Series: Thru the Bible
***Video is HERE***
If My people, would seek first MY kingdom
This is our second week looking at the passages in 2Chron/1Kings which addresses the dedication of the Temple Solomon built and specifically the prayer he prayed which has become a type of Christ standard for praying over political issues and elections in-particular.
As we discovered last week Paul had much to say about Christians, who are patently in a New Covenant based upon faith, attempting to make use of the promises of the Old Covenant, which was based solely upon works.
Also I pointed out to you how in reality, most Christians pray God’s answer to this prayer rather than the prayer itself – which alone seems a little weird.
I mean if they are truly seeking the response Solomon received to his prayer, wouldn’t it make sense to pray what he prayed rather than recite God’s response to it?
Now if you doubt me on this, simply Google the phrase, “If my people” – nothing more…that alone pulls just shy of 16 billion pages of articles, prayers, church admonishments, teachings, video & songs all with the biblical reference of 2 Chron 7:14. All the while the actual prayer is found in the previous chapter – 2Chron. 6. And is not just one verse long but is in fact at least 23 verses long. Can you see how “cherry picking” might apply here?
Now, the things we discovered and have agreed to regarding both this particular passage and in fact all passages of scripture is that:
- We ALWAYS read the passage in its entirety while paying attention to its given context.
- We always pay attention to the conditions of a promise.
- Who is it too.
- What is it for?
- What are the conditions?
- Is it based upon faith or works?
- Is it associated with a particular covenant or is it solely based upon God’s unchanging character?
- …and so on.
With that in mind we are going to start reading the actual prayer – what was Solomon asking God for, what was he asking God to do?
Now the entire passage includes verses 17-42, but ended last week having already started this process as so will begin tonight in verse 24.
I want you to remember that first part of the prayer included praise to God, a request to continue to honor His promise of having one of David’s sons on the throne of Israel SO LONG AS they continue to walk in His ways. Finally the first part of the prayer which included Israel directly was concerning if a man sins against another and there is a disagreement as to who is to blame. They were to swear by the temple and Solomon was asking God to decide the case by condemning the guilty and bringing justice to the one who acted righteously. Then I asked you…were you aware that the prayer the Modern church holds so highly and prays to God every election year BEGAN with a request for people who are guilty to be condemned rather than given mercy?
Then I showed you how this prayer is already disqualified for Christian use based upon this alone – since both Jesus and James command us NOT to swear or take an oath on ANYTHING – but simply to be honest – letting our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything more than this, they said was SIN!
So have you found verse 24 yet?
“(24) If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and praise Your Name, and they pray and plead for mercy before You in this temple, (25) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel. May You restore them to the land You gave them and their ancestors.”
Okay, let’s look at this portion. We need to draw a line between the conditions of this prayer and how it could be compared with New Covenant promises and New Covenant life.
Before we continue, help me do what Paul did in Romans and Galatians with Moses’ prayer and transpose it into New Covenant terms.
How would such requests fit within the framework of the purposes of God under the New Covenant?
- What enemy do we now have under the New Covenant? Satan.
- The New Testament tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities powers and rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in the Heavenly places. MAN is not our enemy!
- Praying towards the temple? What is the temple today? We are… Specifically our bodies.
- So to keep this part of the prayer our prayers should be directed at God – where He and His Name dwell. This is both Heaven and within us.
- An interesting description of prayer which touches on this and was made by Theophan the recluse an 18th century Monk of the Russian Orthodox church. He said, “[Prayer is] Descending with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever present, all-seeing, within you.”
- What land are we evicted from when we sin? Communion with God and our fellow Christian and Christ’s likeness.
- What does God in His mercy restore to us after we sin? Righteousness and communion.
So let me ask you a somewhat sarcastic question… So far, how much of this has anything to do with a president and an election process? NOTHING
Now for sake of time I will address the next several sections all together after we read them both here and in 1Kings.
“(26) When the skies are shut and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and praise Your Name, and they turn from their sins because You are afflicting them, (27) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, so that You may teach them the good way they should walk in. May You send rain on Your land that You gave Your people for an inheritance.”
