Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

Read: Ecclesiastes 8:2-8: Government

The Preacher’s admonition to obey the king comes sandwiched between the accolade to wisdom and the warning on the limitation of wisdom. The Preacher gives a number of observations concerning one’s relationships to the king when one is on the presence of the king:

  • Do not be in a hurry to leave the presence of the king. Being in the presence of the king, so it seems, is a matter of importance. One should not be hasty to leave, as this could show disrespect for the one in authority.
  • Do not stand up for bad cause. This almost goes without saying, but the Preacher qualifies it saying that the King will do as he pleases concerning matters. In matters of procedure, one should exercise wisdom on choosing the causes one wants to advocate and not advocate.
  • The one who obeys the king avoids harm. The text here is talking about matters of proper times and procedure – that is, in a matter of court. Related to being hasty, one should do what is necessary in terms of procedure so that there can be no mistake made concerning the issues at hand or the importance of a matter being addressed by the procedures.

The Bible commands Christians to submit to governments. Governments that exist are established by God and the ones in authority are God’s servants for good. One that rebels against them brings judgment on themselves. The ones who do what is right are really the ones who are free from the government because governments exercise the most authority over those that break the laws rather than follow them (Romans 13:1-7). But one has to realize though that the ultimate authority for government is God – that is even those one authority are still subject God’s authority. Sometimes, men in positions of authority make commands that run contrary to the commands of God. In these cases, one has to ask, does one obey man or does one obey God? On two occasions the disciples were brought before the authorities and told not to preach about Jesus. On both occasions, the disciples said that they must obey God rather than man, and they did so (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:27-32).

When Ecclesiastes was written, perhaps the most common form of government was an absolute monarchy. The world has shifted away from absolute monarchies to more democratic forms of government. Even though the forms of government have changed, the principles taught concerning matters of procedure and due respect are no different. Democracy in many respects provides procedures for the people under authority to express their concerns and descent through petition, peaceful gatherings, and voting among other things. For this matter, Christians should exercise these civil liberties to help bring about change for the better and help empower people who represent the ways of God in government and ultimately in laws. But at the same time, some places do not have such liberties, and Christians who live under these circumstances have to ask the same sort of questions as the early disciples: does one obey men or God. Many choose God, and suffer greatly for it. Christians in places of religious freedom ought to pray for those who are persecuted. In all things whether one is living free or under persecution, people under authority should pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Matthew 5:44). God, who is the ultimate authority, will judge everyone who is under him.

Lord, I am under authority. Help me to recognize this and act in the appropriate manner!