Believers under Political Authority
Today’s reading: Nehemiah 9-11; Acts 4:1-22
36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. 37 And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. Nehemiah 9:36-37
19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. Acts 4:19-21
God’s people, if they are wise and mature, understand that the rulers and authorities of this world are servants of God whether they recognize it or not and that they must not be obeyed when they command what God has prohibited or prohibit what God has commanded.
Nehemiah, the governor of Judah under King Artaxerxes, gives an eloquent analysis of the history of Israel, from Abraham to the return from captivity. He sees how God has been gracious and good to them, giving commands that, if obeyed, would bring them prosperity and security. Even after repeated episodes of rebellion, God showed mercy to them. Nehemiah reflects on their status in his day and sees that the people, although living back in their land of Judah, are, in reality, slaves in their own land. They are not free to enjoy the fruit of their labor. They are controlled by a foreign power, due to their rebellion. He calls the people back to faithful worship of the Lord and they make a covenant to be faithful. This is a wonderful example of a political leader proclaiming spiritual truth and actually facilitating the population’s obedience to God.
Fast forward to the time of Peter and John who, in Jesus’ name, healed a lame man in the temple and preached the gospel to the crowds. They face opposition from the authorities who prohibit their preaching in the Savior’s name. Peter says that they will obey God, and the authorities will have to deal with the results. Peter understands that the chief priests are under God’s authority and they will suffer if they prohibit what God commands and command what God prohibits.
Are you aware that the powers of our government are granted by God and that our officials must answer to Him, just as we all must? Are you ready to obey God rather than be complicit in disobedience if it comes to that? Be prepared with knowledge of His Word and trust in Him. Follow the leading of His Holy Spirit. God can give us wise leaders who fear Him, like Nehemiah, but, if not, we will listen to God rather than man.