Its Role and Necessity
Cultural analyst Mary Eberstadt notes that where people stop having families, they tend to drift away from faith as well. That could be because the family was the channel that YHWH created through which to know Him best. After all, He calls Himself our Father; how could someone understand that, without an earthly father to give him his first ideas about what that role means?
One thing for certain is that this generation, more of whom than ever before have grown up with only one parent—or even, bizarre as it seems, two parents of the same kind—has a very skewed sense of what authority is about. They need both perspectives—the mother’s and the father’s—to turn out with the proper balance.
Lacking this, the same people are both resisting authority and demanding more government control—a self-contradictory position! But I think it stems from having a legitimate but unfulfilled desire for the security of a parent figure but also either abuse in existing power structures or too much emphasis on self-actualization, or both.
Children today are exposed to much more that is meant to be relegated to adult life than they used to be, and a few actual cases of child abuse have also tended to cast the wrong light on legitimate discipline, and if threatened with a spanking, they counter-threaten to call the police or social services! They cannot recognize the difference between temporary pain that motivates and pain that actually injures, and think they can do without correction simply because they are more savvy at technology and social media than their parents are, and so they think their parents know nothing.
Teenagers have always felt that way to some extent, but YHWH did not intend parents and children to be considered equals as long as the training relationship continues. Yes, they have equal value, but the inexperienced are hardly on the same footing as the long-experienced! And though they may not wish to do what we tell them to, we have to answer to YHWH. He has given them to us as stewards until they can answer to Him for themselves. And if they do not learn from us how to stop arguing and be instructed, how will they ever fare when they have a boss or a governor with whom they do not agree? And Joyce Meyer is credited with saying, “The truth is, if we don't learn to submit to authority, we won't ever learn to submit to God.” Parents are the first line of training in all of these areas.
Normally they should work as a team, since their gifts and talents are different and meant to be complementary. The first woman, in fact, was given to Adam, particularly to keep him stable: “suitable helper” (Gen. 2:18) actually means “an opposing support”, like the other side of an A-framed structure which keeps something which by nature must lean in one direction from toppling over. So this is a positive opposition which helps him see from another perspective and thus able to stay in balance.
But what about when the parents do not agree? We would hope that is not often the case, but when it is, for the sake of stability and peace, there has to be someone designated to make the final decision. YHWH chose to place the father of the household in this position.
A direct reason given for not allowing a woman to have authority over a man is that “Adam was first formed, then Eve. Also, Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, came to be in violation.” (1 Tim. 2:13-14; compare 1 Cor. 14:33-36) Adam did wrong too, but apparently chose to die with his wife, who had already taken the bait and irreversibly let the poison into her system, rather than living forever but losing her. But the implication is that the serpent chose to tempt the woman because he thought he had an easier target.
She apparently let something appealing about the temptation override her better judgment. So YHWH imposed on her a husband’s rule. (Gen. 3:16) Today this is seen as a curse, but it was actually a great blessing, if she wants to see the redemption come about. This word for “rule over” does not have the sense of being a despot, but of bringing order, governing, setting the pace, leading in the right direction—in short, providing for what they need and may not realize (or want to admit) they need.
Women, being better-equipped as they are to see the big picture all at once, tend to decide on a course of action before thinking through all the ramifications. Their corpus callosum, which joins the two halves of the brain, is much larger than men’s, letting their awareness of a problem translate to responsive action much more quickly and almost without even thinking about it. That is a built-in emergency reflex which is wonderful for recognizing where something is headed, getting children (who ARE under their authority) out of dangerous situations quickly, and protecting them fiercely against what may threaten them. But long-term decisions cannot be made based on the heated emotion of the moment, so YHWH gives husbands (and fathers, for younger women) the right to veto hasty decisions they may make. (Numbers 30:1-16)
YHWH did limit that veto power to the same day the man in authority hears it, though, so he is also responsible to focus on weighing out the pros and cons rationally but quickly and coming to the wisest decision possible within that allotted time. So we see clearly here that YHWH puts limits on those whom He places in authority, knowing that they, too, are fallible. In a fallen world, we all need help.
Still, he tells children to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12)—that is, recognize their role as co-creators without whom they would not even be here, and respect them no matter what they think of their decisions or opinions.
The Renewed Covenant goes further and actually tells children to obey their parents—“in the Master” (Ephesians 6:1), which I take to mean those who know enough about spiritual matters to not tell their children to do something immoral or which would endanger them. For those whose parents are not so exemplary or spiritually-motivated, the children’s responsibility may be limited to honoring them.
And an adult can honor his parents by turning out better than the parents did, if the example they set was not the best, while still giving them credit for whatever part they did play in inculcating in them the wisdom to make the better decision. Likewise, at work and where we under a political authority, we should uphold the office whether or not we respect the individual. Bad government is still better than anarchy.
