Deposited Authority Part 2
So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet, for they had slain Athaliah with the sword in the king's house (2 Kings 11:20).
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the principle of deposited authority. This means all authority comes from God and he grants authority to govern in human affairs to certain institutions and individuals. The place where authority is "deposited" varies in each historical and cultural context. In the ancient world, authority was deposited in emperors and kings. For instance, God placed much of the ancient middle east under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, the emperor of Babylon even governed the wild animals (Jeremiah 27:6). Previously God had deposited authority to rule Israel in the house of David. Later, God restricted Davidic authority to the tribe of Judah due to the sins of David's son Solomon.
The Scripture text at the top of this article concerns a time when the authority of the Davidic line was usurped by Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and mother of Ahaziah, a Judean king. When Ahaziah was killed, Athaliah declared herself queen of Judah and began to reign in Jerusalem. Her first act was to kill everyone in the royal line. However, Joash, one of her infant grandsons, escaped the slaughter and was hidden away in the temple for seven years while Athaliah ruled the land.
When the time was right, Jehoiada, a priest of Yahweh initiated a conspiracy of religious leaders and certain military elites. The plan was simple enough; gather priests and Levites loyal to the house of David, reinforce them with the elite guard and others - and declare Joash king.
The plan went off without a hitch. Athaliah's execution was the only bloodshed resulting from the restoration of the Davidic line.
It is important to note that the Bible casts the actions of Jehoiada and company in a positive light. If you know your Bible, you may respond with an "of course; God had promised David that his house would always rule." Yet, years later, God placed the house of David under the authority of the king of Babylon. Indeed, for many generations there was no king at all in Judah or Israel.
Nonetheless, Jehoiada's actions were correct because at the time of his conspiracy the authority of God to govern Judah remained on deposit with the Davidic line. As a leader in Judah, he and the lesser magistrates represented in the confederacy had a responsibility to stand against illegitimate authority. In keeping with the circumstance of the time and place, the only real option was an all or nothing putsch.
The principle of deposited authority and the principle of lesser magistrates remain valid today. Thankfully we enjoy a system of civil government that provides means of addressing grievances. In a federal organization of government as we have, state and local magistrates have the authority to nullify unconstitutional edicts handed down by the national civil authority. There is no need to resort to a conspiracy and coup d'etat. In this land, God has deposited authority to govern in documents – papers fashioned to check tyranny.
We will return to this topic next week.
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