Joshua 1:16-17 Then [the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh] answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.”
There is an important, but tricky, principle being laid down here. Under Moses’ clearly God-inspired leadership, the twelve tribes of the sons of Jacob (Israel) had formed themselves into a united commonwealth following their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Since the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, and during their 40 years wandering in the desert, they had (apart from a few incidents of rebellion) submitted to Moses as the LORD’s appointed Leader and CEO. Now they were about to enter the Promised Land under a new leader. They were willing to give the same full allegiance to Joshua – on the condition that “the LORD [his] God [is] with [him] as he was with Moses”.
The Apostle Paul derives two instructions from this principle. Firstly, we are to PRAY for those in authority, just as the Israelites prayed: “may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses”. Paul wrote: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
And secondly, just as the Israelites pledged obedience to Joshua, Paul wrote: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
The tricky part comes when we have committed ourselves to BOTH these directives, and yet the ruling authorities make demands of us that are clearly CONTRARY to God’s will. Then we are to follow the example of Peter and the other Apostles when they were commanded by the ‘ruling authorities’ to stop preaching the message of the Lord Jesus Christ being the ONLY Saviour: “Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20).
The balance between Paul’s directive and Peter’s example is not always clear, and faithful Christians sometimes disagree about where the balance lies, but what is ALWAYS important is that we all continue to PRAY for ‘those in authority’ and to support one another (even when we differ!) as we seek to please the Lord in everything that we do and that in “whatever [we] do, [we] do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
– Bruce Christian