Friday, February 20, 2004

Principles of Leadership(4)

I continue this random series of leadership essays with some reflections on why Saul failed as king of Israel. I believe the key comes from understanding how Saul moved from being like this:

Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot. Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?” So the Lord said, “Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.” So they ran and took him from there, and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!” (1 Samuel 10:20-24)

to this?

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night. 

Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have carried out the command of the Lord.” 

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 

Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” 

Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:10-19)

Notice the connection between "hiding himself by the baggage" and "though you were little in your own eyes." Perhaps there are clues in some earlier situations.

  • 1 Samuel 13 is the account of Saul's first crisis as king. He is outnumbered 10 to 1 by the Philistines. His soldiers are fearful and leaving. Saul feels that an offering to the Lord and seeking his face would help the situation, but Samuel is late. This was a test of Saul's faith. He was to remember how the Lord delivered another large army to Gideon with only 300 men. Saul, choked with his own fear, assembled the men  and offered the sacrifice himself.
  • 1 Samuel 14 is the account of an oath that Saul put upon his army

Now the men of Israel were hard-pressed on that day, for Saul had put the people under oath, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24)

If 1 Samuel 13 shows a disrespect for the Lord, 1 Samuel 14 shows a disrespect for the people who serve him. These few soldiers have just had a great victory, but Saul refuses to allow them food to regain their strength. At one point in the march, they passed a source of honey, but no one ate except Saul's son Jonathan who had not heard the oath. This created a two-fold disaster.

The first disaster resulted from the desperate hunger of the people:

They struck among the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. And the people were very weary. The people rushed greedily upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. 

Then they told Saul, saying, “Behold, the people are sinning against the Lord by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.” 

Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Each one of you bring me his ox or his sheep, and slaughter it here and eat; and do not sin against the Lord by eating with the blood.’ ” 

So all the people that night brought each one his ox with him and slaughtered it there. 

And Saul built an altar to the Lord; it was the first altar that he built to the Lord. (1 Samuel 14:31-35)

By slaying the "animals in the ground" the blood was not properly drained. Saul had led the people into a desperate temptation and they failed. Note the little line that showed Saul building his first altar to the Lord. It shows that he had not really repented from the earlier events of the sacrifice.

The second disaster concerned his son Jonathan:

Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him and said, “I indeed tasted a little honey with the end of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am, I must die!” 

Saul said, “May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan.” 

But the people said to Saul, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” 

So the people rescued Jonathan and he did not die. Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place. (1 Samuel 14:43-46)

Some have made the argument that the people rescued Jonathan by having another die in his place.

Saul's leadership failed because he did not fear God. From the first essay we learned the importance of this quality in a leader. Saul was an able king. He had successfully defeated the Philistines time after time, but he feared the enemy more than he feared God.

Saul's leadership failed because he did not watch out for the needs of his followers. Saul put hungry soldiers under an oath to fast until Saul's goals were met. This was not from God. It was rather Saul manipulating the situation. He said, in effect, "You are hungry and you are not going to eat until you finish your job." Rather than thank his men for their miraculous victory and providing their needs to carry on the work, he asked for the extra measure.

Proper leadership is sacrificial from the top down. Authority is given to the leader as a tool. Every leader will give an account of his leadership to the Lord. It could be said, the Saul fell into the trap of power, reputation, and prestige. The kingship became about him and not about why the people needed a king.

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

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. ><>

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Principles of Leadership(2)

Yesterday I examined Exodus 18 wherein leaders were to be able, God fearing, truth loving, and free from dishonest gain. The following speech came my way yesterday and I am posting it today. How might Zell Miller measure up to the standards of leadership:

February 12, 2004

U.S. Senator Zell Miller, D-GA
Floor Statement on 'Deficit of Decency' in America
Prepared Remarks for Delivery on the Senate Floor

The Old Testament prophet Amos was a sheep herder who lived back in the Judean hills, away from the larger cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Compared to the intellectual urbanites like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was just an unsophisticated country hick.

But Amos had a unique grasp of political and social issues and his poetic literary skill was among the best of all the prophets. That familiar quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. about 'Justice will rush down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream' are Amos's words.

