The Potency of Kings

Kings have authority and potency. That is why they are called ‘potentates‘. They wield authority over their domain and go to war with other kings to gain or preserve territory and authority.

Kings possess inherent qualities of authority. That authority has been expressed to the degree of the ‘divine right of kings’, which suggests that their superiority is divinely endowed.

King Solomon attested to the potency of kings when he declared…

“Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say to him, What are you doing?” Ecclesiastes 8:4

Where am I going with this? I am not here to tell you that kings have authority. What I want you to see is that people who are doing the will of God have authority that is equal to that of kings. So I’m pointing out that kings have quite some authority. Kings can virtually do as they please, and no-one can challenge them. Yet the same is true of the truly godly who are fulfilling the will of God in their lives.

Now, before you head off to defy authority, let me say again that what makes men equal to kings is that they are about their heavenly father’s business. You will not get to a place where you can defy authority just for the sake of doing your own thing. But if you are God’s man (so to speak), doing what God has called you to do, His way, then you can do business with kings, as an equal.

Let me show you several evidences of this in the Bible.

Abraham rescued the whole city of Sodom when it was captured by invading armies. Following the rescue the King of Sodom came to Abraham to offer him a handsome reward. Abraham flatly refused to take it, saying he did not want it said that Sodom had contributed to his wealth (see Genesis 14:1-24).

Abraham dealt with the King of Sodom, not as a lesser man who relied on the King’s graces, but as a man at least equal to the King, who would act as he so chose. Later Abraham proved to be of a higher authority than the King of Sodom when God allowed Abraham to negotiate for the city, but God did not even consider giving such a privilege to the King of Sodom.

Later we see Abraham doing business with a king of the Philistines. We know of this king as Abimelech, which is a dynastic title, like the title Pharaoh in Egypt. God told Abimelech that Abraham was God’s man and he was not to do him any harm. Abraham had no qualms in rebuking this king when his men stole wells from Abraham.

Rather than being in awe of kings, Abraham knew his own place as God’s servant and that he could go about his own business independently of the rulers of the land.

We later see Moses challenging Egypt’s Pharaoh with the same disregard for that king’s earthly authority. Moses had been sent by God and so he acted as an equal, or even a better than Pharaoh, going boldly into his presence to do business with him.

Yet again, even in the trial of Jesus Christ by Pilate, the delegated Roman ruler of Palestine at that time, Jesus declared that the only authority Pilate had over him was what God allowed.

“Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11

As you grow in your godly authority be aware that the time may come when you will stand before kings, not as a menial whom they wish to deal with as they will, but as an equal, or indeed even as one who has power over them. This is as it has always been.

Do not despise the authority of kings, for it represents the authority you may one day have as you pursue God’s purposes in your generation.

The Divine Right of Kings

English history plays out for us a lesson on our own condition. I’ll tease it out for you, through reflection on the Kings of England. Two competing notions of royalty played upon the English monarchy over the past millennia. One notion is that of the special rights conferred upon a king, as God’s appointee. This concept comes under the heading of ‘the divine right of kings’.

The other notion is that of the limitation of a monarch’s authority, in that he or she is not above the law.

In the middle ages the King was considered a divine appointee who ruled with God’s authority. Kings throughout history relied on the notion of their own superiority in order to maintain their position of power. In ancient Egypt, for example, Pharaoh’s were regarded as divine.

Since power corrupts, such notions of personal power tempt monarchs to overstep their bounds. In a land of powerless people a despotic monarch can do as he or she pleases. In England in the 1200’s the nation was in the hands of barons, who had large land holdings and who operated as mini kingdoms within the larger kingdom. Kings funded and staffed their activities, such as wars, through taxing the barons.

During the reign of King John many barons and church leaders resisted his heavy taxes and demands, demanding of him instead. This led to the creation and signing of the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215. King John acceded to the baron’s demands, thus making himself subject to the law. The Magna Carta effectively limits the divine right of kings to be expressed within the bounds of God’s law.

English poet, Rudyard Kipling (whose poem “If” I have used elsewhere in these posts) refers to the divine right of kings in his poem about the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede, 800 years ago.

“And there they launched in solid line
The first attack on Right Divine,
The curt uncompromising ‘Sign!’
They settled John at Runnymede.”
Rudyard Kipling, What Say The Reeds At Runnymede?

That was not the end of the matter. Kings continued to push the limits of their power. Thus, over 600 years after the Magna Carta, kings and queens of England continued to play their part in this running battle between privilege and obligation.

Due to a series of abuses by kings and a running religious struggle between Catholic and Protestant monarchs, King James II was overthrown in what is called the Glorious Revolution of November 1688. The English Parliament invited James’ daughter Mary and her husband William to the throne, on condition they are subject to the rule of Parliament.

This further limiting of the divine right of kings celebrated again that monarchs, even if appointed by divine mandate, are not above the law.

