One problem has caused more people to stumble in their walk with God than any other situation I know. We encounter harsh and cruel authorities at various times in our lives. How should we react to cruel and harsh authorities when they mistreat us or abuse their authority? Most people ask the question this way: Why Should I honor an authority that I don’t respect and even dislike?
The attitude of dishonor runs deep within our American Society. We believe it is our right to speak out against those we do not like, think are wrong, or disagree with us. I was in the lunch line with my mentor student last Tuesday. The lunch ladies had the Presidential Inauguration playing on a radio. President Obama was giving his acceptance speech. I overheard a fifth grade girl say “I don’t like him”. The boy behind her said “I wish he wasn’t our President”. I immediately turned to them and said, but he is our President. We need to honor him and the office that he represents. The girl said, but he’s not a good man, my dad didn’t want him to be President. I said “that doesn’t matter, he is our President, and it is our duty to honor and pray for him” The kids kind of had a shocked look on their face and then changed the subject.
I challenge you to live this next week and not hear one instance of dishonor. I can guarantee that you will hear someone say something negative about a politician, a bank official, a boss, a spouse, a teacher, someone. Dishonor is rampant in America.
As I look at the question of Honoring Cruel and Evil authorities, I want to relate a true story, as told in 2 Kings 6. As I tell the story I will draw out few points which will form the foundation of the answer to our question.
The Sunken Axe Head
2 Kings 6 opens with a group of young prophets coming to Elisha. They have been meeting with Elisha, but there are so many young prophets, they have outgrown the meeting place. So they suggest building a bigger place. Elisha being a man of few words says one word: “yalak” which means Go. But they want him to come and upon asking Elisha to come he says “yalak”. One way means you go, and another way means I go. So they go to the Jordan and start cutting down trees. All of a sudden one guy is chopping real hard when his axe head flies off and sinks to the bottom of the muddy Jordan River. He starts crying out: “What am I going to do? I borrowed that axe”. Elisha goes over and cuts off a branch and throws the stick in the river where the axe fell. All of a sudden the axe head floats to the surface and floats over to the guy who lost it. Elisha tells him to pick it up. He picks it up and goes about chopping the wood.
You say “That’s a cool story” but what does it have to say about cruel authorities?
1. This world is under a curse.
That curse is sin. That curse resulted from our disobedience to the one True Authority. God was good and kind and man still rebelled. We became cursed because of sin. We are condemned to sink under the weight of our sins. We are all hopelessly drowning, whether you are a boss, a King, a President, a father, a mother, whatever authority you may have, you are condemned to drown in your own sins, condemned to eternal separation from Holy God in a literal burning fire of Hell.
2. Jesus Came to Reverse the Curse
Elisha took a stick and put it in the water at the exact spot that the axe head had sunk. Jesus died at the precise time and place needed to satisfy God’s demands of payment for our sin. What Jesus did was exactly what was needed to REVERSE THE CURSE
Jesus Christ, God’s son, holy, without sin, came to this world to REVERSE THE CURSE. He died upon the cruel stick of the cross of crucifixion. When Elisha took that stick and through it into the River of Death (which the Jordan symbolizes) he was painting the picture that the Cross of Jesus reversed the curse. Our sins have been forgiven and we rise above the curse. We are free. God is actively at work in this world reversing the curse upon man. That curse affects our leaders, our authorities, our husbands, our wives. The only way to reverse that curse is by Jesus.
3. We’ve Got to Honor God’s Word
Elisha said “Pick it up”. The man had to honor the commands of Elisha to reverse the curse and get the axe head. Christ may have won the victory but you have to pick it up! When we honor God, when we honor God’s structure of authority, when we let the reality of the Cross live in our daily lives, our daily inter-reactions with those around us, we have amazing power to reverse the curse!
King of Syria Seeks Elisha
Look at the next happening: in Verse 8 we read about the King of Syria and how he was trying to capture and kill the King of Israel. He heard the King might be over at the Wal-Mart in Raymore and he sent his troops over there, but he had already left. Then they heard he was going to be at the Home Depot in Belton, but by the time they got there, he had already left. Then they knew he was going to go to the ground breaking ceremony of anew manufacturing company. So they waited along the route he would have to take, but lo and behold he took another out of the way route.
So the King of Syria gathered his top men and said “Which one of you is the traitor?” Who is telling the King of Israel about my plans? But a servant stepped forward and said; No one is my Lord, for there is a prophet Elisha who tells the King everything you are going to do. Why he even know what you say in your bedroom!”
The King is angry and says “Where is this Elisha?” They spy out the land and word comes back that he is living in a little shack down in Freeman. SO the King sends his vast army to go get this one man Elisha. This is no scouting party. We are talking about tanks, jets, armored personnel carriers, 2000 infantrymen. This King wanted Elisha, dead or alive! So they march and late that night get within a couple thousand yards or so and decide it’s best to wait until the daylight in the morning.
