2 Chronicles 26:1-27:9; Romans 13:1-7; Psalms 24:1-2; Proverbs 10:15-16
OT: “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem… He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the Lord, God gave him success… But when he became strong, he grew arrogant, and it led to his own destruction. He acted unfaithfully against the Lord his God by going into the Lord’s sanctuary to burn incense on the incense altar. The priest Azariah, along with eighty brave priests of the Lord, went in after him. They took their stand against King Uzziah and said, “Uzziah, you have no right to offer incense to the Lord — only the consecrated priests, the descendants of Aaron, have the right to offer incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have acted unfaithfully! You will not receive honor from the Lord God.” Uzziah, with a firepan in his hand to offer incense, was enraged. But when he became enraged with the priests, in the presence of the priests in the Lord’s temple beside the altar of incense, a skin disease broke out on his forehead. Then Azariah the chief priest and all the priests turned to him and saw that he was diseased on his forehead. They rushed him out of there. He himself also hurried to get out because the Lord had afflicted him.” (2 Chronicles 26:3, 5, 16-20 CSB)
Uzziah was third in a line of kings who started out well and ended badly. First, there was Joash, then Amaziah, followed by Uzziah. It said that Uzziah sought God during the lifetime of Zechariah, so that suggests that as soon as Zechariah died, Uzziah lost his way. That was the same thing that happened to Uzziah’s grandfather Joash, and goes to show how important it is to develop your own faith in God instead of simply living in the shadows of someone else’s faith. As long as Uzziah sought God, God graced him with numbers of military accomplishments and victories – to the point that Uzziah became well known throughout the land. It was when Uzziah became strong that he lost his way. He stopped attributing His success to God’s grace and claimed credit for all his accomplishments. He began thinking more highly of himself than he ought and overstepped his boundaries. Even though he was king, he did not have absolute authority. God had set up a system of checks and balances and the authority of the king was limited. He did not have the authority to offer sacrifices or burn incense before the Lord. That was the job and responsibility of the priests. In God’s system of government, the king had to submit to the priest in Godly matters. Uzziah, in his pride and arrogance, overstepped his bounds and infringed on the authority of the priests. By disrespecting the priests’ authority, he dishonored God and suffered the consequences.
NT: “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience. And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” (Romans 13:1-7 CSB)
In reading these first few verses of Romans 13, it is important to understand that the government in power at the time of Paul’s writing was the Roman Empire. The Roman government was highly corrupt, incredibly oppressive, founded on pagan beliefs and far from godly. For those of you who think that your government is corrupt and evil, the Roman Empire was probably worse. Yet Paul tells all believers that they are to submit to governing authorities… even ungodly and corrupt ones. God is the one Who instituted governmental authority. Why? Because mankind is sinful and full of evil and needs authority in-order to prevent chaos and unhindered evil. Men and women who are in authority, outside of God’s leading and grace, will become corrupt – but the authority itself is established by God. The men and women in authority may not be honorable, but we are called to honor to offices and positions they hold.
In honoring authority, we are also called to pay our taxes. There are those who refuse to pay their taxes in the name of Christ, because they do not believe in the causes that the taxes go to support. But keep in mind, that Rome was in power during Christ’s life on earth and Rome was in power at the time of the writing of this scripture. Both Jesus and Paul taught that we are to pay our obligations… even to the government. The taxes that were paid to Rome did not go to honorable causes. They lined the pockets of the tax collectors, paid for Caesar’s opulent and perverted lifestyle, and funded Rome’s violent conquest of the world… yet Jesus and Paul said to pay taxes, for in paying your taxes you honor the systems of authority that God ordained, you take yourself out of the crosshairs of the government authorities, and you set context to live a godly and peaceable life.
Psalms: “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord; for he laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers.” (Psalms 24:1-2 CSB)
Ultimately, everything on the earth, even the various authority structures, belong to the Lord. He laid the foundation of the earth and He holds everything together by the authority of His word. By honoring His word and the laws and systems He established, we honor God.