These historic landmarks illustrate the tension between rights and responsibilities. Privilege and obligation coexist in tension. In most aspects of our existence we must be subject to obligation in order to fully enjoy our privileges.

Marriage is an example. It affords a couple the rights and privileges of conjugal intimacy, while it also requiring both to accept the part God assigns them, in their unique role as husband or wife.

However, I digress. Where I want to go with all of this is to the point that kings do have privilege. A ruling monarch does have something akin to a divine right to their position. Yet they are not only subject to the law, as explained above, but they are unable to exercise authority over others who also share a ‘divine right’. Now, that’s where I’m going with this, but you’ll have to wait for a later post to let me take you there.

Sovereignty – The Divine Right of Everyone

I have spoken to the subject of Sovereignty before and will certainly do so again, so you might as well read this post and tune in to why I think the subject is important.

Personal Sovereignty is the inalienable right we each have to be responsible for ourselves and to maintain personal rule over our inner self. While the topic may sound esoteric and of little practical value, it is very important for each of us personally. It speaks to the reason why God can and will judge us for our actions. It also speaks to the way we relate to others and to the power others can exercise over us. It speaks to the responsibilities we carry, the accountabilty we must give, the power we can exercise and the divine potential of our life.

I refer to Sovereignty as “The Divine Right of Everyone” to highlight the fact that personal sovereignty is universal for us humans. God has personal sovereignty too. Our sovereignty is subject to His, since He is our creator, and so He has a much higher place in the grand scheme of things than we do. There is no real need to argue that God has a divine role superior to humanity. That is a given by virtue of the common definition of who God is. My focus is on the amazing equality that humans have. ‘The Divine Right of Kings’ speaks of a specially privileged place which rulers claim as their own. ‘The Divine Right of Everyone’ is my way of pointing to something that is equally owned by all humans, no matter what their station in life.

I want to draw evidence for that equality from an event that occured in the life of Abraham, almost 4,000 years ago. Historical records tell us that Abraham had a small army of trained servants. He put that army to work to rescue his nephew, Lot, who was taken captive by an invading army. On his journey home, after winning a total victory, Abraham met a divine prince, Melchizedek. This strange princely priest was divine – as he did not have father or mother. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, who gave a tenth of all that he had to the priest. In the historical narrative the event comes and goes and nothing more is said about it, except for a short prophetic statement by King David (approximately 1,000 BC) in one of his psalms (Psalm 110:4).

In the New Testament, however, almost 2,000 years after Abraham, new light was shed on this transient encounter. In Hebrews 7:7, after recounting the meeting of Abraham and Melchisedek and the fact that the priest blessed Abraham, it is pointed out that “the less is blessed by the better”. That is to say that the divine is able to bless the human, because God is greater than man.

If personal sovereignty was not equally shared among humans then there would be a pecking order of human superiority. The greater would be able to confer blessings on the lesser. Kings and people of personal might would be seen to be the originators of blessing for lesser people and underlings. Yet, on the human plane, those who might be deemed to be ‘lesser’ in terms of their station may equally confer blessing on those who are their superiors. Let me show you an example from the historical records collated in the Bible.

In the book of Ruth, speaking of events that occurred approximately 1,300BC, we see the wealthy landowner, Boaz visiting his employees. If the right to bless others is only conferred on those of superior station in life, then Boaz would do the blessing and the underlings would wait to receive his graces. This is not what we find. Ruth 2:4 records: “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless you.” The servants conferred blessing on their boss! Is this not an outrageous act? Should not Boaz be incensed by their impertinence? How dare they speak to their employer, the mighty Boaz, as if they had anything to give him? Boaz was perfectly happy to receive their blessing.

The reason they could do so is because of personal sovereignty. Each man and woman on the planet has the same right to stand before God and the same right to be in relationship with God, that every other person is given. So the servants of Boaz could just as readily go into God’s presence to invoke a blessing on Boaz as he could go to God to confer a blessing on them. The divine right of kings does not work here. Kings have a peculiar set of responsibiltiies and privileges, but they have no more personal sovereignty than the lowliest servant or street urchin in their kingdom.

Every human on the planet, no matter their gender, age, social status, health, geographical location, cultural background or whatever, is invited, equally, to become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Every drop of innocent human blood is able to cry equally to God for vengeance. Every person alive is allowed to cry out to God and call upon Him for salvation and deliverance. Every widow and fatherless child is watched over by God, no matter what their religion, culture, social standing, and so on.

There is a profound equality which empowers us all to stand before God and to do His bidding for our lives. We have the right to get about God’s business. We have the privilege of drawing on God’s resources, no matter what tyrrany we are under, or what limitation has been pressed on us.

Praise God for personal sovereignty. It is an inalienable privilege which we should all explore. People may limit our physical liberty, steal our material goods, injur our physical bodies, block our employment opportunities, look down on us, falsely accuse us, and many other inhumane things. But they cannot stop us from stepping into God’s presence and doing business with the God of all eternity.