Respect for God's appointed leaders, even when they fail

Posted Jun 13, 2011 by Lorelle Ebens in Family and Community Hits: 17,340

In my recent reading, I've come across a few examples of men in leadership positions (by God appointment or allowance) in ancient Israel, who had sinned or apostatised, yet men were still to respect and obey them, unless it caused violation of God's law.

Firstly, David's respect for Saul - the anointed king. Twice, when he had opportunity to slay the sleeping king, he refused - he would not touch God's anointed.

“Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless? ...As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord’s anointed:" ...{PP 668.3}

And this is the result of such respect, (although the effect in Saul's case, sadly did not last):

The second instance of David’s respect for his sovereign’s life made a still deeper impression upon the mind of Saul and brought from him a more humble acknowledgment of his fault. He was astonished and subdued at the manifestation of such kindness. In parting from David, Saul exclaimed, “Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail.” ... {PP 671.2}

Secondly, when David was King, he made such a horrible moral fall with Bathsheba, and then had Uriah killed in battle:

Heretofore David’s record as a ruler had been such as few monarchs have ever equaled. It is written of him that he “executed judgment and justice unto all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15. His integrity had won the confidence and fealty of the nation. But as he departed from God and yielded himself to the wicked one, he became for the time the agent of Satan; yet he still held the position and authority that God had given him, and because of this, claimed obedience that would imperil the soul of him who should yield it. And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.{PP 719.2}
David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.{PP 719.3}

Thirdly, Elijah's respect for Ahab (although a very wicked king) - he still acknowledged him as Israel's king.

The shades of night were gathering about Mount Carmel as Ahab prepared for the descent. “It came to pass in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.” As he journeyed toward the royal city through the darkness and the blinding rain, Ahab was unable to see his way before him. Elijah, who, as the prophet of God, had that day humiliated Ahab before his subjects and slain his idolatrous priests, still acknowledged him as Israel’s king; and now, as an act of homage, and strengthened by the power of God, he ran before the royal chariot, guiding the king to the entrance of the city.{PK 158.1}
In this gracious act of God’s messenger shown to a wicked king is a lesson for all who claim to be servants of God, but who are exalted in their own estimation. There are those who feel above performing duties that to them appear menial. They hesitate to perform even needful service, fearing that they will be found doing the work of a servant. These have much to learn from the example of Elijah. By his word the treasures of heaven had been for three years withheld from the earth; he had been signally honored of God as, in answer to his prayer on Carmel, fire had flashed from heaven and consumed the sacrifice; his hand had executed the judgment of God in slaying the idolatrous prophets; his petition for rain had been granted. And yet, after the signal triumphs with which God had been pleased to honor his public ministry, he was willing to perform the service of a menial. {PK 158.2}

From these examples we may learn our position to the appointed leadership - whether it be civil authorities or church leadership - to be respectful, humble, obedient - unless that would make us break God's law or deny His truth. If leadership is in error: God will work to correct it, but we may help Him do this work by our attitudes and certainly by our prayers for Him to correct things and lead the church in the right direction. We are not in the position of a prophet - as was Elijah or Ellen White, but we can be submissive, gentle and loving; and bring honour to God's name, while standing firm for His truth.

God has a church upon the earth, who are His chosen people, who keep His commandments. He is leading, not stray offshoots, not one here and one there, but a people. {Mar 129.2}
There is no need to doubt, to be fearful that the work will not succeed. God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port. {Mar 129.3}
When I voyaged from Portland, Maine, to Boston, many years ago, a storm came upon us, and the great waves dashed us to and fro. The chandeliers fell, and the trunks were rolled from side to side, like balls. The passengers were frightened, and many were screaming, waiting in expectation of death.{Mar 129.4}
After a while the pilot came on board. The captain stood near the pilot as he took the wheel, and expressed fear about the course in which the ship was directed. “Will you take the wheel?” asked the pilot. The captain was not ready to do that, for he knew that he lacked experience. Then some of the passengers grew uneasy, and said they feared the pilot would dash them upon the rocks. “Will you take the wheel?” asked the pilot; but they knew that they could not manage the wheel.{Mar 129.5}

When you think that the work is in danger, pray, “Lord, stand at the wheel. Carry us through the perplexity. Bring us safely into port.” Have we not reason to believe that the Lord will bring us through triumphantly? ...{Mar 129.6}
You cannot with your finite minds understand the working of all the providences of God. Let God take care of His own work. {Mar 129.7}