(28) When there is famine on the earth, when there is pestilence, when there is blight, mildew, locust, or grasshopper, when their enemies besiege them in the region of their fortified cities, when there is any plague or illness, (29) whatever prayer or petition anyone from your people Israel might have–each man knowing his own affliction and suffering, and spreading out his hands toward this temple— (30) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and may You forgive and repay the man according to all his ways, since You know his heart, for You alone know the human heart, (31) so that they may fear You and walk in Your ways all the days they live on the land You gave our ancestors.
(32) Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your great name and Your mighty hand and outstretched arm: when he comes and prays toward this temple, (33) may You hear in heaven in Your dwelling place, and do all the foreigner asks You for.
Then all the peoples of the earth will know Your name, to fear You as Your people Israel do and know that this temple I have built is called by Your name.
(34) When Your people go out to fight against their enemies, wherever YOU send them, and they pray to You in the direction of this city You have chosen and the temple that I have built for Your Name, (35) may You hear their prayer and petition in heaven and uphold their cause.
(36) When they sin against You–for there is no one who does not sin–and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and their captors deport them to a distant or nearby country, (37) and when they come to their senses in the land where they were deported and repent and petition You in their captors’ land, saying: “We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked,” (38) and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart in the land of their captivity where they were taken captive, and when they pray in the direction of their land that You gave their ancestors, and the city You have chosen, and toward the temple I have built for Your Name, (39) may You hear in heaven, in Your dwelling place, their prayer and petitions and uphold their cause. May You forgive Your people who sinned against You.
(40) Now, my God, please let Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayer of this place. (41) Now therefore: Arise, LORD God, come to Your resting place, You and the ark that shows Your strength. May Your priests, LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and may Your godly people rejoice in goodness. (42) LORD God, do not reject Your anointed one; remember the loyalty of Your servant David.”
1Kings 8:22-53, “(22) Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the entire congregation of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven. (23) He said: LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below, keeping the gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart.”
A Covenant based upon Works.
“(24) You have kept what You promised to Your servant, my father David. You spoke directly to him and You fulfilled Your promise by Your power as it is today. (25) Therefore, LORD God of Israel, keep what You promised to Your servant, my father David: You will never fail to have a man to sit before Me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons guard their walk before Me as you have walked before Me. (26) Now LORD God of Israel, please confirm what You promised to Your servant, my father David. (27) But will God indeed live on earth? Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain You, much less this temple I have built.”
“(28) Listen to Your servant’s prayer and his petition, LORD my God, so that You may hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant prays before You today, (29) so that Your eyes may watch over this temple night and day, toward the place where You said: My name will be there, and so that You may hear the prayer that Your servant prays toward this place. (30) Hear the petition of Your servant and Your people Israel, which they pray toward this place. May You hear in Your dwelling place in heaven. May You hear and forgive.”
“(31) When a man sins against his neighbor and is forced to take an oath, and he comes to take an oath before Your altar in this temple, (32) may You hear in heaven and act. May You judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing what he has done on his own head and providing justice for the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.”
“(33) When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and praise Your name, and they pray and plead with You for mercy in this temple, (34) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel. May You restore them to the land You gave their ancestors.”
“(35) When the skies are shut and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and praise Your name, and they turn from their sins because You are afflicting them, (36) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, so that You may teach them the good way they should walk in. May You send rain on Your land that You gave Your people for an inheritance.”
“(37) When there is famine on the earth, when there is pestilence, when there is blight, mildew, locust, or grasshopper, when their enemy besieges them in the region of their fortified cities, when there is any plague or illness, (38) whatever prayer or petition anyone from Your people Israel might have–each man knowing his own afflictions and spreading out his hands toward this temple– (39) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and may You forgive, act, and repay the man, according to all his ways, since You know his heart, for You alone know every human heart, (40) so that they may fear You all the days they live on the land You gave our ancestors.”
“(41) Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your name– (42) for they will hear of Your great name, mighty hand, and outstretched arm, and will come and pray toward this temple– (43) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and do according to all the foreigner asks You for. Then all the people on earth will know Your name, to fear You as Your people Israel do and know that this temple I have built is called by Your name.”
