fearful when we see so much political turmoil in our country.  God is the divine orchestrator who controls all events and all governments to move history to His predetermined outcome.  This outcome is the return of Christ and the establishment of His eternal kingdom.  The next time you watch the news and see the turmoil in our country and the misuse of power to promote evil, remember God is still in control.  Everything is still going according to His plan.  Therefore, we can rest in His plan without fear.

            

            

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