Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world


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[1] Our conscience and authority – rotten ones!

Cartoon of an angry man.Our conscience and authority, how do we deal with bad or evil authorities?

I love this story where king Saul was tracking David to kill him and there was an unexpected twist:

So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, ‘This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’’”

Cave in Ein Gedi Israel.
Cave in Ein Gedi Israel.

Do you believe in luck, or the mighty, invisible hand of God in your circumstances?
Just look at this situation!
Saul goes into the very same cave, that David and some of his army are hiding.
Not only does Saul enter on his own with no body guards, but he also falls asleep, and is totally at David’s mercy.

This illustrates the sovereignty of God.
God is the One who works all things for His own ends, and for His glory.

The men with David are convinced that the Lord has done this, but they interpret the situation wrongly.
They knew that Saul was becoming more wicked.
So because God had given Saul into David’s hands, they now believe, that it would be LAWFUL to kill him.
This would mean that David could then take up his rightful position as king!
It was a straight forward situation, as far as those men saw it.

But David had a higher view of God’s purposes.
David knew that Saul was the anointed king of Israel, and as such required to be given honour and respect, even though by his actions he deserved to be shown contempt.

An example of this difficult kind of situation is found in 1 Peter 2:18
Although it relates to a slave and their master, the teaching applies to us when we are dealing with those in authority.

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

The word ‘harsh’ here, means ‘crooked, or perverse’
That is a hard situation, to give respect where the one in authority is not only harsh, but is also lawless.
Why does God want us to do this? In Romans 13 Paul explains why:

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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.”

Verse 5

“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment, but also because of CONSCIENCE.”

God wants us to submit to people in authority, which requires faith, especially, when that person is crooked and perverse.

That does not mean we cannot correct those in authority.
When David came out of the cave, he actually told Saul off for wanting to kill him.
But he said all of this within the context of showing respect for Saul.

The only time we mustn’t obey, is when they tell us to do something against God’s law. Peter and John had to say to the Jewish rulers, after they were told to stop preaching;

Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight, to obey you rather than God.”
Acts 4:19

David chose to give Saul respect, even though he didn’t deserve it.
He had faith that God would make him king, at the right time.
David also prevented the men from harming Saul.
It would have been easy for David to have said; ‘It’s wrong for me to do it, but it seems a pity to waste such an opportunity! Well, go on then, you kill him.’
But David’s CONSCIENCE would not allow such a thing to happen.

David crept up to Saul, and cut off the corner of his robe.
But even this, gives David’s conscience a problem. In the Bible passage it says:

Afterwards, David was conscience stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe.”

Does that sound ridiculous to you?
Just a small piece of cloth!
All those times Saul had tried to kill David, and now David is feeling guilty for cutting off a fragment of Saul’s robe!
Is this too small a thing, to get ashamed of?
No it is not.

Here is a KEY to being a man, or woman, of God.
It is good to have a conscience that says to us ‘That’s wrong’.
Even when those things seem very small.
It is a sign that the conscience is alive and sensitive, and therefore it should prevent us from doing bigger sins.
Having a finely tuned conscience is important for all of us, who want to follow and obey the Lord.

Image: Cave in Ein Gedi thanks to David Alexander, The Lion Handbook to the Bible.

Peter Reason

December 2011

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