sermon: Ecclesiastes Resumed (Part Twenty-Eight)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 11-Jul-15; Sermon #1276; 69 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating the warning of the apostle Paul that evil company corrupts good habits, warns us that the desire to sin is highly contagious and is a deadly, communicable disease. Because the world we inhabit swims in sin, we have the obligation to become a thinking people, voluntarily choosing God's purpose for ourselves rather than Satan's shameless appeal to self-centeredness, as demonstrated with Satan's enticement of mother Eve. Like mother Eve, we also contend against spiritual principalities for which we need the whole armor of guard and to be guided by God's Holy Spirit to defeat our deadly, carnal nature. The best defense a newborn, minimally contaminated by Satanic nature, has against the influence of sin are parents who ardently love God and His commandments. Solomon had to learn that wisdom, in its purest human form, does not give us complete understanding into the ultimate purposes of God, but wisdom, accompanied with unconditional faith in God, will actually brighten an individual's countenance, as was seen in the example of Daniel and his friends; godly wisdom has the power to change a person's appearance and brings about personal transformation. In a difficult situation, especially when dealing with tyrannical human governments, trusting God is the ultimate wisdom.
Benediction given to Aaron Ben Stein Daniel 1:8-10 'Divine' right of kings Ecclesiastes 3; 7:27-29; 8 Ephesians 6:10-13 Exodus 18; 20 I Corinthians 10:13; 13:33; 15:33 Evil company corrupts good habits Hebrews 11 Numbers 6:22-27 Moses reflecting God's radiance Proverbs 1:1-7 Romans 13:1-7 Satan's appeal to sin II Corinthians 11:1-3 Simplicity of Christ Sin as a communicable disease
When we ended the previous sermon on Ecclesiastes we finished up in I Corinthians 15:33, and I will begin by reminding you what that verse says.
I Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
I Corinthians 15:33 (Revised English Bible) Make no mistake: bad company ruins good character. Wake up, be sober, and stop sinning. Some of you have no knowledge of God. To your shame I say it.
This verse is important because it helps clarify how the desire to sin arises in us. It is almost as if it is a communicable disease. Very briefly from that previous sermon—Our spirit is influenced by one already living a life of sin. The desire to sin becomes lodged in us and begins growing as a part of us. It is not good to hang around people who promote the same sin that you may have a weakness for.
Through this communication, through the friendship that you might have with these people, the desire to sin becomes lodged in us, begins growing as a part of us. Recall as an example, that as long as God was Adam and Eve's sole Companion, sin was never an issue. There was in them no spirit of conflict with Him and His way, there was no drive in them toward self-centeredness. But when Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan—bad company—their spirit became infected by his spirit.
Even though instructed by God beforehand, they did not put up their defenses to resist his communication. In this world we are surrounded by and almost swimming in the influence of Satan’s mind that is in the world. This may seem unfair to some but it is nonetheless what God has deemed that we must face.
God willed in His creation of mankind that we must deliberately and voluntarily choose which way to we shall go—Satan's or God's. Which way will we be loyal to? Our loyalty must be demonstrated by the manner in which we live out life even though faced by the temptations of a wayward influence. In order to accomplish this we must be a thinking people.
I will give you another example from God's Word that is especially clear and applies even though we now have God's Holy Spirit. It is because we have His Spirit that this example I will give you is important. It shows us that we cannot let our guard down or sin creeps into our lives.
II Corinthians 11:1-3 Oh, that you would bear with me in the little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
We have been talking for many months now on wisdom. This cautionary advice from Paul is wisdom. God's Word is not always easily understood but as we are learning from Solomon's understanding that wisdom must be worked at, it does not just magically appear in us. It takes searching things out, believing it, and choosing to use it in our life, regardless of the sacrifices it might require.
II Corinthians 11:1-3 (Phillips) “I wish you could put up with a little of my foolishness. Please try. My jealousy over you is the right sort of jealousy, for in my eyes you are like a fresh unspoiled girl whom I am presenting to as a fiancé to your true husband Christ Himself. But I am afraid that your mind may be seduced from a single heart of devotion to Him by the same subtle means that the serpent used toward Eve.”
Adam and Eve did not have their guard up when Satan came calling, at least Eve did not. She did not appreciate that he was leading their thinking toward being against God, but instead she focused on the self-centered appeal of her desire to eat of the fruit and be wise. The first thing you know they were agreeing with the appeal of what he was saying, rather than what God had clearly instructed them to do.
