Can We Trust The Government?
A daily devotion for February 18th
2 Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4 Since a king's word is supreme, who can say to him, "What are you doing?"
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him.
7 Since no man knows the future,
who can tell him what is to come?
8 No man has power over the wind to contain it ;
so no one has power over the day of his death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
9 All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt. 10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.
11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.
Obey the king's command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. (Ecclesiastes 8:2-3)
King Solomon himself, head of state of the nation of Israel, is teaching us why we should obey government. It is not always easy to know how to obey or when a citizen should obey. There are many factors that would influence when and how this should be carried out.
The fact that obeying the government is sometimes difficult is also part of God's program. As believers, we ought to understand that it is not always easy to know what God wants because He does not want it to be easy. We are not robots, given orders to go here or there, having no choice at all in the matter. Yet that is really what we are asking for when we say to God,
Show me what you want me to do, and I'll do it. In other words,
Compel me; give me orders and I'll carry them out. God does not do that because He wants us to struggle and puzzle over what we should do.
Another factor that influences us is found in verse 7:
Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? The results of our obedience to the government can produce uncertainty in our lives. One of the reasons we are not left up to our own devices as to whether we are going to obey the government is that we do not always know what God intends to work out by means of our obedience. He may have blessings for us that will come out of that obedience that we could not foresee.
As a young man in my twenties during World War II, I remember being faced with the very question of registration for the draft. At the time I was working for the railroad industry, which allowed me to be deferred, because that industry was essential to the war.
Eventually, I joined the navy. Although I was unsure whether I was doing the right thing or not, I felt I ought to join. What I did not understand or realize was that the action I took would open a door that gave me what was perhaps the greatest opportunity I have ever had to teach the Scriptures to those who were in desperate need of such teaching. I was stationed at Pearl Harbor, and through that great port there passed from time to time all the sailors of the Pacific Fleet, many of them Christian young men who had won others to Christ aboard their ships. Along with others, I had the opportunity to have great Bible classes, with hundreds of sailors involved. All this was opened up to me because I was a member of the U.S. Navy myself.
Furthermore, I did not know that at the end of the war I would be granted the G.I. Bill of Rights, which would give me enough money to pay for my seminary training. In fact, it was rather remarkable that the time I had served in the navy provided me with exactly the right amount to go through four years of seminary training. I could not foresee all that, but God did. So it is possible that unexpected results will follow from obedience to what God has set before us to do with regard to government.
Lord, I trust that You will work out Your plan for my life as I submit to the people you have placed in authority over me.
Life Application: Obedience is sometimes difficult and produces uncertainty. Does God want us to struggle & puzzle over what we should do? What about trusting the government?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.