The next morning Elisha’s servant goes outside to get wood for a fire and he sees this vast Syrian army and it looks like their guns are all pointed at him. So he runs inside and says Elisha, get up, the whole Syrian Army camped outside and I think they are after you! What do we do? Elisha says “Don’t be afraid! There are more on our side than on theirs!” And before the servant can dishonor Elisha with a wisecrack, he prays, Lord, open His eyes and let him see! Sure enough, his eyes are opened up and he sees an army that you can’t even begin to imagine. The hills surrounding Freeman were filled with millions of army men, tanks and blazing fire power. They must have outnumbered the Syrians 100 to one.
As the army and the tanks advanced on Elisha’s little shack, Elisha prayed. He prayed that not that the Lord’s army would intervene. He prayed that the Syrian army would be made blind. And they all get stricken with blindness. Elisha runs out to them and says yoo hoo, guys, you are in the wrong city. Follow me and I’ll take you to the man you are looking for. So all these soldiers start following Elisha. He leads them up Richards Gebaur where the King is meeting with Ike Skelton. Then Elisha prays God, open their eyes. Their eyes are open, and they find themselves surrounded by the marines, and the King of Israel is there. He cries out to Elisha, Father, what do I do, Do I kill them? “Of course not” Elisha cries. Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them on their way to their master. So the King of Israel prepared this huge feast, and after they had eaten and drank, he sent them home to their master.
OK, another cool story, but what does it mean?
1. Pray To See The Power Of God!
No matter how mean and cruel your authority may be-they are outnumbered by God!
2. God Is Greater Than Any Harsh Authority (Enemy) In Your Life.
God uses these encounters to show us His Power, if we let him open our eyes.
3. Honor Every Harsh Authority As A Prisoner Of War.
God told the King of Israel to honor his enemies. He did.
4. Enjoy a Feast With Harsh Authorities!
(Isn’t that what David wrote-Thou prepares a banquet table before me in the presence of my enemies)
5. Pray That Harsh Authorities Will See That Their Master Is The Devil!
Sometime the only way that someone will do right or turn to God will be when they realize just how mean low down and dirty the devil is. When they see how black and heartless their life has become.
- The prodigal had to get eye level with those ugly pigs before he thought to return home.
If you treat evil authorities with evilness or dishonor you will never show them the love of God, you will never put them in a place where they can even see that they are following an evil master.
Now this is not the end of the story. The Bible says the Syrian army went home and didn’t bother Israel for a long while. I think they got reformed. They got a little bit of heaven scared into them. Elisha could have had God’s Army kill them, but no one would have learned anything. Jesus could have had the Roman Soldiers killed, Pilate Killed, Annas and Caiaphas killed, but in that little victory the whole world would have been lost.
You may rebel or do something to prove a point. You may even embarrass the authority or win a lawsuit, but at what price comes your victory? When you chose to dishonor even an ungodly authority you are closing your eyes to all that God wants to do. You are closing your eyes to God’s Power!
Our story doesn’t end there.
Ben-Hadad Besieges Samaria
A new King takes over. His name is Ben Hadad. He doesn’t know about what happened and so marches on Samaria and lays siege. His army camps out for months. Things get so bad that people are willing to pay 5000 for a donkey’s head to eat. One day the King is walking along the wall of the city, and a woman calls out to him from the streets below.
She says “Help me King!” He says, “If the Lord doesn’t help you, what can I do, I don’t have any food! But she says, that not what I want King. A few days ago my best friend Betty said, hey, things are so bad, let’s make a pact. If we eat your son today, then when all that food is gone, we can eat my boy Johnnie over there.” So I killed my little boy and we’ve been eating him for the last week or so, but he is all gone. So I look for Betty to remind her that it’s Johnnies turn, and now she is gone away and Johnnie is nowhere to be found.
The King of Israel got so upset that he started tearing his clothes. He yelled “God strike me dead if I don’t cut Elisha’s head off this very day” He took his despair and anger out on Elisha. Why hadn’t Elisha done something? Why was there all this suffering because of the evil Ben Hadad? Why didn’t Elisha call the Army of God or strike them blind? He had done it before?
Remember, we need to have our eyes open at all time to see God, to see what He is doing. God intervened the time before, because He wanted to show His glory in a certain way. But this time God was silent, Elisha was silent, there was suffering going on. Why” I don’t know, but God was clearly allowing it!
We get a glimpse into why when we look at verse 32. We find that while the King is fuming, Elisha is sitting in his house with the elders of the city. He says, “Guys, by the way, the murderous King we have is sending his Captain to cut off my head”. Keep the door shut so he can’t come in. Sure enough, as Elisha was talking, there was a knock on the door. No one budged except to lock the door.
They hear someone yelling at the door: “This disastrous siege is because of God! How can we trust God anymore?”