The evil communication gradually broke down any desire to do as God said, until they wanted to do what the serpent desired them to do. What can we learn from this passage? The emphasis in Paul's appeal is focused on us and our life. Remember, he is writing to church members. It is that our spirit, despite the presence of God' Holy Spirit in us, can still be influenced by Satan's spirit into sinning. This is why Paul's appeal.
Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.
We are to learn to be carefully thinking sons of God, because Satan's appeal to sin is always present in this world. In I Corinthians 10:13, God promises us that we have His help, so we cannot just charge pell-mell through life. We must be careful, thinking people, and by means of God's Spirit we can be led to the level of comprehension and practice needed to fulfill our responsibility to be loyal to Him.
Married couples can experience somewhat the type of innocence of the Garden of Eden when their children are born, especially if they were born in their own home. This experience is somewhat blunted in a hospital, even there some of it remains, this aura of innocence. At one of the ministerial refreshing programs lectures that I attended in the early 1980's, in WCG, I heard Herbert Armstrong lecturing on a family relationship. This experience that he was lecturing on was somewhat blunted in a hospital, but even there some of it remains.
At one point he said something that I remembered because his illustration made me more aware of my responsibility as a parent. I did not understand it as fully as I should have for quite a while afterward. He said, “Two deeply converted parents are the best defense our children have against Satan and this world.”
He was describing what we might consider a perfect situation but even that is but a weak human copy of the environment that existed in the Garden of Eden, in which God's righteous Holy Spirit emanating from Him, shielded and therefore protected His two newborns, Adam and Eve, from any and every influence from Satan.
To me the strongest impression I received when I look into the face of a newborn being held in its mothers arms, is that this is the closest that I am going to experience in this life of pure innocence. They are not touched by any sin at all. But who are the first sinners the sinless newborn comes into contact with? Mom and dad.
The innocent newborn is introduced into the presence of sin through them—the sinning parents. Even though the parents want the best for their newborn, even as God did, that is the process of degeneration from that initial post-birth purity has already begun.
Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:29 that God created humans upright. Adam and Eve were created upright. It means that everything Adam and Eve saw of God's creation was seen by them as beautiful and without distortion, because it was unmixed by anything base, nothing base at all in their minds. They had no distorted conscience to bend their thinking. As created by God their will contained no perversity, not one iota of rebellion.
Not only that they could labor in their garden and use their creative ability of their minds without any self-centered thought of scheming to get rich, or take advantage of others by producing anything shoddy. When God withdrew and His purpose took its next step that included them being challenged by the serpent, it was almost a “Katie bar the door” situation, because sinning began in earnest as man began creating schemes in order to deliberately favor themselves above others.
That is what Satan did. This was because then their mind saw things in a different light and the scheming began. They began looking for ways to take advantage of their windfall, to favor themselves at other’s expense. They still have the power to think and apply the brilliance that God created them with, but now it was becoming twisted toward personal advantage, perversion, and ruin.
The Garden of Eden will never return. The Bible shows us that it will never be perfectly repeated, however, we can be sure that our merciful God, from the prophesies, has already revealed that there is a greater paradise in our future than the first one that was ruined by sin.
The time is coming when there will be no sin whatever to contend with. God promises that in Daniel 9. Our Savior came so that He could put an end to sin forever. That will not happen until the new heavens and the new earth. It is interesting that in the book of Revelation the Tree of Life is clearly mentioned, but there is no tree of knowledge let alone a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The time ahead is going to be exciting but also terrifying, as we begin to see that God takes His vengeance on sin that we have participated into.
As we go into Ecclesiastes 8, the overall subject does not change. The subject is still wisdom but there is at least one clear shift in the focus away from the instructions in chapter 7. Beginning in verse 2 of chapter 8, the instruction is focused on one’s relation to governmental authority. Overall regarding wisdom, we are shown that, whether thought of as sagacity, or in a sense of practical day to day skill in living life, wisdom is not the answer to every one of lives circumstances.
If we are looking for an easy way out here comes a warning from Solomon: wisdom is not the answer to every one of life's circumstances. In other words, we should expect limitations on wisdom's powers. This is because some events in everyone's life are completely beyond our individual control despite the high level of spiritual understanding, wisdom from God's words, and character that may have been created in us.
I will give you some clear examples so that you see what I am talking about here. Nobody had more wisdom than Jesus. However, that wisdom in no way spared His life and that hurt. It was painful, both emotionally and bodily, for Him to go through. In fact He Himself declined to use it on a few occasions.