“(44) When Your people go out to fight against their enemies, wherever You send them, and they pray to the LORD in the direction of the city You have chosen and the temple I have built for Your name, (45) may You hear their prayer and petition in heaven and uphold their cause.”
“(46) When they sin against You–for there is no one who does not sin–and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and their captors deport them to the enemy’s country–whether distant or nearby— (47) and when they come to their senses in the land where they were deported and repent and petition You in their captors’ land: “We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked,” (48) and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and when they pray to You in the direction of their land that You gave their ancestors, the city You have chosen, and the temple I have built for Your name, (49) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, their prayer and petition and uphold their cause. (50) May You forgive Your people who sinned against You and all their rebellions against You, and may You give them compassion in the eyes of their captors, so that they may be compassionate to them. (51) For they are Your people and Your inheritance; You brought them out of Egypt, out of the middle of an iron furnace. (52) May Your eyes be open to Your servant’s petition and to the petition of Your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to You. (53) For You, Lord GOD, have set them apart as Your inheritance from all the people on earth, as You spoke through Your servant Moses when You brought their ancestors out of Egypt.”
Now that we have read both accounts of Solomon’s prayer, hopefully you can see the tremendous likeness it shares with the one Moses prayed – both in what it asks and under what conditions.
Just to be SUPER clear though, let’s make a list of precisely what situations were being prayed about…
- When a man sins against his neighbor
- When Israel as a nation is defeated before an enemy
- When the skies are shut and there is no rain on the land God gave to Israel by promise.
- When any type of national calamity like a – famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, grasshopper, plague, famine, illness OR when their enemy besieges them in the Promised land.
- When they go out to war at God’s direction
- When God hands them over to their enemies and they are deported into another land.
What request was Solomon making about these things:
- To justify the righteous and condemn the wicked
- To forgive sin
- To restore them back to their land if they have been defeated and or deported.
- To be granted victory when they go to war at God’s direction
- And to PHYSICALLY HEAL their land (specifically their farms and homes) from famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, grasshopper, plague, famine, illness
THAT is the list.
So now that we HAVE looked at what was actually prayed, we are better equipped to understand the context and MEANING of God’s reply.
Notice if you will, the complete lack of any mention regarding political policies, laws or godly leaders which would make Jewish life more comfortable and less oppressive.
Israel Responds to Solomon’s request of God
1Kings 8:54-61, “(54) When Solomon finished praying this entire prayer and petition to the LORD, he got up from kneeling before the altar of the LORD, with his hands spread out toward heaven, (55) and he stood and blessed the whole congregation of Israel with a loud voice:”
“(56) May the LORD be praised! He has given rest to His people Israel according to all He has said. Not one of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses has failed. (57) May the LORD our God be with us as He was with our ancestors. May He not abandon us or leave us. (58) May He incline our hearts toward Him to walk in all His ways and to keep His commands, ordinances, and judgments, which He commanded our ancestors. (59) May my words I have made my petition with before the LORD be near the LORD our God day and night, so that He may uphold His servant’s cause and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, (60) and so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God. There is no other! (61) Let your heart be completely devoted to the LORD our God to walk in His ordinances and to keep His commands, as it is today.”
A few comments on this…
- Solomon again points to God’s promises and to Moses
- Solomon asks God to direct their hearts to fear and obey Him (something we JUST read last week in Galatians failed to happen NOT because of God, but because of their unwillingness to obey due to the weakness of their flesh. THAT was why God found fault with the Old Covenant – man’s heart could not keep the law, so God established a second covenant where He would take their stony heart out of them and give them a softened heart and write His laws upon them.
Fire from Heaven
2Chron. 7:1-3, “(1) When Solomon finished praying, fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. (2) The priests were not able to enter the LORD’s temple because the glory of the LORD filled the temple of the LORD. (3) All the Israelites were watching when the fire descended and the glory of the LORD came on the temple. They bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement. They worshiped and praised the LORD: For He is good, for His faithful love endures forever.”
