Rulers and Subjects

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,
So the heart of kings is unsearchable.

Take away the dross from silver,
And it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.
Take away the wicked from before the king,
And his throne will be established in righteousness.”
Proverbs 25:2-5

For the next few weeks my younger kids and I are studying about kings and queens as we work on our home schooling curriculum. Our memory verse for this particular week is Hebrews 13:17 which states:

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

In talking with my children about this verse the past few days it has been hard to teach them the fact that a submissive attitude towards those God puts in authority is not the same as obedience. I think at times I even struggle in trying to distinguish the two. The weight a leader carries on his shoulders, when appointed by God to lead any group of people, is heavy here on earth but even more so in heaven. A leader's appointed duty before the Lord, whether known or not, is to account for the souls of those he is allowed to shepherd. In our submission then to the commands/decrees/laws of our leaders, we then keep the peace and this peaceful existence allows us to prosper under whatever reign we find ourselves.

As I was reading this morning I was really attracted to the verses above from proverbs. As I read them more and more I have come to understand that although the Hebrews verse was written for those given to live in subjection to a ruler, the proverbs verses are given for instruction of a ruler. In being a ruler, no matter how large your area of influence, the Lord expects you to live up to His standards and to heed His parameters for shepherding the souls of all people – those who see Him as God and even those who don't – no matter where the ruler falls on the believing or non-believing side of the fence.

Here are the things Proverbs 25:2-5 lay out as the things a person given governing authority must do:
  • Seek out truth in all matters put before them
  • Have a heart that searches beyond human understanding
  • Separate the evil from the good
  • Leave the good to remain and cast out all evil

Now, if we were to look at this list from a worldly perspective we might conclude that a well staffed and trained police force and judicial system which as been set in place by a well meaning leader would fit the bill in keeping God's commands - unfortunately this is how many leaders live out their command to move people towards good living also. But God is not talking here about good government practices or making laws that distinguishes good human behavior from bad human behavior. Instead, God commands the king to look beneath the surface of what is easy to see and understand not only his own wayward heart but also the wayward hearts of the people he has been intrusted to lead. Separation of good from evil does not happen by locking up criminals – if that were the case from a heart perspective we would all be tossed in the dungeon with the keys thrown into the moat.

The greater truth we are getting to here is that a king/ruler/leader sets an example as he seeks God and learns how to live a godly life and then carries that example down to the people who in turn try to live as they have been show. In Jesus' time this was a major area of downfall for the Jewish leaders. Instead of leading my example, they prescribed many laws, looked good on the outside in making all the people feel guilty enough to live as well to the law as they could, but their hearts were anything but clean and pure and they did not search for truth beyond their own understanding – instead they made their understanding a stumbling block for those who followed them in their leadership.

The following verses are what Jesus said about the evil within this community which had been led astray by its leaders:

Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Come judgment day it will be bad enough for those who followed blindly the leaders put before them not so much in submission but more so those who followed in complete understanding and obedience. But the big condemnation within these towns will be for the leaders who did nothing to help open the people's eyes to the work of God among them and the need for them to all clean and purify their hearts to see Him. At this point I am still not settled as to what the fate is of those who followed these leaders without really ever having the truth divulged to them would be – grace by submission or judgment by obedience? I will leave that for God to sort out and just keep praying for those people who blindly follow ungodly leadership.

All of these verses make you think really hard about how tempting it may be (or not be) to hold a position of leadership and power. I think as Solomon came to the end of his list of proverbs he probably understood with an ever greater degree that knowing all he did know and all he had wisdom in after his many years of being the wisest king on earth, that in essence he really knew very little when pressed in every day with the multitude of problems his kingdom subjects presented him with. It would be wise for all leaders to understand the truth about how truly ill-equipped they are for the job they are called to fulfill – in doing so they would surely be even greater leaders and better shepherds of the people they have been allowed to lead for a time in this world.

In thinking over these matters, please pray for our upcoming elections, for God to appoint leaders who will seek Him and His wisdom, and for people to have the courage to be submissive and thrive underneath the chosen leaders God allows to be elected.


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