We might say, yes, but it was prophesied that He should be mankind's Savior so He has do go through these things. That is partly right but it is not the whole story. No such specific prophesies were made regarding Peter, Paul, or a host of others who are named in Hebrews 11. Those people led quiet lives in a godly way but they still went through some very difficult times, even martyrdom, despite their wisdom.
This is why this cautionary paragraph is here in Ecclesiastes 8, because God in His wisdom determined to put them through experiences in order to test their faith, or to make a witness to others. In other words, God used them. We would think, how in the world did they get into that trouble? Because God opened the door to that trouble and maybe He put them right into it despite the fact that they had wisdom of a higher capacity than maybe we could ever dream of. In other words, even though they may have used wisdom, God simply voided it so it would not work. God rules, and God overrules.
What Solomon is teaching us in this chapter is that we, God's children, must never leave God out of His purposes, out of our picture of life. Sometimes these situations can lead into what is faced there in Ecclesiastes 7:15—the paradox. Here I am keeping all of the commandments and I have all of this trouble. Despite the wisdom that I used in order to avoid this trouble, somehow I got into this trouble anyway, or it caught me in it. Are you willing to face these situations?
Recall in Ecclesiastes 3, twenty-eight times God says, “A time for this and a time for that.” These are statements in which God appears clearly as personally involved and bringing them upon people, His children included, despite the wisdom that they had from Him from other experiences with Him.
I will tell you that in the last two verses of chapter 8, Solomon will provide us with a clear heads-up on this fact.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
What we see in these two verses is a clear admission that we should not approach understanding the benefits of wisdom as though it is the answer to all of life's problems. In fact, Solomon touches on this guidance several times in Ecclesiastes. He makes it really clear here.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
This clearly is telling us that God is involved in these situations that he is listing in verses 2-8. This co-ordinates well with Ecclesiastes 7:27.
Ecclesiastes 7:27-28 “Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher, “adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: one man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found: that God made man upright but they have sought out many schemes.”
He is dogmatically stating that he cannot grasp how wisdom could have stopped the circumstance. By that declaration he is saying from his personal experience that he had no precise true answer.
Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it. Moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
So he is dogmatically stating that he cannot grasp how wisdom could have stopped the circumstance that he is looking for an answer for. The conclusion for us up to this point has to be that wisdom has its limitations. He is saying that we will live through periods of time in which the only answer, the right response, the wise thing to do, is to trust God.
Remember Psalm 73? The psalmist who wrote that did not get an answer until he threw his faith in God totally and completely.
In other words, we are going to have situations in life where we have done nothing wrong, the level of wisdom we have has not failed, but rather God deliberately put us into a situation in which trust in a revelation and intervention by God is our hope. The assertion in verse 17 is made to let us know that room must be made in our thinking for the activities of God to force the issue of our living by faith.
It is always nice to have answers, but as we are finding here by one of the wisest men whoever lived, sometimes no answers are available except what God gives to us personally and individually. This co-ordinates well with the solution to the paradoxical situation in chapter 7:15.
There is a second peculiarity in chapter 8. Sometimes he briefly mentions a subject he has dealt with in some detail before, but he does not announce it. He does not repeat it by saying something like, “I’ve said this before,” but the repetitions do occur usually in words slightly different than they were the first time when he went through it.
For instance, we went through the paradox that appears in chapter 7, verse 15 without him really mentioning it.
Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the sternness of his face is changed.
This is quite interesting. I want you to notice in the first line, the first phrase, he asked a rhetorical question that seems to suggest that Solomon was expecting a negative answer, because he did not have a good answer. The second phrase in verse 1, praises the gifts of wisdom as accomplishing good things for one who has it, despite it being so difficult to come to. So he was not really expecting a negative answer to the rhetorical question or he would not have worded the second phrase the way he did. He is actually teaching us that wisdom, despite the fact that it cannot always be depended upon to help us out of a situation, still has a good aspect to it.
He asks this: who really is wise? And who has the skill to explain something hard to interpret? If we say no one, that is a negative answer, that does not fit into the second phrase. Solomon is saying that there must be some people who possesses wisdom because, some people’s faces are transformed by wisdom. If you take both phrase together that is what he is saying.
