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Ecclesiastes 8:2  (King James Version)
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<< Ecclesiastes 8:1   Ecclesiastes 8:3 >>


Ecclesiastes 8:2

The mention of God colors and lifts the matter of deference far above mere social rectitude, making it part of our preparation for His Kingdom. This charge addresses our overall responsibility to God and thus to human governing officials because Paul shows them to be God's agents (Romans 13). In this context, it is the king.

Our responsibility is stated as obeying the king because of our oath to God. An oath is a formal declaration to do or not do something. Synonyms include “vow,” “pledge,” “swear,” or “promise.” Oaths are serious business. In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus counsels us not to swear at all because of our weakness in keeping them. In this particular case, one may even bear greater responsibility than normal because the oath is made to God.

This oath could be one of three possibilities. Exodus 24:7-8 shows Israel's pledge to obey God by keeping the Old Covenant:

Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold, the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”

The second oath is the covenant we have made with God to be obedient to Him. Jesus Himself says in Luke 14:26-27:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Whether or not we fully grasped it, at the time of our baptism and laying on of hands, we were pledging our lives and activities to faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

The third possibility is the least likely to apply. It is swearing before a judge during a courtroom trial to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth “so help me God.” This used to be done with a raised right hand or with a hand on a Bible.

The sense of responsibility to obey God must be cultivated, despite the sometimes foolish, self-centered humans in between Him and us. Those people may have done something very damaging that directly affects us or someone we love. They may have spoken forcefully against God and His way. It is easy to feel oppressed by them because, in their unconversion, they have become enemies of God. Being self-controlled in such situations may even prove to be life-saving.

Giving deference is not a mere civil duty. Making the covenant with God and deferring to those in authority can become a difficult, sacred obligation. It becomes more difficult when we perceive their self-centeredness and feel oppressed by them but fail to see God and the working out of His purposes in the picture at the same time. It presents a situation where disciplined self-control may be absolutely necessary. We must firmly grasp that human nature is just below the surface in us; it always wants to regain its former enslavement of us.

So, being before the civil authority is not merely a civil matter. It presents a situation that is a personal matter between us and the unseen God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fifteen): Deference



Ecclesiastes 8:1-4

We need to be aware of a truth about why deference is necessary when facing a king. The truth is that power is present in his office, and it is God-given. A similar statement appears in Job 9:12, where Job speaks of God's attributes: “If He takes away, who can hinder Him? Who can say to Him, 'What are You doing?'” Thus, deferring to the ruler may avoid his exercising excessive power to maintain peace.

We must be aware that God has indeed granted power to the ruler. The ruler's responsibility is as the appointed enforcer of the nation's laws. Historical logic demands that the power must be there because, without the power in the authority's hands, existing laws would be merely advice. If the leader's office has no power to exercise, respect for law diminishes, and the citizenry will ignore the laws. Such a scenario has happened repeatedly in history. We are experiencing an increase of disrespect for law in this nation as we move toward Christ's return.

What should our understanding of law be? To clarify this reality of power, it may help to personify law in the person of the ruler. Yet, the law, unlike a man, never sleeps. It also never forgets, having a long, long memory. Also unlike a mere man, it has virtually unlimited power to reach out and snare a lawbreaker. It must be respected because real power resides in it because of God above.

A vivid biblical example of this involves David's nephew, Joab, and his relationship with David. He treated Uncle David, the king, imperiously and rudely throughout most of his life. But like God, David, the holder of earthly power in Israel, remembered. Before David died, he left orders for Solomon, and cousin Joab was executed by the new king in short order.

Joab seemed to get away with his disrespectful attitude toward David and his office for a long time, but he eventually paid for it. Why did David have him put to death? Because in reality, Joab had shown great disrespect for God. Joab did not perceive where the power truly resided.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fifteen): Deference



Ecclesiastes 8:2-3

This advice calls on us to refine our behavior to be delicate, reserved, and careful so we do not appear obstinate when a difference arises between civil authority and us. Solomon's counsel is that, if the king does not grant us what we desire, depart discreetly out of respect for his office.

On this verse The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary observes, “A wise man will avoid everything in thought, temper, and action tending to sow the seeds of sedition.” Another expanded on this thought by advising, “We must study, even while in his presence, to find the proper behavior for the occasion so as to not imperil either our safety or the general society's.” Study, in this case, means “concentrate on” or “give attentive scrutiny to.”

The thrust of this counsel is that a person must be careful not to let his wounded pride build to such a passionate defense that it carries over into haughty disdain for the authority's office. This can even expand to calling God into account for His “failure” to remove that person from his office. Such an attitude may sow the seeds of rebellion far and wide. It is a major flaw in carnal thinking that people often fail to consider the long-range effects of even a single sin, a clear example of this being Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fifteen): Deference




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ecclesiastes 8:2:

Ecclesiastes 8:4

 

<< Ecclesiastes 8:1   Ecclesiastes 8:3 >>



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