Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.
- by Colin Salter
The word ‘political’ means concerned with the power of governmental affairs, the science or art of government, relating to the policies of public office.
The Bible’s book of Judges records a lesson that both today’s leaders and followers (people who govern and people who are governed) must learn:
“The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel”, Judges 2:7. “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook Him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” Judges 2:10-13.
The word ‘evil’ means anyone or anything that opposes the plan of God; morally bad or wrong; wicked (in the old sense of that word). Under Joshua and the elders the people were doing ‘right’ in the eyes of the Lord, where ‘right’ means in accordance with what is good, proper and just; upright – Hebrew Yashar, which has the root meaning of being straight and level. Older Bible translations have ‘good’ instead of ‘right’.
From history, recorded in 1 and 2 Kings and more, we learn that the heart-driven actions of leaders impact unavoidably on the people governed.
For example: Abijah led in a sinful way because “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God”, 1 Kings 15:1-3. Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done”, 1 Kings 15:11; “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life”, verse 14. For a comment on his ancestor King David read I Kings 15:5. “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite”.
It is interesting to notice that even those amongst the best leaders were not perfect! But God is a forgiving God, able to use those who worshipfully acknowledge Him and His will for their own lives and for the people they lead.
To read examples: Judges 3:7; 3:12; 4:1; 6:1; 8:28; 8:33-4; 10:6-7; 13:1.
Here is the cycle:
The people did evil
God became angry with them
the people cried to God in repentance
God raised up a leading Judge for them to follow
and so rescued their situation.
Bad political leaders - 1 Kings 15:26; 15:34; 16:19; 16:25-26; 16:30; 22:51-53; 2 Kings 8:16-19; 8:27.
Good political leaders – 1 Kings 22:41-43; 2 Kings 12:1-3; 14:3; 15:3-4; 15:34-35.
I notice two recurring phrases to learn from. One leader “caused the people to sin”. Another leader “did right all the years” he listened to the right advisors. This begs the question today, how does Almighty God view our lives and our political or church leadership? Only when we honestly confront ourselves and agree with God’s diagnosis, and make the necessary changes, can we apply the same question to our national political leaders.
Today’s leaders and politicians ‘do right’ by:
listening to God
learning from the wisdom of other godly people
leading in agreement with as many others as possible
gently resisting only those wanting to leave God-revealed foundations.
Today’s leaders and politicians ‘cause others to sin’ by:
inciting reactions of anger and violence – perhaps reopening old wounds rather than building on forgiveness and reconciliation
stirring up old hatreds and divisions – perhaps tribalism or nepotism
neglecting basic practical needs: food, clean water, hygiene, healthcare, housing, schooling and transport, so forcing people to take matters into their own hands and work against, or in spite of, the government
not being the good example of a humble, God-fearing, servant lifestyle.
At the start of the nation of Israel, through Moses God gave life-controlling commandments, with a promise of a good life in a good land as long as the leaders and people obeyed. Read Deuteronomy 4:5-9; 6:4-8, 18-19.
When the same nation were to rebuild their destroyed land and capital city they looked back and confessed their (corporate) failure. In a history review they reminded themselves of God’s total faithfulness to His covenant promise even though the leaders and people swung between the extremes of godly living and the worst of evil practices. Read Nehemiah 9:1-2, 13-21, 26-31, 32-33.
‘Doing right’ is basically living by the Ten Commandments, keeping well clear of anything outside of God’s plan. For politicians and church leaders ‘living in the sight of the Lord’ means that you will chose to give God more influence on you in your role and your decisions than any influence you will give to your electorate, your voters, your lobbyists, your extended family, your tribe, your financiers, your professors, your trainers, even your wife or husband!
Your life is governed by your own choices. The choices you make influence others too. God is looking at you every moment of every day and every night.
To finish, please read carefully all of Psalm 139:1-24, printed below. Listen to God’s voice as you do.
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the
earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in
your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against
you? 22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
When we let God so lead us, we will definitely be in the best position to lead others.
Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted
1. Put in your own words the main lesson we must learn from Judges 2:7 and 2:10-15. Whose responsibility is it to keep godly leadership alive? What is the best way to do it?
2. Why is it good to remember that even the best leaders were not 100% perfect? 1 Kings 15:5. How does this thought change your view of any leader today, for better or for worse?
3. What exactly does “in the eyes of the Lord” mean? Judges 3:7; 3:12; 4:1 etc. Ultimately every individual leader and follower is accountable to God. How can we keep this is mind when we do not physically see Him day by day? Why is it easier to think it about others than for ourselves?
4. Consider Psalm 33:12-22. What ‘other side’ does this put for the meaning of “the eyes of the Lord”? How may this be an encouragement to anyone?