He asked the rhetorical question, but on the other hand he supplied the right answer—some people’s faces really shine, therefore they have wisdom. He is heading toward something here. We moderns have an interesting way of illustrating this. We will say that we are wrestling with a problem, a puzzling problem, going over each facet as it goes through our mind again and again, suddenly the answer bursts into our mind and we say the light just went on.
Some people’s faces shine because they got the answer, and it was wise, it was profitable to them. The light went on. What happened when we got the answer, when the light went on? We probably smiled, the face lights up, we might have even laughed out loud when the wisdom comes.
Part of the reason for the rhetorical question is to emphasize that the difficulty of finding wisdom, as shown in chapter 7. It is a continuation of that thought. Solomon is intending that we grasp that wisdom is indeed rare, it is a confirmation of what he concluded in chapter 7.
This verse instructs us that godly wisdom changes a person’s look. Consider the statistics that he gave in chapter 7. One man in a thousand and no women among the ones that he examined were wise. We will consider Daniel. The Bible shows that Daniel was a pretty wise person. He was indeed a man given the gift of great wisdom, and he began to pile this up even as he was a youngster.
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
This was the wisdom that Daniel expressed. He and his three friends rejected food that he did not consider to be good for them to eat. What kind of wisdom were they following? It is very likely they were following what God said in the Scriptures—do not eat this, that, or the other thing but you can eat this over here. So they exercised the wisdom given to them by God and this is how it worked out.
Daniel 1:9-13 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.” So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael,and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”
Remember Solomon talking about the face lighting up when wisdom transforms a person? Daniel said, we will eat the food that you bring to us. In the meantime just keep feeding those other people the same old stuff and then we will compare the results. How do we look compared to how they look?
Daniel 1:14-20 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenance appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of the delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. In all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
Do you think Nebuchadnezzar was not impressed by their appearance and their minds? It is a biblical and a real historical example of what he is talking about there in verse 1 and 2 of Ecclesiastes 8. Wisdom changes a person’s appearance. It does not just change his conduct, it changes the person’s appearance too.
There is an overall lesson in this. Godly wisdom brings about personal transformation. It transforms a person’s mind, it even transforms their appearance. It makes a difference in a person’s life. We must understand it does not always work. If we react right when it does not work, that is wisdom again. Trusting God is wisdom in a difficult situation.
This is something that we do not normally think about a great deal, but it makes a difference in our witness of God in that it gives people an example of the joy of being free. It makes a difference in our relationship, it makes it much easier for anybody who might feel the weight of the world on his shoulders because of the burdens of life. Instead of going around grumpy all of the time, some of the weight is lifted by wisdom and it shows in our manner and in our attitudes.
Please turn to Numbers 6. This is a benediction that God gave to Aaron to give to the people.
Numbers 6:22-27 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying; “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying this is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord life up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
In order for this to have its greatest impact it has to be looked as to where it is given. It is given at the conclusion of the instruction regarding the Nazerites. They were any Israelite, male or female, it mattered not which tribe they were in, they did not have to be Levites. What they were doing was dedicating themselves to consecrate themselves before God for some period of time and usually that consecration involved the dedication of their life during that period of time in carrying out something—a vow or something they saw necessary for them to thank God for.
Doing such a thing was wise, assuming it was done in all honesty and simplicity of mind. At the end of that they were to ask God by means of this prayer that He would in turn bless them and make their face shine.
Why would they want to do this? They wanted to glorify God, assuming that everything they were doing was done correctly in simplicity, in faith before God. The Nazarite vow was something that people did in a time when they felt that they owed something to God, so they consecrated themselves before Him. All of that was wisdom, they were following what the scripture said.
There is a very arresting example of this. That happened whenever Moses went off to the mountain and God gave him the law. He was in the presence of God. He, in a sense, even though God called him up there, voluntarily went up there, he set himself apart to be in the presence of God. When he came back from being in the presence of God, his face shone like he was God.
Whenever we consecrate ourselves before God, it does not matter whether we are in this kind of a situation. When we follow through with what we say then we are going to do our vow and ask God with His benediction to make our face shine, it glorifies Him even as Moses’ face glorified God, it reflected God. We are asking God to reflect Himself in us by making our face shine.
Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 I say, “Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.” Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him “What are you doing?”
This follows right on the heels of telling us how wisdom looks. What Solomon is starting here is a new step as he proceeds to tell us how wisdom does in a not so very narrow area of life. The principle underlying his instruction is normally called ‘facing the divine right of kings.’ The title seems on the surface as something that we do not have to face because we do not have a king. However that assumption is not entirely correct. It indeed has been modified somewhat, but for the Christian there is a spiritual reality that we must deal with in this section. It takes wisdom to deal with it.
