Proverbs 24:21–22 (ESV)

21 My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,

David is a good example of someone who feared “the Lord and the king.” Even though he had already been anointed by Samuel as king and had an army with him, he honoured Saul as the “anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24:6). For that reason he refused to overthrow or kill Saul, in spite of Saul’s many attempts on his life. The fear of the Lord is also what caused Daniel to honour the godless ruler Nebuchadnezzar, as Daniel knew that it is God who gave Nebuchadnezzar his power (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 2:37Daniel 5:18).

Yet the most powerful example of obedience to God and the king is found in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. Who suffered more injustice at the hands of the authorities than he? Yet he refused to rebel and he warned Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). To Pilate, the Roman governor who were hated by the Jews, he said, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).

Jesus’ apostles taught the same message of obedience to the authorities (see Acts 23:6; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Peter 2:13–14, 1 Peter 2:17). We must obey the authorities even when they are unjust, with only one exception: if they ask us to do something that is against God’s will (Acts 5:29). 

In many places in Proverbs, we are told of the fairness and faithfulness which God expects from rulers. But whether a ruler is godly or not, we have no right to decide whether or not we will honour and obey him (or her).

The revolutionary spirit has had a great impact on our world and even on Christians. Many people today believe that the government is the servant of the people, and yet the Bible teaches us that the government is the servant of God. Time and again, revolutions prove that what Jesus said is true: “All who draw the sword [in rebellion against the authorities] will die by the sword.” This is true also of those who rebel in the name of Christ. Think, for example, of the Anabaptists in the time of the Reformation.