Sacrifices & Feast of Tabernacles
2Chron. 7:4-10, “(4) The king and all the people were offering sacrifices in the LORD’s presence. (5) King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep. In this manner the king and all the people dedicated God’s temple. (6) The priests were standing at their stations, as were the Levites with the musical instruments of the LORD, which King David had made to praise the LORD–“for His faithful love endures forever”–when David offered praise with them. Across from them, the priests were blowing trumpets, and all the people were standing. (7) Solomon consecrated the middle of the courtyard that was in front of the LORD’s temple because that was where he offered the burnt offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings since the bronze altar that Solomon had made could not accommodate the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the fat of the fellowship offerings. (8) So Solomon and all Israel with him–a very great assembly, from the entrance to Hamath to the Brook of Egypt–observed the festival at that time for seven days. (9) On the eighth day they held a sacred assembly, for the dedication of the altar lasted seven days and the festival seven days. (10) On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, rejoicing and with happy hearts for the goodness the LORD had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel.”
1Kings 8:62-66, “(62) The king and all Israel with him were offering sacrifices in the LORD’s presence. (63) Solomon offered a sacrifice of fellowship offerings to the LORD: 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep. In this manner the king and all the Israelites dedicated the LORD’s temple. (64) On the same day, the king consecrated the middle of the courtyard that was in front of the LORD’s temple because that was where he offered the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the fat of the fellowship offerings since the bronze altar before the LORD was too small to accommodate the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the fat of the fellowship offerings. (65) Solomon and all Israel with him–a great assembly, from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt–observed the festival at that time in the presence of the LORD our God, seven days, and seven more days–14 days. (66) On the fifteenth day he sent the people away. So they blessed the king and went home to their tents rejoicing and with joyful hearts for all the goodness that the LORD had done for His servant David and for His people Israel.”
The Lord Appears to Solomon
1Kings 9:1-9, “(1) When Solomon finished building the temple of the LORD, the royal palace, and all that Solomon desired to do, (2) the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time just as He had appeared to him at Gibeon.”
God begins addressing each request in the sequence of Solomon’s prayer.
“(3) The LORD said to him: I have heard your prayer and petition you have made before Me.
- I have consecrated this temple you have built,
- to put My name there forever;
- My eyes and My heart will be there at all times.”
“(4) As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, (5) I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel. (6) If you or your sons turn away from following Me and do not keep My commands–My statutes that I have set before you–and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, (7) I will cut off Israel from the land I gave them, and I will reject the temple I have sanctified for My name. Israel will become an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. (8) Though this temple is now exalted, every passerby will be appalled and will hiss. They will say: Why did the LORD do this to this land and this temple? (9) Then they will say: Because they abandoned the LORD their God who brought their ancestors out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, the LORD brought all this ruin on them.”
Now notice that IF the land’s leaders become corrupt, God will cut off Israel from their land, abandon the temple and bring it all to ruin.
So far…this is the complete OPPOSITE of the way the modern church interprets God’s answer to Solomon. We want to use it to GET and ESTABLISH a godly leader, but God says a condition of answering the prayer is HAVING a godly leader to begin with! That couldn’t be more significant!
Let’s read the same account in 2Chronicles…
2Chron. 7:11-22, “(11) So Solomon finished the LORD’s temple and the royal palace. Everything that had entered Solomon’s heart to do for the LORD’s temple and for his own palace succeeded.”
“(12) Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him:
- I have heard your prayer
- and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice.
- (13) If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, (14) and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
- (15) My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. (16) And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times.
- (17) As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, (18) I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel. (19) However, if you turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, (20) then I will
- uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them,
- and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence;
I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples.
(21) As for this temple, which was exalted, every passerby will be appalled and will say: Why did the LORD do this to this land and this temple? (22) Then they will say: Because they abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, He brought all this ruin on them.”
Now I am truly, truly hoping that everyone in this assembly can now say that they understand what this prayer was asking and what God was promising in response to it.
As regarding God’s reply to Solomon a KEY to understanding this is knowing what was meant by “heal your land”. It was all about healing a physical land from blight, plague, pestilence, disease or mildew.