I want to remind us of something pertaining to wisdom. Wisdom has a foundation, it has a beginning point. That beginning point is knowledge. It is a gift of God but there would be no gift from God if we did not have knowledge of God, and if we did not take advantage of that knowledge of God and seek to please God. If we seek knowledge and we do not understand, it is hard to do the right thing. We have three steps that build up to wisdom. They are: knowledge, understanding the knowledge that we receive, and then following through. Then wisdom is produced.
Proverbs 1:1-7 The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction [because they do not take advantage of the instruction, therefore they do not understand it and therefore wisdom is not produced].
Wisdom comes from God, but it is preceded by those two foundations: knowledge of God, and understanding that knowledge and making use of it. This area has wisdom that will vary by one’s experience in dealing with it. For us, it is dealing largely in our relationship with God.
What we are going to be dealing with in the next few moments is becoming ever-more important as time moves on. The wise person is he who has true spiritual knowledge and makes that knowledge the guide of his life. Personal wisdom is founded on the knowledge of God. Please turn to Daniel. They were in a situation that was quite a bit different from what we face, but we have examples of it that we are going to be learning from as we continue through this chapter.
Daniel 2:4 will give us a clear example of the kind of environment in which Daniel and his three friends were operating in, not only Daniel and his three friends but anybody who was under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar was the kind of man who used the divine right of king quite severely.
Daniel 2:4-12 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king live forever! Tell your servants the dream and we will give the interpretation.” But the king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and the interpretation.” They answered again and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream and we will give its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requires, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods whose dwelling is not with flesh.” For this reason the king was angry and very furious and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel was between a rock and a hard place just like everybody else. What did he do? He went to God and God gave him the answer. Feed this back into the information given to us in Ecclesiastes 8 so that we have a base that we are working from.
I said earlier, we do not live in such a time but it is entirely possible that we are being drawn into a time very much like that. You can see what is happening out in society. Christianity is under fire and it is receiving veiled threats but the time is coming when the threats will not be veiled any longer. It may still be years but we are given time from God to prepare for the fact that it may come upon us.
God has given us instruction regarding how we are to act all through this kind of situation. We do not live in this time right now but it might be building toward that. Please turn to Romans 13. We will look at this as an introduction to the instruction here and then we will eventually apply it to Ecclesiastes 8.
Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister [servant], an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Notice that in this context there are no qualifiers in terms of our responsibility to be subject to the governing authorities. If we take it no further than that we would be subject, possibly to the same kind of situation that Daniel was subject, although we know that in Daniel's situation the threat was thrown at them. We have not received it yet. For good or bad God supervises His creation as sovereign over all. Those authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Wisdom is the major guide in a Christian's life, it is especially needed when dealing with those in power. I think we can now agree that God desires that man live under constituted authority.
He made it very clear when He made the formal covenant with Israel, beginning in Exodus 20. God, when the covenant was signed, sealed, and delivered, became Israel's King. He also appointed human rulers between Himself and Israel for the average Israelite to deal with on a daily basis. He did this in Exodus 18, before the covenant was ever even entered into.
We begin to get a structure of a human government under God, with God in full authority over a human government, and Moses mediated between the two. God makes it very clear that He became the King, with all of those who entered into the covenant with Him.
What Romans 13:1-7 does is establish over all rules of attitude and conduct for members of God's family under the New Covenant when dealing with people in authority, primarily people in government authority, and He begins it there in verse 1, saying this is an ordinance of God. An ordinance is a law and ordinances and laws show us what God's will is.
What we have in Romans 13:1-7 is the basic law of God to His children regarding dealing with governing authorities. The governing authorities even include your boss on the job, because they are part of what is between us and God. They have a supervisory capacity over us. We have to deal with them from time to time, and we have to deal with them in wisdom and respect.
God is the Author of human civil government. He stands above that government. Those in government are His agents acting on His behalf, as well as ours, so we have to give them consideration. I hope none of us have to face somebody like the beastly Nebuchadnezzar. Hopefully God will steer us away from those things and be merciful to us in those regards. He can do that and He will do that according to what His will is for us. We should know that it could happen to us. It happened to Peter, Paul, perhaps thousands of other Christians who had to face governing authorities and used wisdom but God chose not to intervene in their case, at that time.