- (You may have been tempted to say just that when you endured a harsh authority)
Elisha yells back: “Hear ye the word of the Lord: About 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon in the city of Samaria you will be able to buy a 12 ounce Filet Mignon for one dollar and a 15 piece bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for fifty cents!“
Listen what happens next: The Captain, the Kings right hand man yells out “Even if God could open the windows of Heaven, this would never happen” So Elisha yelled back: You will see it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat any of it! The Captain made a terrible mistake. He dishonored the word of God! He dishonored God! He dishonored God’s messenger.
The rest of the story is that 4 lepers decided it was better to die by the Syrians than to starve to death, so they go into the enemy camp. No one is there, because God had let them see His great army and hear the sounds of His Army and they got scared and ran away. They left their filets and fried chicken out. It was a feast. The lepers went back and told the people and you would have thought it was Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Everybody started running to the enemy camp to get food. Sure enough, the Captain who dishonored God and Elisha was trampled to death before he could get one bite!
God allowed evil to happen to His people. He allowed an evil authority to cause things to get so bad that horrible horrible things were done. Why? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you that it was His plan. If anyone dishonors God’s plan, God’s authorities, they will get trampled.
If You Want to Feast, Honor God’s Word & Wait For His Power! (Always Give God One More Day)
God has a feast prepared for us, but we must learn to Honor even evil authorities, because no authority is in place against God’s will.
Now with this foundation, we are able to answer the question before us:
Question: How could a Righteous God appoint cruel people to positions of authority?
God is the originator of the authority, but He is not the author of the cruelty. Man is responsible for his cruel actions, not God. All authority is of God, but not all authority is godly.
MAJOR QUESTION: Are we to submit to authority when those in authority mistreat us?
But lets look at New Testament writings in 1 Peter 2:
Peter says we should also submit to the harsh.
What does harsh mean? Mildly irritating? Difference of oppinion? No, it is worse than that. The Greek word is skolios which means:
Well, maybe that is just one interpretation of harsh. So I looked at Vines:
The New Living Translation says it this way, as if there was any doubt as to the meaning of harsh:
The Living Bible says:
- But Jim, if spousal or child abuse is wrong, why would God allow His own born again children to be abused by harsh authorities?
God does not want His children to be abused. He does not even condone child abuse. He is the most loving father in the universe. God doesn’t just love, God is love. And in His Loving ways that are higher than my ways, God tells me to be submissive to harsh, cruel, crooked, perverse, tyrannical, unjust and dishonest leaders.
God’s Way vs. Man’s Way
Understand what God considers EVIL:
- For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 (KJV)
- Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Jeremiah 7:24 (NKJV)
- “For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.” Jeremiah 4:22
Being evil before God is not murdering, not stealing, not lying…Being evil involves two things:
- Forsaking God (Not obeying Him)
- Following Your Own Plans (following the counsels and dictates of your evil hearts)
God wants us to depend upon Him. Whatever happens in our life is to draw us into greater dependence upon Him. Even that which you consider evil is meant to draw us into God’s presence. When we rebel against authority, when we dishonor authority, we are closing our hearts to God and His Divine plan.
WHY SHOULD WE SUBMIT TO HARSH AUTHORITIES?
There are Three Personal Benefits of Submitting and Honoring Harsh Authority.
1. Submission to Harsh Authority places our case in the hands of God who judges justly
- If we take matters in our own hands, God steps back and lets us be on our own.
Say we rebel and win, we divorce and find a better husband, we quit the cheer leading squad in a tiff, we hang the phone up and vow to never talk to them again, a wound or root is left in our spirit that is not Christ like, and eventually will bring trouble and even defilement. God Hits a Lot of Straight Licks With Crooked Sticks
2. We receive a blessing
When we walk after God, and not after the evil imaginings of our heart, we receive a blessing.
I did not want to get real personal with you, but God said I had too, because this is something God has been teaching me over the last thirty five years. My Brothers in August 1988 voted to fire me from Tompkins Industries, Inc, where I was President. Dad had retired in 1986 and gave us different responsibilities, but made us equal in ownership. But we didn’t get along. And Dad didn’t intervene. So I found myself without a job, with no savings, and a wife and six children to provide for. The next three years were incredibly hard. We struggled financially, my relationship with Mom and Dad and my brothers was non-existent, until my grandmother passed away. I had just been fired from an Asphalt Paving company that I had been hired to manage. My brothers asked me about starting my own paving company. I said yes, I could start one, and they agreed to loan me $80,000. I started Tompkins Pavingy on March 21, 1991, having had only 6 months prior paving experience. My office was back at Tompkins Industries, the place they fired me from in August of 1988.
I have kept a journal the last 35 years, and I wanted to share some journal entries with you that might help with this issue of submission and harsh authorities.
