Thursday, February 19, 2004

Principles of Leadership(3)

There are two prominent sections in the Book of Judges. The first section shows the cycle of spiritual decline, disciplinary invasion, repentance, and delivering judge. This cycle repeats several times during the course of the section. The second section begins in Judges 17:1 and is noted by the recurrence of the phrase "In those days there was no king in Israel..."

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)

In those days there was no king of Israel; and in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for themselves to live in, for until that day an inheritance had not been allotted to them as a possession among the tribes of Israel. (Judges 18:1)

Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. (Judges 19:1)

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

The last of these quotes ends the Book of Judges and can be viewed as a concluding message. The end of Judges reveals a growing anarchy and the call for a permanent solution in the form of a central and permanent king.

The cyclical section in the Book of Judges as a whole gives us some important principles of leadership.

Protection and Defense: A militia without a chain of command will never muster effectively to meet the enemy. The judges all served the purpose of rebuilding a militia and effectively directing it against the enemies of Israel's loose coalition of tribes. It is interesting that when the people began to fall away, the ability for the leaders to maintain national defense also fell away. The emergence of a threat was the means by which renewal was sparked.

Justice: Deborah the wife of Lapidoth was a judge who helped the people settle disputes. She was gifted prophetically to do this and operated from her home. One must presume, especially as the level of anarchy increases during the period of the judges, that as the people began to fall, the proper application of justice also fell away, only to be restored with the raising up of the next judge.

Spiritual Care: Although his story is not in the Book of Judges, Samuel is regarded as the last judge. He was a prophet, a judge, and one authorized to make sacrifices to the Lord God. The judge helped focus the attention of the people on their God and guided them into spiritual health.

One could argue that God's ideal government for mankind is to enable citizens to lead quiet and peaceful lives under the rule of God's Scriptures. They would look to Him to raise up the military commanders needed for common defense. The basic depravity of man is such that this scheme will apparently fail and the need for more central authority arises. Note the pairing: "No king is Israel" with "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." It was a time when no one could agree on what was right and what was wrong. It yielded bizarre and violent events in the land, until the people were eager for some central authority to at least maintain a set of laws and a policing force to maintain civility. The last judge, Samuel, who installed the first king, Saul, advised the people against installing a king:

So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots. 

“He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 

“He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 

“He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. 

“He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants. 

“He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. 

“He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. 

“Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

Perhaps there is a relationship between the ability of people to rule themselves under the rule of God's statutes, precepts, judgments, and principles and the size of the government needed over them. Self-rule goes with small government. Lack of self-rule requires ever larger government as the size f the population grows. Samuel told the people that a king was not really needed, but the people insisted. In a sense, God Himself relented on this one and chose first Saul and then David to rule in Israel. The first dynasty failed, and the second endures, but only through the combined prophetic elements of the return of Jesus to rule, and the expanding Kingdom of God on earth through the gospel.

I was hoping to avoid political comments in this series, but I can't. When I read "everyone did what was right in his own eyes" and see the disregard for democratically derived laws overturned by judges who don't like, and the mayor of San Francisco breaking democratically derived laws because he does not like them, and the lack of outrage because no one knows what is truth anymore, I see the collapse of our society as anarchy grows.

I quoted Zell Miller yesterday. What was remarkable about that speech was the biblical literacy and a bold assertion that the Bible should play a role in this country's governance. In the days of Abraham Lincoln, such appeals to God as the basis for action were common. Speeches such as that given by Zell Miller are very rare today. As I think back on the presidents that I have lived under: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Truman, I do not recall any of them so succinctly grounding their calls for action in the Scriptures. When did it change?

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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