God’s Questions for A Faithless People

I often think when reading the Old Testament prophets that it’s as if God could be speaking to us today. We don’t live in a whole nation claimed by God and governed by His laws (as physical Israel was) but believers today are spiritual Israel — the people who belong to God (Rom. 2:28-29; Eph. 2:12-13). When God talks to His wayward, complaining people in history, those words can also resonate with those of us who follow Him today but perhaps aren’t doing as good a job of that as we should be.

Micah’s book starts out with an alarm cry. “Listen, all you nations! Pay attention, all inhabitants of earth!” As a result of His people’s rebellion, the Lord is going to come with great destruction to crumble, split, and melt the earth (1:2-5). A spiritual infection has spread even into the “leadership of my people” (1:9), and that cannot go uncorrected. Wicked schemes run rampant in the land and it will result in disaster (2:1-3). Though people say, “The Lord’s patience can’t be exhausted— he would never do such things,” He will not put up with lying, stealing, defrauding, and persecuting the innocent forever (2:7-11).

Reading this, I can’t help but think of the world today. Outside the church, society is crumbling and the world’s going crazy. Injustice, lack of integrity, and disregard for God’s ways runs rampant. And, to our shame, it’s not much better in some churches. We have plenty of excuses for the way things are — often boiling down to something along the lines of it’s too hard to follow God today, He doesn’t really care what we do, or it’s enough if we’re good in our own way — but those excuses don’t stand up well in the face of God’s questions. God offers hope as well as judgement, though, and I think we can learn much from that message today.

God Will Judge

We know from scripture God will judge the world, but sometimes we forget He will also judge His own household. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Peter wrote, “it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17, all scriptures from New English Translation). That’s still happening today, and it was happening before Peter, too. There are things God’s people ought and ought not to do, and He will hold us accountable.

I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of the nation of Israel!
You ought to know what is just,
yet you hate what is good
and love what is evil.
You flay my people’s skin
and rip the flesh from their bones.

Micah 3:1-2

James warns that teachers “will be judged more strictly” (3:1), and the same seems true for other leaders among God’s people as well. We’re each responsible for our own actions, but leaders are also responsible for the people who listen to them. When someone misleads the people of God, all those who are disobedient face judgement but the fault lies most with the leaders (Micah 3).

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God’s Questions

After hearing of such judgement and disaster, the people’s objection from 2:7 might seems a reasonable one to some of us. God is loving, patient, and merciful — He wouldn’t really do that! And then when it turns out He’s different than we expect or want Him to be, those objections might then turn to complaints that God isn’t fair or that His expectations are unreasonable (something we also hear today). God has an answer to that.

Listen to what the Lord says:

“Get up! Defend yourself before the mountains.
Present your case before the hills.”
Hear the Lord’s accusation, you mountains,
you enduring foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
he has a dispute with Israel!
“My people, how have I wronged you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
In fact, I brought you up from the land of Egypt;
I delivered you from that place of slavery.
I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you.
My people, recall how King Balak of Moab planned to harm you,
how Balaam son of Beor responded to him.
Recall how you journeyed from Shittim to Gilgal,
so you might acknowledge that the Lord has treated you fairly.”

Micah 6:1-5

God’s not the one who broke the covenant. If anyone has cause to bring an accusation against someone else, it’s God against the people. And though the language would change if used today (e.g. we no longer personify mountains as witnesses to treaties, as they did in the ancient Near East [NET footnote to v. 1]), God could say much the same thing to many modern Christians. Hasn’t He given and done so much for us? Is what He asks in response so unreasonable?

He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what the Lord really wants from you:
He wants you to carry out justice, to love faithfulness,
and to live obediently before your God.

Micah 6:8

There is Plenty of Hope

Following God really isn’t all that complicated. He tells us what He expects from us, Jesus lived an example of faithfulness, and then He died to cleanse us from the sins that we do commit. God is clear with His expectations, and He’s got a sort of “safety net” to save us if we slip; all we need to do is repent and move forward in renewed, faithful obedience. We’re the ones who complicate things, or perhaps more accurately the world makes following God seem confusing and difficult. But if we keep walking with Him, there are better days ahead.

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And in future days the Lord’s Temple Mount will be the most important mountain of all;
it will be more prominent than other hills.
People will stream to it.
Many nations will come, saying,
“Come on! Let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the temple of Jacob’s God,
so he can teach us his ways
and we can live by his laws.”
For instruction will proceed from Zion,
the Lord’s message from Jerusalem.
He will arbitrate between many peoples
and settle disputes between many distant nations.
They will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nations will not use weapons against other nations,
and they will no longer train for war.
Each will sit under his own grapevine
or under his own fig tree without any fear.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies has decreed it.
Though all the nations follow their respective gods,
we will follow the Lord our God forever.

