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