Amos was the first to propose the concept of a universal God and not just some tribal deity. He also wrote that God demanded moral purity, not rituals and sacrifices. This blunt speaking moral conscience of his time warns in Chapter 8, verse 11 of The Book of Amos, as if he were speaking to us today that:

the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.

And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

'A famine in the land'. Has anyone more accurately described the situation we face in America today? 'A famine of hearing the words of the Lord.'

But some will say, Amos was just an Old Testament prophet - a minor one at that - who lived 700 years before Christ. That is true, so how about one of the most influential historians of modern times?

Arnold Toynbee who wrote the acclaimed 12 volume A Study of History, once declared, 'Of the 22 civilizations that have appeared in history, 19 of them collapsed when they reached the moral state America is in today.'

Toynbee died in 1975, before seeing the worst that was yet to come. Yes, Arnold Toynbee saw the famine. The 'famine of hearing the words of the Lord.' Whether it is removing a display of the Ten Commandments from a Courthouse or the Nativity Scene from a city square. Whether it is eliminating prayer in schools or eliminating 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. Whether it is making a mockery of the sacred institution of marriage between a man and woman or, yes, telecasting around the world made-in-the-USA filth masquerading as entertainment.

The Culture of Far Left America was displayed in a startling way during the Super Bowl's now infamous half-time show. A show brought to us courtesy of Value-Les Moonves and the pagan temple of Viacom-Babylon.

I asked the question yesterday, how many of you have ever run over a skunk with your car? I have many times and I can tell you, the stink stays around for a long time. You can take the car through a car wash and it's still there. So the scent of this event will long linger in the nostrils of America.

I'm not talking just about an exposed mammary gland with a pull-tab attached to it. Really no one should have been too surprised at that. Wouldn't one expect a bumping, humping, trashy routine entitled 'I'm going to get you naked' to end that way.

Does any responsible adult ever listen to the words of this rap-crap? I'd quote you some of it, but the Sergeant of Arms would throw me out of here, as well he should. And then there was that prancing, dancing, strutting, rutting guy evidently suffering from jock itch because he kept yelling and grabbing his crotch. But then, maybe there's a crotch grabbing culture I've unaware of.

But as bad as all this was, the thing that yanked my chain the hardest was seeing that ignoramus with his pointed head stuck up through a hole he had cut in the flag of the United States of America, screaming about having 'a bottle of scotch and watching lots of crotch.' Think about that.

This is the same flag that we pledge allegiance to. This is the flag that is draped over coffins of dead young uniformed warriors killed while protecting Kid Crock's bony butt. He should be tarred and feathered, and ridden out of this country on a rail. Talk about a good reality show, there's one for you.

The desire and will of this Congress to meaningfully do anything about any of these so-called social issues is non existent and embarrassingly disgraceful. The American people are waiting and growing impatient with us. They want something done.

I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of S.J. Res. 26 along with Senator Allard and others, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage. And S.1558, the Liberties Restoration Act, which declares religious liberty rights in several ways, including the Pledge of Allegiance and the display of the Ten Commandments. And today I join Senator Shelby and others with the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 that limits the jurisdiction of federal courts in certain ways.

In doing so, I stand shoulder to shoulder not only with my Senate co-sponsors and Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama but, more importantly, with our Founding Fathers in the conception of religious liberty and the terribly wrong direction our modern judiciary has taken us in.

Everyone today seems to think that the U.S. Constitution expressly provides for separation of church and state. Ask any ten people if that's not so. And I'll bet you most of them will say 'Well, sure.' And some will point out, 'it's in the First Amendment.'

Wrong! Read it! It says, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Where is the word 'separate'? Where are the words 'church' or 'state.'

They are not there. Never have been. Never intended to be. Read the Congressional Records during that four-month period in 1789 when the amendment was being framed in Congress. Clearly their intent was to prohibit a single denomination in exclusion of all others, whether it was Anglican or Catholic or some other.