YHWH gave Israel very particular laws that were based on what would work best in this fallen world, and the other nations He gave a set of very basic rules through Noakh (the Biblical ones in Genesis 9:3-7, not necessarily all that are called “Noakhide” today), so that there would be some measure of justice, but in other areas He left them to come up with other laws by trial and error, though the book of Jubilees (15:31-32) says He did place lesser spirits over them (a few examples of which are seen in Dani’el 10:20), while He placed no such sub-ruler over Israel, being our own Ruler directly.
YHWH intended for Israel to be a loose configuration with no central human political figure, but only priests of His choice to officiate (at the sanctuary) and Levites (spread throughout the Land) to answer questions about how to apply the Torah in particular situations where the right interpretation was not so obvious. We are expected, upon knowing YHWH’s principles and getting that clarification on a few specifics, to be able to govern ourselves. (See Judges 8:23) Israel was warned not to set a tyrant over ourselves, but knowing our people’s propensity for feeling left out when we saw how other nations did things, He put strict parameters on the kings He knew we would one day want (Deut. 17:14ff), even though He said they really should not be necessary, and we needed to realize that the power would often eventually go to their heads and they would make unreasonable demands on us. (1 Samuel 8) He had, after all, promised that if we kept His commandments, foreigners would not even attack us. (Leviticus 26:6; compare Ex. 34:24) So why did we really need a military figurehead like other nations?
And not one time but three, our leaders led us in wrong directions that resulted in our being exiled from His presence as Adam and Chawwah had been. Some of us even forgot we were Israelites. We had YHWH’s principles restored to us when the message of Yeshua reached our ancestors and Scripture to one degree or another influenced the laws of our nations. The instructions of Yeshua and the apostles in regard to congregational authority also gave us a great degree of structure while in exile:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who wield control over them are called ‘benefactors’. You, however, must not be this kind [of people]. Rather, the one who is greater among you must become like the younger, and the one who leads as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26)
That is, we still do not take our cues from how other peoples govern. YHWH has a calling for each of us, and we need to remember that, if we are given a position where we speak with authority, it is not for the purpose of maintaining an advantage over anyone else, but to facilitate others reaching their optimal potential as YHWH’s servants, thus allowing them freedom to follow any orders He gives them directly.
Integrity is also required of any leader who represents Yeshua:
“If a man aspires to the office of an overseer, he …must be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, able to teach; not given to wine, not argumentative, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous, one who rules his own household well, having his children in subjection with all gravity (because if a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of YHWH’s congregation?); not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report among outsiders... Likewise [lower-ranking servants of the congregation] must be serious, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proven; then let them take office.” (1 Timothy 3:1-10)
“…not self-willed, not easily angered, … a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, so that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers…” (Titus 1:5-10)
A leader is a guide and gate-keeper for others, so if you aspire to be one, work on all these areas, and YHWH will let you know when you are ready to “go public”. (Read the “not a novice” in 1 Timothy 3:6 above in light of Leviticus 19:23-25.)
The Apostles, also well aware that we were not in the ideal context to told us how to relate to the nations in which we live in the meantime. In line with what Jeremiah told us about seeking the well-being of our place of exile because it would then go well for us too (Jer. 29:7),
“Let every person subordinate himself to those in higher positions of authority, for there is no authority that does not come from YHWH; moreover, the existing positions of authority have been set in place by YHWH. Therefore, whoever resists the authority has set himself against YHWH's own ordinance, and those who resist will themselves be the recipients of judgment. For rulers are not a threat to [those of] worthy behavior, but only to [the] bad. Indeed, do you want to not be afraid of the authority? Then do what is right, and you will have his approval, because to you he is [one of] YHWH's servants to carry out [what is] beneficial. But if you do what is wrong, [then you should] be afraid, because he does not carry the sword for no reason, for he is a servant of YHWH, an avenger ordained to bring vengeance toward whoever practices evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)
This was not a new concept made up by Paul: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.” (Daniel 2:21)
Of course there is abuse of authority, and just as one should not stay in an abusive domestic situation, there will be at least one time (Rev. 13:15-18; 14:7-10) when we have to go around a political authority. It should be the exception and a last resort, and in order to uphold the institution of authority, we must accept the consequences that accrue upon disobedience, saying, “I respect your position, but must answer to and not be disloyal to the highest Authority in order to obey a lesser authority that He has put in place but who has acted independently of His requirements.” Daniel did this, and YHWH honored him by vindicating him publicly. And David refused to harm YHWH’s anointed though he was trying to kill him!
