S: Proverbs 30:21-23 (Agur the son of Jakeh wrote) “For three things the earth tremble,
and under four, it can’t bear up:
For a servant when he is king;
a fool when he is filled with food;
for an unloved woman when she is married;
and a servant who is heir to her mistress.”
O: When I first read these verses, I thought to myself, “This is written by a royalist and is nonsense to justify the idea of the Divine Right of Kings. As a democrat, I totally reject this as a wrong and evil idea. It's just the opinion of Agur the son of Jakeh, not of God.”
I am also reminded of the story of Hang Tuah v.s. Hang Jebat from the Hikayat Hang Tuah. Here is a summary from Wikipedia:
The most memorable chapter in the work concerns a duel between Hang Tuah and his closest friend, Hang Jebat. Hang Tuah was falsely accused of adultery with one of his sultan's maids by his jealous rivals. Upon hearing the accusation, the sultan ordered Hang Tuah killed, without an investigation of his alleged offense. Hang Tuah was secretly saved, however, by his executioner, a bendahara. Hang Jebat was aware that Hang Tuah was being unjustly punished and in a show of support and deep loyalty for his friend, revolted against the sultan. The sultan's forces were unable to suppress Hang Jebat. The sultan later came to realize that Hang Tuah was innocent, and immediately regretted sentencing Hang Tuah to death. The bendahara then told the sultan that Hang Tuah was still alive, and that only Hang Tuah could overcome Hang Jebat's rebellion. Hang Tuah was immediately recalled and given amnesty. After seven days of fighting, Hang Tuah managed to kill Hang Jebat.
To me, Hang Tuah was no hero — he was a fool. The Sultan was wrong, and the Sultan was an evil dictator who should be deposed. Hang Jebat was right, and was unjustly killed by his friend Hang Tuah who was misguided. This kind of incorrect thinking is partly what enables modern politicians in Malaysia to continue to hold on to power in spite of the evil they do.
Four sorts of persons are very troublesome. Men of low origin and base spirit, who, getting authority, become tyrants. Foolish and violent men indulging in excesses. A woman of a contentious spirit and vicious habits. A servant who has obtained undue influence. Let those whom Providence has advanced from low beginnings, carefully watch against that sin which most easily besets them.
So, perhaps this is not an approval of the Divine Right of Kings, but rather, an admonition that, if God allows you to advance from low beginnings, do not allow it make you proud and haughty. If you're allowed to become a king, then act nobly. Not that class mobility is prohibited, but rather, that we should act rightly when we are elevated.
Here the servant is probably a member of the king’s cabinet, another subordinate official who has usurped the crown (Gen. 24:2, 1 Sam. 27:12). If the king is supposed to be a rock, a steady leader for the stability of his people, a revolt causes great tumult in the earth. The seizing of glory and power is rarely a good sign, and rarely are those who do so prepared for the task. Frequently, rebels who oust tyrants merely establish more tyranny or worse. People who are not ready to rule, who are suddenly given great power and authority frequently abuse it.
A: Both Henry's and Sumpter's interpretations have bearing on authority and democracy. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We must hold our leaders accountable, lest they become corrupt and abuse their power. We also must police ourselves when we get into any position of authority — even many pastors have ended up abusing their power over their congregation and become dictatorial. I myself in my authority over my students and my family must keep in mind that I am accountable to the Master above me.
S: Father, in my exercise of authority, keep me humble and accountable to You. May I not abuse any power you give me. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: The illustration is from The Tyranny of King Washington, an alternate-history video game which explores how things may have turned out if George Washington did not do the noble thing of instituting a democracy and relinquishing power after he won the American Revolution. George Washington could so easily have made himself king, but he was apparently motivated by nobler ideals, perhaps from his Christian faith, and so instead helped found a nation built on freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom for citizens to critique the government and hold their leaders accountable. I wish we and the rest of the world had these freedoms!
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)