My son, fear the LORD and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?
These two verses conjure up from my memory the photographic image of a father and daughter in a war-torn city attempting to cross a street during a gunfight between army troops and heavily armed rebels. The writer cautions his readers not to venture into such dangerous territory between the civil authorities and those who would rebel against their rule. Indeed, each side of the unrest may react with swift actions resulting in disaster and ruin for the one caught in the middle.
“Good citizenship is part of godliness,” is Derek Kidner’s pithy observation of this passage.The Apostle Paul does well in expanding on these verses in Romans 13:3b-4a: "Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain."
And here is the focal point: there is a proper respect and fear to be given first to God and then to civil authorities. This respect for government is not for how great it is but because of the trusted authority endowed to governments by our God. As F.F. Bruce wrote, “Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”
With the writer we should respect and pray for those our Lord has place in authority over us, whether in our homes, workplaces, churches, or countries where order is established and peace can flourish.
[Reminder: taxes are due next week.]