I have experienced authority gone awry, where a leader started well but was beginning to lead us in a wrong direction yet demand loyalty nonetheless. But until it got to that point, I held on and endured personal inconvenience as long as possible, appreciating the fact that he had, like a certain rough-edged president today, had to fend off many attacks on what he was called to do. If we are uncertain whether one has crossed the line between authoritative ad toxic authoritarian, we must constantly judge ourselves to determine whether we have the spirit of Qorakh and his cohorts. (Numbers chapter 16)
“You take too much [responsibility] on yourself!”, they said. “The whole congregation is holy—every one of them—and YHWH is among them.” (16:3) He had a point, but this does not mean there does not still need to be order. Even where YHWH is speaking through prophets, He instructs us to “let all things be done with [proper] decorum and orderliness.” (1 Corinthians 14:40) Your renewed spirit, reconnected with YHWH, will not just blurt out a prophecy in the middle of someone else’s prophecy like an unclean spirit might; you can control yourself and wait your turn: “It is possible for you all to prophesy one by one, so that you may all gain knowledge and all may be encouraged. Moreover, spirits of prophets are subordinate to [the] prophets, because He is not the Elohim of disorder, but of peace.” (14:31-33)
Qorakh ‘s “concerns” were really just a pretext for trying to get out from under authority and do things his own way. There was no nepotism on Moshe’s part, for YHWH had chosen his brother as well as him.
While Israel was not usually meant to have a single human ruler, when there is a special task to accomplish—like conquering the Land He had promised to us but others had usurped (see Jubilees 10:29-34 for the history of why the Kanaanites were in our Land in the first place) or getting several million people safely across a desert into a new land—special measures are necessary. In the Exodus and the conquest of the Land, Israel learned—sometimes the easy way, sometimes the hard—that precise obedience to very particular commands was often a matter of life and death.
And we may very well face such a situation very soon. There is a Greater Exodus coming (Jeremiah 16 and 23) and we will apparently have some very treacherous terrain to cross in the process. (Isaiah 43:1-8) When crossing such a “mine field”, we may have to submit to whichever “Moshe” YHWH may choose to lead us home under. Now as then, there will be no room for personal grudges or self-pity if we want to be part of and mesh smoothly with the community (likely one of many communities) that He brings together to get us Home safely.
Once Israel went down the path of asking for a king, YHWH chose to work with us in that framework, but, as He said to Bilaam (Numbers 22:20, 35), “You’re going to do this My way, not yours.” We don’t get to choose that king; He does, and the world doesn’t get a say when it is time for him to rule with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9; Rev. 19:15): “I have set My king upon My holy hill of Tzion.“ (Psalm 2:1-6)
Yeshua said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” (Mat. 28:18) Of course, it was conferred by the One higher than he, but He is willing to share it in this one case—with “the man who is My associate”. (Zkh. 13:7)
Yeshua learned while still mortal to wait for YHWH’s time (Yochanan 2:4; 7:6-8; Mat. 26:18), for only one who has been under authority can really know how to rule. (See Mat. 8:9; Yochanan 5:27). Our hope rests on the fact that one day soon it will be announced, “The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Master and His anointed!” (Rev. 11:15) Who in their right mind would refuse the authority of the one Phil Keaggy calls “a king worthy of his crown”?
“The Lamb who was slaughtered deserves to receive power and resources and wisdom and force [to overcome resistance] and honor and renown and adulation!” (Revelation 5:12)
This Lamb was told, “You deserve to receive the scroll and to open its seals, because through your blood you redeemed for Elohim [some] from every tribe and tongue and population and ethnicity…” (Rev. 5:9)
He has earned our respect and honor, and we should carry this principle across when we are in positions of authority (see 1 Corinthians 6:3). If we truly command respect through our habitual integrity, we should not have to demand it. The best perspective may be in the French translation of the beatitude about “meekness” (a much-misunderstood term): “Blessed are the debonair.” (Mat. 5:5)
Think of a butler. He does not make a lot of noise. Most of the time you would hardly even notice him. But he is the picture of the utmost dignity, and when a problem arises, he has the highest authority of anyone in the household after the owner. Meekness is power under control. And I think that is just what YHWH meant when He described Moshe to Miryam (who also questioned his right to be in the highest position) as “a servant…counted as trustworthy in all My household”. (Num. 12:7; compare verse 3.)
Qorakh’s and Miryam’s ambition blinded them to this. Let’s not make the same mistake, for if we refuse to listen to the “prophet like Moshe”, we too will have to answer to YHWH. (Deut. 18:18-19)
Yes, there will one day be an untainted authority in this world. As with anything that can be abused, don’t base your reaction on the twisted version, but on the prototype YHWH created—as “very good”, worthy of not only learning from, but fully supporting and carrying forward ourselves.