Not a single part of either the prayer OR God’s answer – promised any of the following:
- godly leadership
- the establishment of laws which made life easier or more profitable for the people
- The establishment of Laws which safe-guarded the people from exploitation or government control or interference
- The establishment of Laws which provide for either big or small government
- The establishment of Laws which provide affordable health care for the people or aid for retirement or any of the other reasons why your typical Christian American attempts to use this prayer.
So this leaves us with 3 basic questions…
- How are Christians to view their natural nations and leaders?
- How are they to govern themselves under and in response to their leadership?
- How are Christians to pray for their nation and national leaders?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
For answers to all of these things, we need look no further than a few simple passages and then we will examine the supreme example of praying for one’s nation.
What the New Covenant says about Governing Authorities
We are going to begin with what the scriptures say about governing authorities.
Now I find it necessary to say something here which I’ve pressed upon you as eminently important MANY, MANY times regarding interpreting and understanding scripture.
We believe absolutely that the scriptures are inspired by God, just as Paul claims in Timothy.
Inspired does NOT mean dictated nor does it give poetic license. It simply means that God impressed upon the hearts of certain men, His thoughts, ways and wishes for mankind and His people specifically OR He called to mind the teachings they received from people who were so moved – like the Gospel’s accounts of the teachings of Christ. These men then used their own words to express the exact thoughts of God.
As such, no scripture is inspired or influenced in doctrine by outside circumstances, social influences or any other thing which might normally influence human writings.
This is important because it immediately eliminates possible interpretations and in the case of passages, like the one we are beginning with, this is VERY important not only as a time saver, but as a means of discovering the truth of a passage!
When the scriptures refer to authorities or powers or rulers, based upon the Greek language, it can be referring to the position itself OR the specific person in that position of authority. Knowing the difference makes all the difference and there are keys in the grammar of the Greek to lead us in the right direction.
Now I am going to read from the Holman translation which does not offer any clarification between these two options at all.
Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.”
Translated this way, we are left with two major questions –
- Is Paul saying we need to submit to the “office of President” or the PERSON who IS president?
- Did God simply create this government system and therefore the position of President or did God appoint this specific PERSON to occupy the position of president?
These are HUGE questions, the answers to them GREATLY impact what is to be expected in Christian behavior.
Now, let me explain WHY I qualified that this and all scripture is NOT situational, NOT inspired by external circumstances but IS IN FACT inspired by God!
There are MANY commentators and Christian apologists and teachers who will tell you that Paul wrote this during the reign of Claudius which was a time of relative peace for Christians and Jews alike and so his advice was warm towards the ruling body in Rome. These same people claim Paul would NEVER have written this if Nero had been in power.
Furthermore, many of these same people will argue that Paul was writing to Christians who were under a different system of governance and therefore his instructions to them can not be retrofitted upon a different form of government.
All of this suggests that Paul’s words are not inspired by God, but are circumstantial and situational. This presents a problem on MANY levels. If Paul’s words are not inspired then they lack ALL authority – not only for our time, but for the time in which it was written. It has NO authority at all!
It is however, inspired by God and as such has complete authority not only in their day but in ours.
Now it is imperative that I have your complete and undivided attention for this part of our lesson almost more than for the scripture itself.
PLEASE PAY ATTENTION!!!!
YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS!!!!!
- Paul actually wrote this letter between 55-57AD.
- Nero became Emperor at 54AD. So Nero WAS in fact in power when Paul wrote this, though who was reigning means nothing IF it is inspired by God – unless God, by inspiration makes it known that it does make a difference! This passage has absolutely NO conditions to it at all and so HAS to be understood as applying under ALL circumstances – regardless of what system of government you are under.
- Also Peter wrote similar words and is letter of 1 Peter was written around 81AD so he had seen MUCH!
If Paul’s words were written under an odd and morphing system of governance. It is hard to place it in a specific category because it changed somewhat based upon who was ruling at the time. We know for certain however, that it was an Empire.
I told you this last week, but it is REALLY important to know.
Jesus, Paul and Peter all lived under Roman rule and they understood how people came into power and Peter was a former Zealot who, before he came to Christ, greatly resisted Rome.
