You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. (Exodus 22:28)
There are varying ways in which to interpret this verse due to the fact that the Hebrew word translated as “God” is elohim. In fact, there are some translations that render that word as “judges” rather than God, which is quite common in the Bible depending on the context. In this case, both translations present us with a standard that must be upheld. For one, because God is the one who raises up rulers and leaders — even those we don’t like — we are consider them with respect. The point is that, to show disrespect to those God has allowed to be in power is to show Him disrespect. The apostle Paul said:
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)
But what about when those authorities are evil? Frankly, there is no qualifier in the Torah or in Paul’s letter. Therefore we must resolve that, though we disagree with our leaders, we are still to hold our tongue when tempted to lash out against them in a disrespectful way. Once again, our leaders — for good or evil — are placed there by decree of the Almighty. Moreover, He places leaders over His people as a reflection of what His people have become. In other words, if the people are righteous, they will have leaders who pursue righteousness; if the people have become wicked, their leaders will follow suit.
The bottom line is this: God expects His people to acknowledge His sovereignty by respecting those He has placed in power. If we find ourselves in position to speak to our leaders, we should speak truth to them but in a respectful tone. We are not to treat them with contempt even if we find them contemptible. We must be careful not to speak in seditious tones or in a way that would instigate rebellion because, first of all, Messiah didn’t do this. Secondly, and most importantly, if we resist authority He has permitted to rule, we might find out that we are fighting against God. Rather, let us pray for our leaders and judges and appeal to Heaven for forgiveness and deliverance; that is the proper way to bring righteous leaders to power.
Blessings and Shalom,