Taking a Stand (Part 3)
The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the LORD’s presence. He pledged to obey the LORD by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. 2 Kings 23:3 NLT
I want to insert a hermeneutical note at this point lest some think I have taken liberty with the Scriptures. I intentionally chose the New Living Translation for 2 Kgs 23:3 because after researching the textural context and Hebrew definitions, I was convinced it gave the best interpretive sense of what is being conveyed in that verse. The KJV as well as numerous other translations simply state the king “…stood by a pillar…” I am sure these translations are faithful to the literal rendering of the Hebrew. However, what the NLT conveys is the understood meaning of what can seem archaic to our modern ears. The pillar referred to in verse three is thought to be a bronze platform built by Solomon and used by all kings when officially addressing the people.
For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven…” 2 Ch 6:13 KJV
A king taking his place on the platform might be analogous to a judge assuming the bench or a president addressing the nation from the oval office. The Pope is said at times to speak “ex cathedra” meaning that he is speaking from his throne in an official capacity. Roman Catholics believe when the Pope addresses matters of faith ex cathedra his words are infallible.
Josiah took his place of authority. As a king, the world was his on a platter. He could have taken the easy road, not bucked the people of his kingdom and enjoyed popularity and luxury the rest of his life. But Josiah was a man of God and, when in the providence of God he was positioned to exercise authority on behalf of God, he did not shirk his duty.
Just as God “seated” Josiah in a place of authority, he has also seated every true disciple of Jesus Christ into a place of authority. In Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, we were not only delivered from the power and consequences of our sin but were also raised from sin’s death to our new life in Christ. Further, we were seated with Christ in heavenly places.
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Eph 2:4-7 NLT
This passage is not speaking of a spacial location but rather of a spiritual dimension such as Christ himself occupies. This means we have been brought, through our relationship in Christ, to a position of responsibility in exercising authority in his name. Living out of the life and authority of Christ is not an option nor a unique ministry for a few “super-Christians.” When we chose to deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus, we became soldiers in God’s army committed to “…war a good warfare.”
Epaphroditus … He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier”. 1 Tim 1:18 NLT
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Tim 2:3,4 NKJV
Taking a stand for righteousness, taking one’s place of authority, ought to be the natural proclivity of every soldier in heaven’s army. However, it is essential that we understand the critical difference in what it means to exercise authority in the kingdom of God compared to the world. In the world, men wield authority by lording it over others. Jesus made it clear that this was antithetical to the principles of his kingdom.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you…” Matt 20:25, 26 NKJV
That we are to exercise authority in Jesus’ name is incontestable. Not only are we seated in heavenly places in Christ but we have his marching orders as recorded in Matthew’s gospel:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…” Matt 28:18-20 BSB
The very one in whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been vested has commissioned his followers to continue what he inaugurated. To minister in the name of Christ is to minister in and by his authority—not an authority that lords it over others but one that is modeled on the life of the suffering servant, an authority that serves under rather than ruling over.
We have been influenced and trained through the conduct and examples of worldly institutions that authority is principally exercised through hierarchical structures. These types of “lording it over” systems are easily seen in the business world, the in military, in many families, and in social institutions such as the Boy Scouts and even in the church. In the Bible, for example, we read of deacons, elders, pastors and bishops. Because we have been conditioned by the world’s power-over, wield-the-sword, control-others mentality, we use these descriptive biblical terms to create a hierarchical hegemony in the church. What was originally meant to distinguish motivations, ministries and serving, the church has turned into positions, titles, and the lording it over of others.
Many in the church believe that by emulating the world’s manipulative and controlling exercise of authority, the church is better able to do and accomplish its goals. It is better able to keep things neat and orderly and predictable and basically keep all the soldiers marching in the same direction. However, God is not as interested in getting things done as he is in transforming lives. By conforming our lives to Jesus, God is bringing us into that condition wherein Christ can freely manifest himself through our lives and thereby continually extend and expand the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Gregory Boyd in his excellent book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, contrasts the world’s manifestation of authority with that of the kingdom of God this way:
Participants in the kingdom of the world trust the power of the sword to control behavior; participants of the kingdom of God trust the power of self-sacrificial love to transform hearts.”
Jesus’ exercise of authority is most pronounced in his accepting his destiny on the cross, dying for the very persons who put him there and then forgiving them for their outrageous behavior. He also illustrated this with his disciples in the upper room when he girded himself with a towel and proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. That this captured the essence of how we are to exercise kingdom authority is summed up in Jesus’ words…
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.” Jn 13:14,15 BSB
Gregory Boyd calls this “power-under” versus the “power-over” as manifested in the kingdoms of this world. Rather than wielding the sword with intent to control, power under practices self-sacrificial love in service to others in hopes of seeing hearts transformed and changed coming from the inside out. Power under always puts the interests of others ahead of one’s own desires. Power under is defined in the Sermon on the Mount in terms of being poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, being persecuted and rejected by others.
There was a strong hierarchical system of authority in Judaism in Jesus’ day. An example of this can be seen in the behavior of the Jewish religious leaders.
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” Matt 21:23 NKJV
The chief priests and elders assumed some kind of layered structure of authority in demanding answers to their questions. These Jewish leaders wielded great influence and power over the people even to the extent that they could have people arrested, incarcerated and even beaten on their say-so.
We can see the truth of this power over versus power under concept even in the wisdom literature of Proverbs.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” Pro 29:2 NKJV
By definition the “righteous” would be those living by biblical standards according to the ways of God. Those who are truly righteous would be exercising authority in a self-sacrificial way motivated by a desire for what is eternally best for others while subduing their own self-interests. Those whom Jesus taught recognized this kind of authority and were astonished that Jesus could exercise this righteous authority because the truth of what he taught was woven into his very life.
Jesus did not satisfy justice and remove the penalty for sin by asserting his rights as the Son of God, but by self-sacrificial love as the Lamb of God. Although it appeared that he was defeated at Calvary, the Lamb established the conditions under which all the kingdoms of this world as ruled by Satan would be brought down. The actions and life of the Lamb prepared the way for the kingdom the Lion will rule.
As followers and disciples of Christ, we will only be able to take our place of authority effectively carrying on and extending the kingdom of God by following his example and emulating him. By denying self, taking up our cross daily and following Christ we will assume a spiritual authority through which God can manifest his will, his works and his wonders.
Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign over Judah, and he is remembered for the valiant and comprehensive stand he took against witchcraft and idolatry throughout the land. Scripture records that Josiah “… also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll…” It is difficult to imagine the extent and ferocity of resistance he most likely experienced to his spiritual restorations from a people who were obviously steeped in witchcraft and idolatry. We read in 2 Kings 23 what could inarguably have been his epitaph; it reads thusly in the New Living Translation:
He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right… Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” (2Kings 23:2,25 NLT)
May we so live with such devotion and yieldedness to our King Jesus that we will humbly and courageously take our place of authority and stand against all that seeks to undermine his kingdom and for all that exalts and enthrones him.
and having done all…stand.