2 Key Passages for Biblical Leadership-Pt 1

August 24, 2013

"[caption id=""attachment_400"" align=""alignleft"" width=""150""] Keys to Biblical Leadership-Part 1[/caption] The topic of leadership is one of the most crowded areas of study on the planet. Few disciplines garner as much ink, study, and philosophical meanderings. Even in the Christian world it is a popular subject. I am a big advocate of leadership. I believe it is one of the most important functions in our society and would argue that good leadership creates a good society while poor leadership will spiral it into darkness. We've all experienced it. We've all been under the leadership of someone who evoked respect and inspired you beyond your capacity. And we've been on the other end of the spectrum and loathed every minute under the hand of a leader who was one by title only. Biblical leadership is rather well defined. Jesus serves as our definitive example. Regardless, the most referenced books when discussing biblical leadership are the pastoral epistles of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. As compelling as they are to the subject matter, I propose that there are two foundational passages that come before these. One from the life of Jesus, and another that predates the kings of Israel. Both serve as important for understanding the nature and purpose of leadership from God's perspective and intent. We are going to look at the first passage this week and next week I will present the second. The first comes from the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (NLT) 14 ""You are about to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, 'We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.' 15 If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the LORD your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner. 16 ""The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the LORD has told you, 'You must never return to Egypt.' 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself. 18 ""When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. 20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. This passage hardly gets the attention it deserves. Here is a passage where Moses, before the nation of Israel has even entered the Promised Land, and long before the necessity of a king, gives explicit instructions on the requirements of an Israelite monarch. Now some of you may consider this an irrelevant text to our current context but I would contend that it serves as a precursor to our understanding of servant leadership. The King, in any culture and time has been the highest position in the land. Typically, they were the purveyors of a nations laws and directed their kingdoms as they saw fit. All authority and privilege was theirs. But here we have a radically different presentation of kingship. God is well aware of the lure that power has in human hearts. And since the heart is the locus of true piety, the essence of these stipulations are to guard the hearts of the future kings. Verse 20 makes it abundantly clear that these are given as guardians against pride and self-elevation. This provocative section in Deuteronomy targets 4 specifics concerning leadership and we would do well to consider them as valid in today's environment. The first is Position. Notice that the prerequisites for a king is that they be chosen by God. They are also to be a fellow Israelite. In other words, a member of the covenant community. We would talk in terms of calling today. That sense in which we entered ministry because we felt the prompting of God. Since this is God's work, it should be God who chooses those to represent him. The second is Power. The king is not to build for himself a dynasty represented by wealth and the attainment of horses and wives. He is not to emulate other rulers, primarily the Pharaohs of Egypt, a land that they are never to return to, either physically or philosophically. One of the more interesting observations is the demand for the king to copy out the Torah for himself. All this under the supervision of the priests. These are given to keep the king from accumulating more for himself at the expense of those he rules over. Even a king was to demonstrate a life that was different from the other nations. This to show that the king's of Israel were servants and representatives of God first and foremost. For a contemporary principle, it would be fair to state that we do not enter ministry for a life of comfort, but for service. Would the kings of Israel, and us as well, deal with injustice or dispense mercy or grace if our own motives were bent towards accumulating more wealth and power? The third is Pride. Anytime we allow position and power to go to our heads we fall prey to pride and arrogance. Much of what is advocated in this passage is to foster in the king a life of humility and fear of the Lord. The writing of Torah, the oversight of the priests, a life that identifies with the common citizen are all meant as reminders to stay humble. The moment we believe ourselves to be better than another is the moment we stop having the capacity to dispense grace, compassion, or mercy. Let alone fair judgement. Another reason that Torah figures so prominently in the life of the King is to serve as a continual reminder of God's Word as the ultimate authority. Can we say with conviction that we hold Scripture to the same level of authority? The fourth and last is Purpose. It can be said that the king would serve God's purposes, not his own. The king, as God's representative, would keep before him the importance of fulfilling God's will in all he endeavours to do. Whatever position, ministry, gift, talent, or platform that we are given, it is done so with the understanding that their primary goal is to serve God. They are not meant to bring glory to ourselves, but to glorify God and to serve others. I like that the passage ends with a promise for those kings who keep these commands. That their descendants would reign for generations. Though this passage was given in preparation of the day when Israel would ask for a king, Scripture records that every king failed to uphold the stipulations given here in one way or another. Even a faithful king like David did not fully adhere to these commands. Despite these failings, God still showed himself faithful. The principles found in this text are still applicable today. Christian leadership is bound by different expectations and motivations, some of which are taught in this passage. In my next blog we will look at a New Testament story that compliments and expands on these lessons. If you have any thought or insights you would like to share I would like to hear them."


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