This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
How’s your memory? Do you ever have to leave yourself reminders to help you remember various things? When I posed that question to my students last night, they had a wide array of memory-triggering devices, from sticky notes to cell phone calendars to writing on their hands. As we looked at Ecclesiastes 8:1-9, we talked about the subject of authority, and how it can have a similar effect on our spiritual memory – that our obedience to earthly authority is both a reminder and a primer on our ultimate obedience to God.
Wisdom continues to be the theme, here, and Solomon is continuing his look at the practical outworking of Godly wisdom in one’s life. In verse 2, he begins to talk about the importance of obedience to authority – in this case, the king. Obviously, none of us are subject to a king these days, but we can apply Solomon’s principles here to all authority, including government, parents, church elders, bosses, and teachers. Solomon begins with some practical reasons for submitting to authority. The first is that authority is God-given. In fact, Romans 13 goes as far as saying that all authority is given by God, without exception. Jesus even told Pilate during his trial that the only authority Pilate had over him was the authority God had given. Whether authority is used well or abused horribly, God is ultimately the one who gives it, and thus when we rebel against authority (except in cases where human authority contradicts God’s commands) we rebel against God. Secondly, Solomon says that we should obey authority to avoid the negative consequences of wrong behavior. Don’t want to go to prison? Don’t commit a crime. Actions have consequences, a fact that a wise person will consider before they act. Finally, Solomon teaches that obedience to authority makes us more Godly. In verse 5, he indicates that the wise heart will grow in its knowledge of what is right and good through its obedience. It builds us up, while rebellion tears our faith and trust in God down, since it holds us up as the ultimate authority.
In this principle, Solomon transitions into a reflection on the ultimate reason that wisdom submits itself to authority – because wisdom trusts in God. In verses 6-9, he speaks of the uncertainties of life as being a motivating factor for our obedience. The things which baffle us, which concern us, which remind us of our own mortality, should drive us to trust ever more in God, which should in turn yield a deeper, more gracious, and more joyful obedience. If we truly trust in Christ, our lives must be marked by obedience to his commands. He said as much, and it makes logical sense as well. Think of it this way – if you believe that God is a) in control of all things, b) perfectly wise, and c) true to his promise to work our good in all things, then what reason do you have for not obeying what he tells you to do? There is none! Trust must yield obedience, or it is not trust. So, the next time your teacher or boss rubs you the wrong way, the next time your parents' rules contrast with your own desires, or the next time you’re tempted to skirt some small, insignificant law that nobody else obeys (pirating media, anyone?), think about the fact that you’re ultimately making a statement about your trust in God by doing so. It may initially seem like a large disconnect, but when you follow the bread crumbs the connection is clearly evident. It extends to our attitudes toward earthly authority – good and bad – and to every other part of our lives as well. So let your relationships, your time, your money, and yes, your humble submission to authority, be sticky notes reminding you of your ultimate allegiance to your Lord and King.
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