- By birth
- By appointment
- By the results of a civil war
All three of these have elements which would require supernatural intervention in order for God to place a specific person in power. But it is no less difficult for God to place whomever He wants in power under a system like that than it would be for Him to place who He wants in power in a Constitutional Republic.
It was God Himself Who said in Jeremiah 32:27, “Look, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?”
So it makes NO difference that we are in a system of voting and they were in a system where any one of three methods could determine who was ruling at the time.
Now I am going to read the passage in the Weymouth translation because it does a MUCH better job at representing the intended meaning.
Rom 13:1-7, “(1) Let every individual be obedient to those who rule over him; for no one is a ruler except by God’s permission, and our present rulers have had their rank and power assigned to them by Him.”
Now you might rightly ask – How can you know that this passage is referring to rulers as people rather than positions?
Because the Greek text has the word Ruler written as a metonym. A metonym is a word, name, or expression used as a substitute for something else with which it is closely associated.
In this case the word ruler is being used both in the plural and in collocation making the word take the place of a person NOT a position.
As such Weymouth translates it properly!
Also, we have Jesus Who Himself clarified the issue for us by saying to Pilate,
John 19:10-11, “(10) Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” (11) Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
SO we have just sidestepped two MAJOR obstacles in correctly understanding these verses.
It is referring to specific people in authority – NOT general positions of authority.
It is NOT situational, but inspired by God.
We know that Paul did not write this as referring to just the Roman system of government because it was JUST as unpredictable as to WHO would be in power as any other system of government.
“(2) Therefore the man who rebels against his ruler is resisting God’s will; and those who thus resist will bring punishment upon themselves. (3) For judges and magistrates are to be feared not by right-doers but by wrong-doers. You desire–do you not? –to have no reason to fear your ruler. Well, do the thing that is right, and then he will commend you.
(4) For he is God’s servant for your benefit. But if you do what is wrong, be afraid. He does not wear the sword to no purpose: he is God’s servant–an administrator to inflict punishment upon evil-doers.
(5) We must obey therefore, not only in order to escape punishment, but also for conscience’ sake.
(6) Why, this is really the reason you pay taxes; for tax-gatherers are ministers of God, devoting their energies to this very work.
(7) Pay promptly to all men what is due to them: taxes to those to whom taxes are due, toll to those to whom toll is due, respect to those to whom respect is due, honour to those to whom honour is due.”
Now you may ask – what about evil rulers? They ARE sometimes a terror to those doing good works.
You are correct and Peter addresses this possibility in 1Peter 3:13-16 by saying,
“(13) And who will harm you if you are passionate for what is good? (14) But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, (15) but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (16) However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.”
So now that we know they are appointed by God. How are we to treat them and respond to their authority?
Titus 3:1-2, “(1) Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, (2) to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”
“(13) Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, (14) or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (15) For it is God’s will that you, by doing good, silence the ignorance of foolish people. (16) As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. (17) Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.”
Jesus affirms not only who is ruling but their right to tax
Matt. 22:17-21 – Coin – Tiberius
“(15)Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by what He said. (16) They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. (17) Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (18) But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? (19) Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius. (20) “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them. (21) “Caesar’s,” they said to Him. Then He said to them, “Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (22) When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.”\
How are we to pray?
“(1) Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, (2) for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
- 1Thess. 4:9-12 [verse 11 – Seek to live a quiet life]
“(9) But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (10) and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; (11) that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, (12) that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”
Something may be learned also by looking at how both Jesus and Paul conducted themselves before Roman authorities. [Jn. 19:10-11 & Acts 26 respectively]
The Lord’s Prayer (and His following teachings)
Matt. 6:5-34, “(5) And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
(6) But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father Who is in the secret place; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly.
(7) And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
(9) In this manner, therefore, pray:
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
(10) Your kingdom come.
Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
(11) Give us this day our daily bread.
(12) And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
(13) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
(14) “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(16) “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
(17) But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, (18) so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father Who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
The later part of this passage has as much to do with prayer as the first part does.
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(22) “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. (23) But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
(24) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
(25) “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (26) Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
(27) Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (28) “So why do you worry about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; (29) and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
(30) Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
(31) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
(33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
For more on this passage, you can read our four part article on the subject by following these links:
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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