By Benjamin H. Liles
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. ~ Romans 13:1
There is no greater honor than to submit to authority. God’s authority is final and true. When Paul tells us that we are subject to the governing authorities and that there is no authority except by God, he’s saying that by serving Him we do honor by also serving those in authoritative positions. He allowed them, appointed them, to rule in some way, shape or form. Here’s where it gets tricky. How do you honor God when it seems those in authority down here are not representing God in what they say and do? It seems to be quite contradictory if you ask me.
Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego, were given the ultimate test by God and by Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar has just been told by “certain Chaldeans” (Daniel 3:8), “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:12).
What did Nebuchadnezzar do? He confronted the men saying, “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15).
Notice what and how these men respond to Nebuchadnezzar. It may sound like they aren’t respectful or honoring him, but they are. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter” (verse 16). Their allegiance and utmost respect was to God who promised them favor, as long as they acknowledged and obeyed Him. Yes, we are to be respectful of those in authority positions, but if they go against God, we are still to maintain our stance with Him above all. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king” (verse 17).
I would think that what belongs to God is given to God and what belongs to someone in authority be given to them. It’s hard to give homage to one authority without being a traitor to another authority. For this I’m going a bit outside of scripture to make my point. Remember when William “Braveheart” Wallace was helping Scotland gain freedom from England and King Edward I? William never was a subject of King Edward, so how was he charged with treason?
It’s a ludicrous notion. Likewise, someone who belongs to God, even being blood bought by Christ pays homage to God, first and foremost. We can still honor God by saying something to the degree of, “I respect and honor your wishes, but I belong to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For me to honor you I need to honor Him.” And that’s what these men of old in Nebuchadnezzar’s court did. “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (verse 18).
What happened? God kept them from harm and the King worshiped Him for saving those three from what would have been their death (see Daniel 3:24-29). What matters the most: honoring men who dishonor Him or honoring God for His faithfulness, even when we don’t deserve it. That’s why Jesus came to offer Himself a sacrifice on our behalf. It’s so that we no longer serve the master of this world, but we can serve the Master of the Universe, God, the Father. All you have to do is call on Jesus’ name.