April 7, 1991: “When I think of all that was taken away from me at Tompkins, and how now monetarily the boys are doing so well, and I am struggling…, it is very hard not to be bitter. Especially now that I am officing with them. But Father-You did exactly what I needed, for you will work a far greater eternal glory. Please keep reminding me of that… I gladly accept your fire of suffering-knowing that my family, my children, my grandchildren are better for it! Teach me thy way O Lord and I will walk in your truth.”
The brothers started to get nervous about their money. Sales were slow at first. They were refusing to pay vendors until they got their money. They refused to let me have any say so with the check book. They had become a “Harsh” Authority to me very quickly. What I though had been a restoration of our relationship seemed to be a ploy to ruin me further. So one day, one very bad day I wrote:
July 21, 1991: “the thought that has come to me is that Job’s afflictions came all at once (or do it seems). He was strong in his resolve not to curse God and die. But what would have happened if your afflictions came slowly, over a period of several years. Slowly, methodically your will to live, your hope is chipped away. Finally something happens, and any hope left is finally dissolved. You are left with no way out, but to take your life. The thought to end my life has been on the top of my mind-it just seems there is no hope anymore-that I’ve boxed myself into a hopeless situation-one which will lead to ruin for my family. It’s been tough the last 4 or 5 years-the afflictions have slowly eaten away at my love for life, my love for others-my love for God. I’m to the point where I have no hope, no confidence in my own strength, or friends, or family-I don’t know what to do.”
February 19, 1994: “What a difference 2 years makes-(91-92) winter was very discouraging. 94 winter I am very thankful for the way God has given. It would take several pages to list all the ways.”
March 21, 1994: “How headstrong and self confident I am by nature. So confident of my intellect and abilities to make things happen. God had to take all that away-to show me His strength and ability to provide in the face of my inability to do what is right. Only as I give over to Him my confidence for success am I allowed to receive His great gifts.”
“When God desires to deal with a particular man, He does not leave Him until He has brought him through to a clear place. God does not leave us in darkness for long. He will reveal His will. He waits until He is finally free to speak, and our attention is focused on Him. Trials issue in triumph. Clearly it is not the number of trials which is important, but that we reach God’s goals through them.”
March 21, 1994: Insight from 2 Samuel 12:20: So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. This is the Mark of a Man after God’s own Heart: “When we realize God’s way with us without resentment or regret. “UPON SEEING GOD’S WAY, WE BOW AND WORSHIP THE WILL OF GOD.”
I know first hand the blessings that you receive when you honor even harsh authorities.
3. In trusting God, Rather than vindicating ourselves, Godly Character is built within us.
The suffering of Christ was mistreatment by authority. We are to arm ourselves with the same mind. WHY? We are called to honor authority even when it mistreats us. Peter says if you do this well you will cease from sin. This means we grow in our character. Paul writes:
The Bible instructs us to unconditionally submit to authorities, however, it does not tell us to unconditionally obey authorities.
Submission deals with our attitude, obedience deals with our actions.
We must be willing AND obedient. The fear of the Lord resides in our heart, and honor is an outflow of Holy fear!
- God wants to reward your Submission to His Ways and His heart…
- It is not about obedience, it is about your attitude…
We must have unconditional submission. But not unconditional obedience. Case in Point:
Nebuchadnezzar: Mighty Ruler, Brute Beast, Servant of God
Shadrach Meshach & Abednego decided it was more important to fear God rather than worship Neb. They had honored Neb, and he had made them governors of Babylon. But when he commanded them to worship the golden statue, they politely refused. They confessed their obedience to God.
Shadrach Meshach & Abednego honored both God and the King
- They Honored God by refusing to sin.
- They honored the King by submitting to his authority and speaking respectfully to him.
- God gave them a Full Reward
- The King promoted them
When we submit to harsh authorities, we bring God into our situation. God uses that pressure to enlarge us! Look at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The three became four! God enlarged them as they honored Him and the harsh authority He had placed over them.
Bottom Line: In learning God’s Ways, we must learn to Honor the Authorities God has placed in our lives. Honoring requires that we submit-and that requires a heart attitude. Obedience without the right attitude produces no reward. God values your heart above all else.
1. We must LEARN the value of submission and honor
2. We must OBEY God first, but when faced with a harsh authority, we must have our eyes OPEN to see God’s Power.
3. We must correct our heart ATTITUDE.
4. We must APPEAL in the right spirit. (Esther)
5. We must COMMIT the matter to God if we suffer.
6. We must SEE the authority as a Prisoner of War, and treat them with dignity.
7. We must PRAY that the authority will see himself as God sees him, praying for their repentance and ultimate blessing from God.
Remember, Nebuchadnezzar came to see himself as he really was, a brute beast.
Have you dealt with any Brute Beasts in your life?
Any Harsh Authorities?
Did you react you way, or God’s way?