Authority only exists in what is real. It is based upon who we are, what is ours today, and how we are empowering others through the substance of the authority we possess now. It is not who are yet to become and or what we are yet to hold. It is standing in our responsibility today. Authority is found in reality and it involves heeding the voice of the Lord today. God sees what we cannot and obedience to Him requires a submission in our hearts. When we know who He is, we trust what He says. When we trust what He says, we can do what He requires. It is a matter of a right relationship with God and with authority.
There is a wonderful story revealing the truth of authority in the book of 1 Samuel. Saul had been chosen king and God was giving him a task of responsibility within his sphere as king of Israel. The prophet Samuel brought the word of the Lord pertaining to the present authority for Saul:
1 Samuel 15:1-3 Samuel also said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish what Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him on the way when he came up from Egypt. ‘Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”
Human compassion, reasoning, and rationalization could interfere on this one. How many of us would argue with this order? A problem with authority could manifest here. Fulfilling the task being given to Saul would not make him popular among the people. It wasn’t glorious. It was gruesome. It held difficult decisions. It would challenge human reasoning and compassion. There would be no bragging rights to its success.
Today’s obedience is not necessarily glorious. Authority doesn’t necessarily get great attention. Power seeks a show, but authority simply does the job at hand. Human reasoning will give us power, but only obedience gives authority.
1 Samuel 15:4-6 So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
So far the obedience of Saul looked good. His decisions were life giving and he showed compassion where he should. This is often the case in fulfilling authority. We start out with obedience and we even exercise its implementation with wisdom and life. It is not until the task seems unreasonable that we challenge its fulfillment. As long as our reasoning matches the reasoning of God we are ok. It is only when God’s reasoning collides with ours that we fail in the task. This is why submission is the key to obedience. Submission is not about tasks, it is about relationships. Relationships are about love, trust, and life. Authority is a life-giving substance, but unless we understand the reality of true submission we will make our own judgments in fulfilling its tasks.
1 Samuel 15:7-9 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Who decided what was good and what wasn’t? Man did, didn’t he? God had already judged it all as being worthless. The reasoning for such a decision by Saul could have looked like this: “Obviously leadership hasn’t seen the full potential that’s here. Obviously leadership is missing giftings and potentials, which should be appreciated here. This isn’t logical. This isn’t fair. Leadership is rejecting what is truly valuable. It’s obvious that God and Samuel just don’t understand. They just don’t have all of the facts concerning the Amalekites. After looking at the situation, after assessing and surveying it, I’ve found that some of the things here are good. It’s not all useless. There’s some good stuff here. If leadership knew what I know, and could see what I can see, they would agree. My decisions to spare what I know is good is better than what leadership sees.”
Saul wasn’t being wicked. He was being reasonable. He was operating in the full manifestation of the gift of reasoning and human empathy. God is reasonable too, but when we are compared to God He can be totally unreasonable to us. Human reasoning will give us power, but only obedience will give us authority. True obedience comes from submission, but Saul’s heart was independent. He was not submissive to the will of God. He desired power more than he desired authority. He wanted blessing more than he wanted to be a blessing.
How many times have we done things in our lives where we have determined that? How many times have we been told to do something, but we applied our own reasoning to its completion? ‘My husband doesn’t really understand the whole picture,’ or ‘my pastor doesn’t understand the whole picture, the home group leader doesn’t really understand everything that’s going on here. It obvious to me that there is good to be preserved here. If leadership knew what I know and could see what I see, they would agree!’
This rationalization is human reasoning and not the wisdom of God. There is too much pain in simple obedience, so we look for alternative possibilities. There is not enough glory in obedience, so we look for something more glorious. There is nothing in it for us if we obey, so we look for personal blessings. The real issue is submission. When we choose human reasoning over what God’s authority has said, it is because we don’t trust the source of authority.
Which is more work, sacrifice or obedience? Which requires a decision from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? This is good, this isn’t. Save this one, destroy that one. What God calls good, we often call bad; and what we call bad, God often calls good.
When we make decisions that are outside of the boundaries of God’s word, our decisions will produce death. They could be decisions that do less action than God requires or they could be decisions that do more actions than God requires. In either case those decisions are ones of sacrifice and not obedience. True authority comes from submission and a submissive heart will always exhibit obedient actions.
Food For Thought.
Ted J. Hanson