By Tope Banso
“Saul shouted to his bodyguards, ‘These priests of the LORD helped David! They knew he was running away, but they didn’t tell me. Kill them!’ But the king’s officers would not attack the priests of the LORD” (1 Samuel 22:17 Contemporary English Version).
Ecclesiastes 8:4-5 says, “Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment” (New King James Version). As powerful as the king is, he must use his power wisely, otherwise his subjects may sometimes defy him. The people are not bound to carry out unlawful orders or ungodly instructions.
In 1 Samuel 14:45, the Israelites defied King Saul and rescued Jonathan from dying. Saul had resolved he must die for ignorantly violating his foolish oath (verse 24, 27, 43).
The Bible records another instance in 1 Samuel 22:17 when Saul was disobeyed. “Saul shouted to his bodyguards, ‘These priests of the LORD helped David! They knew he was running away, but they didn’t tell me. Kill them!’ But the king’s officers would not attack the priests of the LORD” (Contemporary English Version).
Apparently Saul’s bodyguards knew Saul’s order was ungodly, and therefore, didn’t carry it out. But Doeg the Edomite, who gave Saul the information he acted on, carried it out. He killed eighty-five priests of the LORD needlessly for an offence they did not commit. He also attacked the town of priests, Nob, and killed innocent men, women, children and babies, cattle, donkeys and sheep, obeying the ungodly order of a king who had lost favour with God because of his own disobedience.
Doeg must have been a wicked, godless man for mercilessly carrying out an ungodly order. He had witnessed the moment David asked Abimelech for bread and sword. Abimelech was unaware that David was running away from Saul. David had lied to him that Saul sent him on a special mission. Eventually, he gave him the holy bread that was available and the sword of Goliath. Abimelech and the other priests were innocent of the allegation Saul made against them and over which he ordered that they should be killed (verses 14-15).
In Exodus 1, the Hebrew midwives refused to carry out the ungodly order of Pharaoh to kill the Israelites’ baby boys at birth. The two midwives lied to him that the Hebrew women were much stronger than the Egyptian women and they gave birth to their babies before they got there (Exodus 1:17-19).
Pharaoh’s plan to ensure that the population of the Israelites did not increase was thus defeated, as the people multiplied and grew very mighty. Because the midwives feared God and refused to carry out Pharaoh’s ungodly order, He gave them families of their own (verse 21).
You don’t have to carry out unlawful orders or ungodly instructions or assignments. If the laws of your country, state, region, etc. or rules of your profession forbid something, don’t carry out anybody’s order or instruction that tells you to do something contrary, even if that person is your boss. The excuse that you were simply carrying out the instruction or order of a superior may not free you from blame.
Even in the military or similar organizations where disobedience of orders from superiors is not condoned, one is not bound to carry out the unlawful orders of superiors. This is not the same as insubordination.
I admit that because human organizations are not always fair and just, you may sometimes be punished or oppressed unjustly if your superiors misrepresent your failure to carry out unlawful orders. But in a sane society, disobeying unlawful orders will not attract sanctions because that is the right thing to do.
Committing illegality on the grounds that you were carrying out the order (an unlawful order) of a superior does not exonerate you from guilt. You will be held accountable for your actions.
In Daniel 3, three Jews in Babylon refused to obey the king’s ungodly decree to bow to the ground to worship his gold statute. God protected them. They came out of the roaring fire unhurt. Trust God to defend or protect you as you refuse to carry out unlawful orders or ungodly instructions.
Similarly, Daniel in Babylon refused to abandon prayer to God for prayer to the king for thirty days, despite the king’s decree to the effect that violators of his decree would be cast into the lion’s den. However, God preserved him. The lions proceeded on a fast when he landed in their midst! (Daniel 6). He came out unhurt, but the lions tore apart his enemies who replaced him in the lion’s den.
In Acts 4:19-20, Peter and John answered the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (New King James Version). They disobeyed the ungodly command not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus (verse 18). Also, in Acts 5:29, Peter insisted that he and the other apostles would rather obey God than men. They disobeyed the ungodly command not to teach in the name of Jesus Christ.
It is true that Romans 13:1 says every soul should be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Peter said a similar thing in 1Peter 2:13. However, obedience to the orders or instructions of any authority is to the extent that it is consistent with the Word of God.
In your family, office, community, etc. don’t carry out unlawful orders; don’t obey ungodly instructions. You may sometimes suffer for doing this, but the Bible says, “It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong if that is what God wants” (1 Peter 3:17 New Century Version).
If you’re not born again, repent of your sins today and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Whoever comes to Him, He will by no means cast out.
PRAYER POINT: Holy Spirit, I receive your help not to obey unlawful orders or ungodly instructions.
This is wisdom for living, and it’s worth sharing. Please share.
(For more inspiring messages, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
▪ Banso, an Abuja-based minister and pastor, is the head of Cedar Ministry International, and can be reached at any of these addresses:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; or on:
Tel No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
WhatsApp No: +2349081295947
How not to obey unlawful orders or ungodly instructions
By Tope Banso