O King, Live Forever

To me, as a student of politics, if not a very able practitioner of the art, I find it fascinating the times where godly men (and women) said to heathen kings of Babylon and Persia, “O King, live forever! [1]” There is an irony in this statement. For one, many kings have been under the mistaken belief that they were of some kind of demigod or semi-divine status, especially those kings of “oriental” monarchies (like both Babylon and Persia). And for these kings, the expectation that people would wish such kings to live forever seems to be a natural one, given their high idea of their own character and worth and benefit to their people.

The irony, though, is that neither a king nor anyone else will live forever unless they repent and follow God’s ways as written in the pages of scripture, accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and King. This is exceedingly rare. It is not all that uncommon, as one reads about it enough in history, for a ruler to appreciate godly character in others, and to show favor to godly men and women, to desire them as subjects or even acquaintances. That said, few rulers, outside of Judah’s occasional good king, have shown an inclination to be righteous and godly rulers themselves. It is far easier to appreciate goodness in others than to make the difficult steps of being godly for one’s self, especially when power is at stake.

Having discussed the laws that govern kings, as well as given a fair amount of criticism about human leaders, at some length, I thought it worthwhile to discuss only a very narrow aspect of rulership today, and that is the relationship between God and rulers. Even this narrow aspect of rulers is sufficiently contentious, and something I have dealt with at some length in its more narrow contexts concerning honor and respect [2] [3]. Let us therefore briefly comment on the obligation that we have to learn how to respect God through respecting human authorities. We learn how to respect and honor God, whom we cannot see, by respecting our parents and our rulers, whom we can see.

No one who knows me in person, or who is an avid reader of this blog, will fail to understand that I find this task extremely difficult. Quite honestly, most people who read my writings would probably find much fault in what I write and say, and find it insufficiently respectful of others, and that is a fair criticism, even if respect is something I work a great deal at. But even as this is something I greatly struggle against, it is impossible for me to deny that respect and honor are greatly important matters, and that our respect and honor for authority in general must overcome whatever legitimate wariness and concern and criticism we have toward leaders. If we allow the misconduct of leaders to lead us into contempt toward those whom God has placed in authority for His purposes, neither we nor those wicked leaders will live forever. Simply because other people do not meet their God-given obligations does not absolve us of our own obligations to them and to God.

To show honor and respect to authorities, even authorities we may not particularly like, is one of our obligations as godly people, and one that we cannot ignore if we wish for a peaceful life. For civil rulers are the servants of God. This position cuts both ways. It means that as servants of God we are required to show respect for rulers if we show honor and respect to God. Obviously there are limits to this honor and respect that may require the occasional rebuke for ungodly conduct, and fall short of obsequious flattery or other behavior that would suggest that a king or other civil ruler is anything more than a mere human being in a respected and honorable office, but there still must be respect regardless. Likewise, being a servant of God means that a ruler is not in charge, but recognizes the authority of God over them, or suffers the inevitable consequences for rebellion against one’s sovereign.

Ultimately, the recognition of the authority of God is going to change the relationship of rulers and ruled in any sort of unequal power relationship (and this would include husbands and wives and employers and employees as well as rulers and subjects). The recognition of a higher authority and power will tend to moderate the actions of those in charge, as they recognize that they too are subject to authority and that they will be treated with the same level of kindness and mercy that they treat others with as authorities. Likewise, obedience to God on the part of subjects would lead them to respect authorities in the recognition that they learn how to respect the unseen God by respecting those in authority they can see and relate to. Neither job is easy, but these are the minimally acceptable responsibilities of each.

And, of course, if a ruler really wants to live forever, they have to do so on God’s terms, recognizing that our wealth and power and influence in this life are not always remotely related to our future blessings, whether for good or bad. Some people have little in this life, and because of their hatred and bitterness, can expect little in the future. Others have much, and because of their generosity and godliness with what God has given, will be given more in the world to come. And some have been given little now, and because they have done well with it, will be given more in the future. And some, of course, have been given a great deal, have not acted in a godly or generous fashion with it, and have the fearful expectation of judgment. And it is not our place to determine which circumstances apply to other people.

In the end, each of us stands or falls on our own relationship with God, for God alone knows our hearts and the darkness and light that are contained in them, however fitfully they may appear to those around us. And whether we are kings or peasants, we will ultimately stand before God for ourselves, without our power or dignity or glory to account for everything, to answer for how we have used what God has given us, and how we have fulfilled His purposes. And whatever positions or offices we have in this life, we will all have to be accountable to our Creator. Let us make sure we have as little as possible to be ashamed of when we do.

[1] See, for example, Nehemiah 2:3, Daniel 3:9, Daniel 6:21.

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/you-shall-not-revile-god-nor-curse-a-ruler-of-your-people-the-continuing-relevance-of-exodus-22-28/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/lese-majeste/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to O King, Live Forever

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Advocate | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Daniel Code | Edge Induced Cohesion

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