The young king rode through the streets among the cheering crowds. His wavy hair shined in the sunlight below his newly donned crown. He was just 16 years old. As the son of King Amaziah, he was a familiar sight to the people, but now as their king, he seemed to have everything together. There was much work to do, but Uzziah was ready to do it. He was in the line of the great King David and had just been crowned by the people as King of Judah.
As he embarked upon his new role, it seemed all would be wonderful. He sought the Lord in all the things he did, and the Lord made him to prosper. In the following years, God gave Uzziah victory over the Philistines, the Arabians, and the Mehunims. The Ammonites were brought into subjection and paid tribute to Judah. His herds in the fields were blessed and God blessed with water from many wells across his lands. Was there anything God wouldn’t do for Uzziah?
He rebuilt the parts of the wall of Jerusalem that were broken down under his father’s reign, and he fortified those walls with towers. He engineered engines of war to place upon the walls that would hurl arrows or stones at the enemies of Judah. He raised armies of valiant men of war and equipped them with the latest in weapons and armor. Uzziah was strong – very strong in every way. The Bible tells us about King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, and it says in verse 16, “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction.” What in the world would cause the destruction of such a powerful ruler over God’s people?
In several articles, including “Why Jurisdictions Matter”, and “Little Johnny’s Dollars”, we have addressed the importance of limited jurisdiction of government authorities. God authored government entities and He created different types of government positions. He expects us to honor those that hold those positions and He expects us to honor the jurisdictional roles He has created. But God also expects those who hold those positions to use those offices faithfully – and He limits the role to the boundaries of their jurisdiction.
Jurisdictions in the Bible
One of the places where God tells us in His Word to honor the jurisdictions He has created is in Romans 13:1. This verse is aimed at civil government and says:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”-Romans 13:1
Many Christians take this verse to mean that a civil government ruler has no limit to His power or authority, and whatever they say or do, we are bound to submit. However, God does not give unlimited jurisdiction and power to anyone. We saw this in the context of a Roman Centurion in the article, “Officials Under Authority”.
This is easily demonstrated when we look at verses that govern other jurisdictions. Verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:17 tell us to honor those over us in the church jurisdiction. There is no doubt we should honor those in church leadership. However, what are we supposed to do if the preacher teaches heresy? I have had more than one great pastor tell me if he teaches heresy, we should throw him out! He does not have unlimited jurisdiction to teach anything in the world he wants – He needs to stay true to teaching the Word of God. It is when he is within his legitimate jurisdiction that I need to submit to his leadership. But his leadership is subordinate to the leadership of God and His Word!
What about abuse of power?
Similarly, in Ephesians 5, the Bible tells wives to submit to their husbands, and a few lines later in chapter 6, it tells children to obey their parents, and in Ephesians 6:4 it tells fathers to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So, the guidance from the Scripture is clear that God commands the man to be the head of the family. Is that role without boundaries? If he tells his wife or children to steal for the family, are they to obey? If a man physically abuses his wife and children, do we just send her back to him and tell her to submit? Is it an unquestioned obedience, or are there boundaries to his legitimate authority? I believe those in leadership roles of all jurisdictions are to be faithful to carry out their roles, and they are to stay within the proper jurisdictional lines of their particular role.
The proper roles and limits of our federal government, for example, are clearly outlined in the Constitution of the United States, and every official at every level is required to swear an oath to support that great document. If a particular official ignores the Constitutional limits of his position and attempts to wield authority not legitimately given – does the Christian owe obedience to that official? Romans 13:3-4, and 1 Peter 2:13-14 both clearly say the civil government official is supposed to encourage good and punish evil. What if they are doing the opposite? What if they are encouraging evil and punishing good? Are the Christians to be quiet and submit? I believe that would be inconsistent with God’s guidance from Scripture.
back to king uzziah
If we return to King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, we find what led to his destruction was when he marched into the temple to burn incense before the Lord. When he took this action, he was opposed by 80 priests, who the Bible calls “valiant men”. The King James Version says they “Withstood Uzziah the King” and proceeded to tell him it was not his role to burn incense – that role belonged to the priests. I believe if he would have listened to their reproof, and submitted to God’s proper limits to his role, then I believe all would have been well for King Uzziah. However, he didn’t do that… He got mad and proceeded to burn incense anyway… I mean, he was the King… didn’t they read Romans 13? I think nobody can say that God didn’t read Romans 13, and it was God who struck Uzziah with leprosy in 2 Chronicles 26:19.
God never removed King Uzziah’s leprosy. He had it the rest of his life. King Uzziah and his leprosy are a reminder for us today that the offices that God creates have limits. King Uzziah did not want to stay within those limits. Valiant men opposed him. Opposing him was incredibly courageous, as well as the most loving and Christian activity they possibly could have done. It would have been to his great benefit to listen to the reproof of those priests. Instead, he lived the rest of his life as a leper.
do your duty
We need to be courageous and valiant and hold our officials accountable when they seek to go outside their legitimate authority as defined by the United States Constitution. The boundaries of their offices are there for good reason, and it is an act of tyranny and rebellion against God for them to ignore those limits. If we inform them it is not proper for them to take that action, it may make them mad, but it also may well be that we are being used to protect them from the judgement of God.