Paul was writing during Nero's reign -- an evil Roman empire. Nero was in power for 12 to 15 years.
"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone."
"Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.'" Matthew 22:21
"13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." 1 Peter 2:13-17
We should be free people and God's slaves. Our leaders are appointed by God. The Assyrians, Babylonians and the Persians -- all conquered God's people. He chose these nations to bring about his judgment.
"This is what the Lord says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut:" Isaiah 45:1
Here God used Cyrus. God used Nebuchadnezzar.
"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it." Daniel 1:1
God's people were under siege for 10 years. They had time to repent. But they didn't.
Sometimes we do have disobey our leaders -- we are called to do it respectfully.
"16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'"
Two more examples of civil disobedience in the BIble:
The Jewish Midwives in Egypt.
And Obadiah hid 150 prophets of God from Jezebel...and he worked in the palace. When we are commanded to do evil, we must respectfully disobey. God first, then men. There's an order higher than man.
"27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” 29 Peter and the other apostles r replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!'" Acts 5:27-29
What do we do today, right now?
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,"
1 Timothy 2:1-5
We pray. We speak up when able. Be involved in the process. Pray. Petitions, prayers, intercession and Thanksgiving.
Petitions -- Ask God to send godly leaders.
Prayers -- pray for the health and well-being of those appointed over us.
Intercession -- Pray that God's will be done, no matter our desires.
Thanksgiving -- be thankful for what we have been given.