I highly recommend a great book entitled Original Intent by David Barton. It really gets into how the actual members of Congress, who drafted the First Amendment, expected basic Biblical principles and values to be present throughout public life and society, not separate from it.

It was Alexander Hamilton who pointed out that 'judges should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty.' Bound down! That is exactly what is needed to be done. There was not a single precedent cited when school prayer was struck down in 1962.

These judges who legislate instead of adjudicate, do it without being responsible to one single solitary voter for their actions. Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence was a brilliant young physician from Pennsylvania named Benjamin Rush.

When Rush was elected to that First Continental Congress, his close friend Benjamin Franklin told him 'We need you. . . we have a great task before us, assigned to us by Providence.' Today, 228 years later there is still a great task before us assigned to us by Providence. Our Founding Fathers did not shirk their duty and we can do no less.

By the way, Benjamin Rush was once asked a question that has long interested this Senator from Georgia in particular. Dr. Rush was asked, are you a democrat or an aristocrat? And the good doctor answered, 'I am neither'. 'I am a Christocrat. I believe He, alone, who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.' That reply of Benjamin Rush is just as true today in the year of our Lord 2004 as it was in the year of our Lord 1776.

So, if I am asked why - with all the pressing problems this nation faces today - why am I pushing these social issues and taking the Senate's valuable time? I will answer: Because, it is of the highest importance. Yes, there's a deficit to be concerned about in this country, a deficit of decency.

So, as the sand empties through my hourglass at warp speed - and with my time running out in this Senate and on this earth, I feel compelled to speak out. For I truly believe that at times like this, silence is not golden. It is yellow."

Tomorrow I will open Judges as promised.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Principles of Leadership(1)

I want to take the next two days or so to write some thoughts about leadership. I will confess that what has had me thinking about this of late is the presidential politics that is escalating and will dominate much of this year. But I will advise that what I have to write is better applied close to home. We all have leaders and many of us seek to be leaders. Some lead by authority. Some lead by influence. Some lead outwardly. Some lead from the sidelines. Leadership can enable the many to do more than they could alone.

Let me begin with the first recorded leadership crisis in the Bible:

It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. 

Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?” 

Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” 

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. They judged the people at all times; the difficult dispute they would bring to Moses, but every minor dispute they themselves would judge. 

Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way into his own land. (Exodus 18:13-27) 

There are several points that can be made from this passage:

  • Leaders do not have to pretend to be perfect. This is implicit by the very fact that we have this story recorded. Moses was the greatest leader of God's people before the days of Jesus the Messiah. But here, he records an account of his early inexperience, and his willingness to receive instruction from his father-in-law. Think about this. Moses was one who heard the voice of God. He knows and teaches the ways of God to the children of Israel. He is able to inquire of God and receive answers. How easy it would have been to ignore and disdain Jethro's words. They were not from God, but from a mere man. A leader must understand that wise counsel comes from anywhere God chooses,
  • Moses was to choose men who were "able." In other words, they needed to be equipped for the task. Through a combination of natural abilities and training they needed to be able to lead.
  • Moses was to choose men who "feared God." These would be those who knew and understood that they would need to give an account of their leadership to God.
  • Moses was to choose "men of truth." They needed to be interested in truth over politics or personal gain. The people that they led needed to know that they would fairly investigate a matter. This means that they would be both diligent and thorough. When you are on the wrong side of a judgment, it is easier if you perceive the system to be fair.
  • Moses was to choose men who "hated dishonest gain." They would be those who would refuse a bribe that would pervert their judgment and their leadership. This characteristic naturally follows from fearing God and seeking truth. It is mentioned here, because when you see a leader using his position for personal gain at the expense of justice, you know that he neither fears God nor is a man of truth.

Character matters. Given equal abilities, the person who fears God, loves truth, and hates dishonest gain is the clear winner. So what if the abilities are not equal and the one with lesser ability has the stronger character? This depends on whether the one with lesser ability is competent and whether the one with greater aptitude is corruptible. On the scales of efficiency vs. graft, it might be better to live with the mistakes and missteps of the godly leader.

Tomorrow, I will look at the leadership vacuum in Israel during the times of the Judges.

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