Key Scriptures: Genesis 41, 47:13-27, Exodus 1:22, Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:17, Titus 3:1, I Peter 5:5, 2:13-25, Acts 5:29, Ephesians 5:21-23, Matthew 22:20-21, Luke 16:13, Ephesians 6:5-8, I Corinthians 11: 3, I Peter 3:1-6, 5:1-2, I John 4:21, Exodus 20:12.
Guiding Questions: Who has authority over us and what power does God give them to make laws and rules that may touch or even radically change our lives?
Optional Introductory Activity: Tell the students that you have made each of them king or queen of the world, with the power to make any law they wish. Give them a few minutes to write down the first five laws they would create. Have the students share their laws. (It’s okay if some are silly) Go online and share a few silly laws still in forced today in some places. Discuss how having power doesn’t always mean good, fair and or godly laws are passed.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Read Genesis 41 and 47:13-27. At first this story sounds exciting. What has happened to Joseph before Pharaoh has these dreams? What happens to Joseph after he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams? It sounds like a good deal for the Egyptian people, too. They will have plenty of food to eat during the severe seven-year famine. They even have enough food to sell to starving people in nearby countries. Read Genesis 47:18-24 again. What did Pharaoh get from the people? In exchange for food, they had to “sell” all of the land they owned to Pharaoh. They became sharecroppers on what used to be their won land and still had to give 20% of their crop to Pharaoh. The Pharaoh now owned all of the land in Egypt and held tremendous power – eventually making slaves of the descendants of Jacob several hundreds years later.
For years, people have questioned the idea of God’s power and authority, man’s power and authority and how they mix. It is an important concept to understand. Those in authority and the rules and laws they create can change our lives and even our Godly Strategic Plans. It is such a big topic that we are going to divide it into two lessons. Today, we will discuss the concepts of power and authority and in the next lesson we will learn what God has to say about obedience and disobedience to various authorities in our lives.
God’s authority is confusing to many. As our creator and God of the universe He has ultimate authority. Yet, for some reason God still gives us the option to accept or reject His authority. Both choices have consequences we will discuss in our next lesson. What is important to understand though, is that no matter how many people choose to accept God’s immediate authority over their lives on earth, it does not change or lessen God’s ultimate authority on earth of for eternity. Still a bit confused? Read the following verses and share what they tell us about God’s authority
*Psalms 115:3 God can do whatever pleases Him
*2Chronicles 20:6 God is ruler over all kingdoms and countries on earth. No one can defeat Him
*Job 42:2 If something is in God’s plan no one can stop Him
*Isaiah 14:27 God has plans and ultimately no one can stop or make Him change them
Isaiah 43:13 God is, was and always will be the ultimate authority
Isaiah 46:10 God knows the future, so can make sure His plans accomplished
*Romans 9:19-21 It’s not wise to question God’s authority, especially since He created us.
We will talk about it more in the next lesson, but having ultimate authority means He gets to make His rules. We don’t get to vote to change them to something we like better. We don’t get to get rid of them so we can do what we want. We can choose to disobey them but there will be serious consequences.
How does God’s authority make you feel? Are you more comforted a wise, loving God is in control or more annoyed He asks you to obey commands you don’t like? Why? Even if you are okay with God’s ultimate authority you may struggle with the next authority concept in the Bible. Read Romans 13:1. What does that verse tell us? It may help to remember this was written when Christians lived under the Roman Empire. The emperors didn’t trust Christians and allowed persecutions and killings of Christians. In fact, a few years after he wrote this Paul himself was put to death at the order of the Emperor Nero for his beliefs. How hard is it for you to believe God allowed Nero to be put into power? How hard is it for you to see a politician you don’t like to be elected? How difficult is it to accept God allowed that person to be elected? Even if you can accept those examples, how do you feel about God allowing Hitler to be in power? Seems impossible to understand doesn’t it?
Let’s go back and read a little more about what God said to Christians during the Roman Empire. Read Romans 13:1-7, I Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1, I Timothy 2:1-3, Romans 13:7, Luke 20:25, John 19:11, Matthew 22:17-21, Acts 13:22. What do those verses teach us about governments and rulers? Not only does God allow them to rule and even expects us to pay taxes and show respect to those in power. Does this still upset you? Read Matthew 26:52-54. What clue does this give us about this difficult concept? Even though Jesus was God’s son and perfect, God allowed wicked men to lead the Jews as priests, scribes and Pharisee’s. He even allowed the corrupt idol worshipping Roman government rule over them. Why did God allow two corrupt levels of authority and government at a time when Jesus lived on earth and could have been the perfect earthly leader? Think back a bit. What was Jesus’ ultimate reason for living on earth? Jesus had to die to be the perfect sacrifice so we have the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven. Those corrupt rulers were necessary to make sure Jesus was put to death. That may make sense to you, but what about Hitler? Most of us cannot imagine anyone more evil or who was responsible for so many horrible deaths and events. How and why did God allow Hitler to be in power? We don’t know for sure, but the Bible does give us a couple of possible clues. Read Deuteronomy 28:15-45, I Samuel 8:6-18, Daniel 2:21, Proverbs 28:2, I Samuel 12:12-15, Ezekiel 29:1-21 and Judges 2:22. What are two possible reasons God allows evil rulers? To test the people under them or to punish the people under them. Still confused? Perhaps the ultimate answer is the one God gave to Job and his friends.
Remember, all sorts of terrible things happened to Job. Most of the book of Job are the many possible theories his friends had for the possible reasons God has allowed bad things to happen to Job, who by all accounts was very godly. Then God appears. Read Job 38-41. What id God’s answer to the question of why bad things happened to “good” Job? Basically, God explains our human minds are incapable of totally understanding why God does what He does. We just have to have faith in His ultimate wisdom and complete love for us.
Now that we have discussed two of the most difficult to understand of the authorities we have over us, let’s take a quick look at a couple of others. Read these verses and share the other authorities God places over us at various times and places in our lives.
*Matthew 15:4, Proverbs 1:8, Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-4 – Parents
*Hebrews 13:17, Titus 1:6-9 and I Peter 5:3-6 – Elders in the church
*Ephesians 5:23-33 – Husbands and wife relationship, Note the balance of authority and great sacrificial love.
*Luke 9:1-6, Acts 1:1-26
*II Corinthians 13:10, 10:8, Acts 6:2-6, 16:4, I Thessalonians 4:2 and Galatians 1:11-12 – The remaining eleven original apostles plus the two apostles chosen after the death of Jesus – Matthias and Paul. (Note: It is very important that your students understand this concept. A current false teaching is that everything in the New Testament is not directly quoted by Jesus can be ignored because the apostles had no authority given to them by God.)
How has your understanding of authority changed by this lesson? What questions do you still have? In our next lesson, we will learn what to do when someone in authority asks us to break God’s laws, we will also explore the ideas of obedience, disobedience and the consequences of both.
Life Skills Activity: Review the basic concepts from the lesson. With young people, showing respect to school and or law enforcement authorities is their practical challenge for this lesson. Contact local law enforcements agencies and schools for individuals willing to have a discussion with the students. You may also want to include one or more of your congregation’s elders and a couple of parents whose children are now adults. Ash panelists to be prepared to explain the authority they have given and the various ways they exercise that authority. They should also have given thought to how an average person is their position would expect someone showing them the appropriate respect would behave. They can also share what it may look like if someone in their position is abusing their authority and effective ways for students to handle what they perceive as an abuse of power. Make sure to allow enough time to summarize the information and create an authority “flow chart” for the students to understand what is and is not appropriate behavior for both those in authority and the students.
Author: Thereasa Winnett