For those of you living in the UK, it will have been hard to escape the fact that our political system is in complete turmoil. The two main political parties have imploded after the people’s decision to vote to extract ourselves from the clutches of further union with Europe. As a result, we have no valid leader. Nor do we have someone who would oppose the leader, if one existed. It is apparent that this could go on for some time.
I think, as a rule, we the people, prefer to have a leader. It is nice to have someone to blame for all the problems. As a mass of individuals there is something built into us that actually needs a leader. When we have a political leader with vision and certainty in all they do and say, it is somewhat easier to rally around them. And, as I consider world politics, it would appear that elsewhere the subject of who makes a good leader is being discussed in doughnut shops and at dinner tables alike.
Now, my stance is that politics belong to the world. The church (as a body of people) should have nothing to say on the subject. Please don’t expect my views on who should lead either of the main political parties here in the UK, or even which of the two impossible options the good people of America should choose. It’s not going to happen. But, whilst I am lingering about by this particular water fountain, on the subject of America – talk about Catch 22!
And, despite believing that the church has no place in the world on which it should stand and have a say in the running of things, the subject of choosing leaders, somewhat surprisingly, fills the pages of the Bible.
The need within us to have a leader, I suspect, does not arise out of any political system. I am convinced that it is actually given by God. The leader, the king we need is Him. We have the need within us because He designed us to be that way. When the Hebrews crossed the River Jordan into Canaan, one of the things that separated them from the peoples around them was that they had no king. God was their king. God spoke to them through individuals, such as priests, prophets, and judges, to whom He would give His revelation and they would stand between God and man and explain God’s plan or judgements to the people. It was a good system. It had to be. It was invented by God. The nations around the nation of Isra’el all had their own kings. Often these kings were corrupt and dictatorial. They had to be. They didn’t follow God, so they had no true idea of right and wrong. They followed their own gods, all of whom were really demons – servants of Satan. The first political systems were never given by God. They were invented by Satan in order for man to challenge God. Just look at the Tower of Babel for evidence of that.
God had always intended to give Isra’el a king, but He wanted a particular man, David, to lead them. The Hebrews weren’t prepared to wait for God to finish teaching this humble shepherd boy. They wanted a king and they wanted him now. When you read the text in 1st Samuel chapter 8, you will see that they wanted a king in order to make Isra’el like the other nations. It showed a level of immaturity on the part of Isra’el. I am reminded just how like that I was when I was growing up. Back in 1976 or 77 when skateboards first hit the little backwater where I lived, I wanted one. Not because I wanted one, but because everyone else had one, and I wanted to be accepted. Eventually, after badgering my Dad for a while, I got on but, by then, the other kids had moved onto something else.
Isra’el wanted a king so that they could be like the other nations around them, despite the fact that God had chosen Isra’el with the purpose of setting them apart. He wanted them to be separate, to not be a part of the world, in order that, later on, He might bless the world through them. God gave into their demands, just as my own father did with the skateboard.
In the account of Saul becoming king over Isra’el, it is often incorrectly stated that the people chose Saul, and that God chose David. Actually, God chose them both. The people merely chose to have themselves a king ahead of God’s plan. Saul, we know, didn’t make a good king. He wasn’t mean to the people as such, but he failed a simple test of obedience and, for that, God anointed David in his stead, and sent an evil spirit to torment Saul (1st Samuel 13 through 1st Samuel 16).
What followed, in the choosing and anointing of David, is how God chooses leaders. God told Samuel not to look to the outward appearance of David’s brothers and explained that God looks at the heart of a man. It is in our hearts that leadership exists. However, we must be careful, because the desire to lead will often corrupt. David’s heart was true. Even after Samuel had anointed him to be king, even when Saul was trying to kill him, David waited for God to set him upon the throne. He never once thrust himself forward. Twice he had it in his power to kill Saul. Twice he spared his life, because David recognised that only God could make a man a king. That was what made David God’s choice for king.
If we look at the way our political leaders are chosen today, it is all about self-promotion. The thought of stabbing a one-time friend in the back in order to promote one’s own ambition is common place. In fact, it is the norm. Any leader of today would do well to take lessons from the life of David. God exalted him because of His humility. Just as He did with Y’shua (Jesus’ Hebrew name).
This morning I read of two other men who should be our example when it comes to serving God. Too many people in today’s church are self-appointed. Too many are self-promoting. What happened to humility amongst the leaders of the modern church? Where in the Bible does it says that God gives grace to the arrogant? It doesn’t.
In the book of the Acts of the apostles we find, not only the right way to choose people to whom responsibility should be given, but also what happens to those whom are prepared to serve.
In chapter 6 we read that the distribution of food had become an issue. The apostles clearly didn’t want to get involved and felt that their services were best employed with preaching the gospel. Rightly so. There should never be anything more important to a leadership team than sharing the word of God with those yet to hear it. We know that there must have been a considerable amount of people attached to the ministry by this time, but I am making an assumption that when the twelve apostles summoned the multitude, they were in fact speaking of the 120 core believers who had been together from the start. They were the ones who knew each other. They told the people to choose from amongst themselves seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. This implies that they knew each other well. They duly did so and the apostles anointed them for the work at hand, which was effectively waiting tables. So, there is the model that churches today should still be using to distribute responsibility. Of course, the modern church thinks that it knows best and frequently adopts a worldly policy, such as nepotism, in order to appoint people into leadership etc.
It is worth noting here how you might feel about this. Say, you were one of the seven chosen and you had felt that you were destined for greater things that waiting tables. Would you accept the role? Not many would in this day and age. But, I want you to look at two men who did. And then I want you to consider how God used them.
In chapter 6 and verse 5 it says that Stephen was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. But, instead of him seeking a higher role because of these strengths, he chose to serve others. In the next few verses we find that God saw in Stephen obedience and willingness to follow His lead. He performed great signs and wonders amongst the people. It says that the people from the synagogue were not able to resist the wisdom and Spirit by which he spoke! This was a waiter! So they plotted against him and he was stoned to death. But before his execution he spoke the word of God to his accusers and when the failed to listen, he asked God to forgive them for his death. I tell you the truth, if you ever come across a waiter like Stephen, then make sure you tip him well!
The other one whom I mentioned is, of course, Philip. Again, prepared to serve food to others, to humble himself, and, as a result, God raises him up and uses him to carry the gospel to Samaria and then onto Africa. Another waiter.
We need to think again. Y’shua said that we must humble ourselves. If we do, then God will raise us up. Psalm 84 says that it is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to spend a life in the tents of the wicked. I wonder how many whom would lead us today would work the door of a church for a few years, in humility and joy of serving God?
The leadership in political systems will be decided by the people. It has nothing to do with any true follower of God. God will chose, as He has always done, true leaders from amongst the humble. Just because someone tells everyone he or she is a prophet or an apostle, doesn’t mean that God has anointed them. In fact, when it comes to those through whom God works the most, you should probably check out your waiter.