The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.
It is hard to grasp this proverb in the 21st century, for there are no kings and few civil rulers that provoke this kind of fear. Few modern leaders compare to a 600-pound male lion regally strolling its territory. In Solomon’s day there was real authority, beautiful authority, which justifiably deserved comparison to the roaring of a lion. Back then it was wise and crucial to obey civil rulers, for provoking them could easily cost you your life.
A king with absolute power, enforcing all laws and crushing all opposition, is a beautiful sight (Pr 30:29-31). He is like the king of beasts, the lion, which enforces its rule upon all jungle creatures (Pr 30:29-31). A male lion’s roar can be heard over five miles away in the African night, and other creatures tremble. Your loins would be loosed! Great kings evoked similar fear in their subjects: disobeying them was foolish and very dangerous.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was such a king. The greatest historian in the greatest history book – God in the Bible – declared him the most glorious of all kings (Dan 2:37-38). If his counselors could not tell him his dream from the night before, he might cut them in pieces and turn their houses into dunghills (Dan 2:5). He could do the same to citizens opposing his new religion (Dan 3:29). When he threw a party for government workers, they either liked his music or were thrown into a fiery furnace (Dan 3:1-6).
Late night talk shows and MTV morons did not ridicule him; pierced and painted college students did not have anti-war demonstrations; and he did not care about the latest polls. Tabloids did not dig up sins of his youth to demean him. Subordinates did not take contrary positions and try to raise public opinion against him. Democracy, or mob rule by the lowest common denominators in society, was unknown. He was fully feared by most.
There was little need for jails; children obeyed their parents; wives submitted to their husbands; servants obeyed their masters. Shoplifting was at a minimum; teenagers did not set fires in cafeterias in rebellion against dress codes; and unions did not shut down the airlines. Rather than new laws being debated, they were obeyed. Capital offences did not take seven years to prosecute; and Mother Theresa did not intervene for serial killers.
Rulers today are little more than smiling and waving cheerleaders. They must ask for permission to do most anything. They are often called in question, publicly opposed, ridiculed on talk shows, and put out to pasture when the media decides it is time for a new one. They evoke no fear, for they have been neutered by an effeminate and rebellious generation, bent on destroying dominant males and strong authority.
A real king would help citizens understand God, be better fathers, be better children, be better wives, and otherwise fulfill their duties with greater zeal and contentment. God did not ask you or anyone else’s opinion when He chose your birthplace, birth date, parents, height, intelligence, blemishes, or privileges in life. And He will not ask your opinion when you stand before Him naked and condemned in the great Day of Judgment. He will be King. And you will tremble. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.
Men today are told to get in touch with their feminine side. Wives are taught they are equal or superior to husbands. Children are allowed to disobey and defy their parents. Workers unite in unions to defy authority and destroy property. Ladies try to be senators; girls degrade the army; and “time out” is used for enforcing parental authority. There is no fear of the king – so there is no fear of God, parents, husbands, masters, or pastors.
Great dread of a sovereign ruler is not a negative, if you live right. There is pleasure watching criminals destroyed by such a noble and powerful leader (Pr 20:8,26). God designed rulers to be a terror to evil works; this kind of fear is productive, for choosing to do right will bring his blessing and praise (Rom 13:3-5; I Pet 2:13-17). What should you do, if you provoke a strong ruler? Submit, and pacify him (Pr 16:14-15; Eccl 10:14).
Reader, are you obeying every ordinance of civil government, even though it no longer has many characteristics of the lion? It can still prosecute and punish transgressors, and you should submit and obey to avoid their wrath and to please God (Rom 13:1-7). Do you understand the fundamental need for strong authority and try to exalt it in those over you and enforce it on those under you? Make the efforts you can to restore godly authority, combined with appropriate affection, for the glory of God and profit of man.
If you dislike absolute, despotic, and sovereign rulers, what will you do in the day rapidly approaching? The Blessed and Only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords, will soon reveal Himself to judge this earth for its wickedness. The books will be opened, and you will be judged by pure justice (Rev 20:11-15). The terror of this meeting caused Paul and the other apostles to persuade men (II Cor 5:10-11). There will be no hung juries, plea bargains, pardons, or stays of execution. Believe and submit to the Lord Jesus Christ!