Micah 4:1-5

This promise is still for the future. We can look forward to the time when Christ will rule as David’s heir (Mic. 5:2-9) and the whole world will have peace. Until then, we ought to follow the prophet’s example here in saying no matter what the other peoples of the earth do, we will follow God. In Hebrew, it is more literally “walk in the name of our God,” which involves recognizing His “authority as binding over” your life (NET footnotes to v. 4-5). Living as a Christian can’t be a half-hearted commitment. God wants your whole heart, and in light of how much He loves us that doesn’t seem an unreasonable request.

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How Can A Christian Know When To Follow Human Authority and When To Obey God Rather Than Man?

I’ve been pondering the question posed in today’s title for a number of years now. How much obedience do we owe to human authorities, both inside and outside the church? Is a Christian allowed, per scripture, to speak against people in authority? Are they ever encouraged to stand up and fight against authority that is unjust and immoral? And why are churches, even those that preach the importance of obeying God’s word, so reluctant to talk about submission to authority passages like Romans 13:1-7 and 1  Peter 2:13-19?

Until fairly recently, this was mostly an intellectual puzzle for the American church. Then came questions about baking cakes for same-sex weddings, then whether or not to assemble for services when governors shut down states, now debates over the mask issue, and rising fears that a Covid vaccine might be the Mark of the Beast. We live in confusing times, and they’re forcing us to face questions and wrestle with decisions some of us haven’t had to deal with before.

Those of us who prize our independence might be angry about infringements on our freedom, wrestling with whether to follow our personal choices or do as we’re told. Those of us who struggle with anxiety might be scared — paralyzed, even — both by everything that’s going on and by not knowing what is the right thing to do. Those who are people-pleasers might be running up against the fact that we’ll need to pick a side and can’t make everyone happy.

Today’s post isn’t going to offer answers for the specific issues we’re facing right now. Rather, I hope to highlight scriptures that provide principles which we can use whenever we struggle with how to respond to human authority in a way that honors God. This is a question we will face at some point, if we aren’t facing it already. We need to be prepared to answer these questions, to ourselves and when asked by others, in a Biblically solid way. Read more

Titles of Jesus Christ: David’s Son

Over and over in the gospels, people cry out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, you son of David!”

Why is the Messiah’s title as David’s son the one that blind men and a Canaanite woman latched on to as they asked for healing? (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mark 10:46-48; Luke 18:35-39). Why did the people shout, “Hosanna to the son of David!” when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and why did that make the chief priests and the scribes so indignant? (Matt. 21:9, 15; Mark 11:10). What is the significance of this title?

It would be easy to gloss over Jesus’ title as David’s son, simply taking it as fulfillment of a few prophecies that said Messiah (the Hebrew equivalent to “Christ,” which means “anointed”) would come from King David’s descendants. But the Biblical writers treat this as a highly significant fact, and I think it’s worth looking into more closely.

Fulling A Covenant Promise

I’ve talked about the covenant aspect of Jesus being descended from David in several posts already, including “Inheriting Covenants.” The Lord made a covenant with David that He would establish his offspring’s kingdom forever, and that connected with the promise of Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-15).

Yahweh has sworn to David in truth. He will not turn from it: “I will set the fruit of your body on your throne. If your children will keep my covenant, my testimony that I will teach them, their children also will sit on your throne forever more.” (Ps. 132:11-12, all verses from WEB translation)

David’s descendants eventually fell into disobedience and lost the physical kingdoms of Israel and Judah. But Jesus — a sinless, obedient son of David — inherited the covenant promise. According to Peter, David actually knew that would be the end result of God’s promises to him about his descendants. Read more

Under God’s Authority

I thought last week’s post was going to be my last one on the topic of authority. But we still haven’t really talked about the big reason for Christians to use authority rightly (part one), to respond well to authority in the church (part two), and to respect worldly authorities (part three). We’re to do all this because we’re under God’s authority.

Any time we rebel against or balk at one of of God’s commands (including the ones about respecting positions of authority), we’re questioning God’s authority. We’re rebelling against His right to tell us how we’re supposed to live. And that’s not something people who describe themselves as Christ-followers should be doing. We should be in awe of our God and treat Him with the utmost respect.

His Authority As Lord

Once you acknowledge Yahweh as your God, you should also recognize His rights as creator and ultimate authority in the universe. When we call Jesus Lord, we’re saying He’s our owner, master, and ruler (kurios, G2962). And if we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we need to live as if we really believe this is true.

Woe to the one who strives with his maker, a potsherd among potsherds of earth! Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’ and ‘Your work has no hands’? (Is. 45:9, LEB)

Not only does God have claim on us as our creator, He also claims the rights of a redeemer. You are part of “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, KJV).

Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20, WEB)

We belong to God and He has absolute authority over every human life, whether we acknowledge His rights or not. And for those of us who do know Yahweh as our God, we need to make sure we respect His authority. Read more

Authority In The World

This probably isn’t going to be a very popular post in the little series I’m doing about how Christians relate to authority. Bible-believers like to ignore or debate around the verses that talk about how we’re supposed to respect  authority figures in the world. We’re pretty good at finding loop-holes so we can grumble about paying our taxes, complain about the President, and ignore as many “little” laws as possible (like the speed limit).

But I haven’t found any Bible verses that say it’s okay to say nasty things about people in power or rebel against earthly authority unless one of man’s laws conflicts with following God. I’m hoping in this post we can try to set aside our preconceived ideas and puzzle out what God’s instructions are and how to apply them today, rather than looking in scripture for excuses to keep resenting authority in the world.

Who Counts As Authority?

The key verses we’ll be looking at today are Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17. These verses talk about various types of human rules and rulers. Here’s a list:

  • Authorities — exousia (G1849). Authority, power, rule of government (Rom. 13:1-5; Tit. 3:1).
  • Rulers — archon (G758). Commander, chief, leader (Rom. 13:3).
  • Servant — diakonos (G1249). One who executes commands (Rom. 13:4).
  • Servants — leitourgos (G3011). Minister, a servant of the state (Rom. 13:6).
  • Kings — basileus (G935). Leader of the people, commander (1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2: 13, 17).
  • All who are in authority — huperoche (G5247). Elevation, superiority (1 Tim. 2:2).
  • Rulers — arche (G746). Principalities, a person who is first (Tit. 3:1).
  • Be obedient — peitharcheo (G3980). To be persuaded by or obey a ruler/magistrate (Tit. 3:1)
  • Every ordinance — ktisis (G2937). Building, institution (1 Pet. 2:13).
  • Governors — hegemon (G2232). A leader of any kind (1 Pet. 2:14).

I think that covers pretty much everything. Those might not be the titles we use today, but the meaning is clear. These verses we’ll be looking at cover all types of worldly authority from your boss at work, to the lawmakers in your county, to the head of state. And we’re also told to respect the laws put in place by these people.Authority In The World | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Respect And Honor

Most of us (speaking from the perspective of a blogger in the U.S.) don’t even think about what it would mean to live in an honor-based society. We value individual freedom over the collective good. We cling to our right to express our ideas freely (a right which I’m using to post this article). We don’t like to think of people deserving respect or honor simply by virtue of their position. In fact, we often treat those with authority (or anyone who steps into the public eye) as fair-game for our nastiest comments. But God expects something different of us. Read more

Being Under Authority In The Church

When we talk about authority, we tend to sort people into groups: those who have authority and those under authority. There’s also a good chance we think of friction between these two groups — one controlling and the other resenting. But that’s not how authority is meant to work in God’s church.

I’ve started a study on how true Christians relate to authority, and if you haven’t read last week’s post you’ll want to click here and do that before reading this one. In that post, we talked about Jesus’ saying His church will be run differently than the way authority works in the world. He is the only Lord and He has all authority. The people given authority under Him are supposed to act as servants. Some, like Paul, even gave up rights they could have demanded because serving the brethren was more important than proving they had power.

As we all know (many of us first-hand) church leaders don’t always wield authority in a right and godly way. But whether they’re doing what they’re told to or not, all of us still have to respond in the ways God wants us to. We’re responsible for our own actions. So how should we respond to authority in the church, whether good or bad?

A Responsibility To Peace

Firstly, we have to remember to treat those in authority the same way we do other brethren. God wants peace in His church and among all His people, regardless of what role they play in His church.

Make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself (Phil. 2:2-3, WEB)

We’re to cultivate this kind of relationship with all our brethren, including those who are in some kind of authority position. Entering ministry doesn’t make someone fair game for your criticism or hostility. You’re still bound by the instruction, “If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18, WEB). Read more