1 Samuel 8:5 | Not my President

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Leadership is a valued focus of the world we live in. Books on leadership are endlessly published. At the university level there are entire classes focused on leadership. The Kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter be held back not because she was deficient in the core academic competencies but because she was immature and lacked leadership skills. We spend billions every four years to pick a leader for the country.

In the Old Testament God laid out a very strange culture and government for the nation of Israel. It was a culture that was an anti-leadership program. The government was decentralized where families and communities lived their lives free of a King. As needed the Israelite life relied on judges. These judges were not voted into office. They did not come from prescribed class or family. Sometimes they were male and sometimes female. They were priests and they were average joes. Judges were chosen by God according to his will as they were needed. They were imperfect people with all their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable judges like Samson was hardly a model citizen. Deborah a woman. Gideon came from a small insignificant family. And Samuel served as priest as well as a judge. These men and women came and went. No family dynasties. No privilege was created to carry over into succeeding generations. This type of non government is outside of human nature and must have been very difficult for the populace to accept.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

This was not the first time the people wanted to install a king. Gideon had been so successful as a judge that the people tried to make him a king. They were desperate to install a family dynasty to rule over them.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Judges 8:22 ESV

It seems so very strange. But is it? History class told me that Americans wanted to make George Washington a king and he refused. Look at modern government today. If we had polling numbers how big would the percentage be that would want President Obama to be King and rule for the rest of his life? Or how many people would want President Trump to set up a kingship with his children to rule over us into the future? I bet those percentages would be more than expected. The desire I think is born out of insecurity.

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV

So why did Israel not have a King like “all the nations” around them? Both Gideon and Samuel answer that question and it is an answer that all of us living even today should take to heart. The reasons they provide apply just as directly to how we live our life and how we approach the world, church, and even our own governments.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 ESV

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:6-7 ESV

God organized the government into Judges because He is the King. God is the only King. The people did not need a king to rule them or to fight their battles. They had access to the very creator of the universe. When we cry out for leaders to rule over us (take ear evangelicals that are desperate for Trump to save Christianity from a liberal society! Take ear those who are woke and want government to lead society into the promised land of perfect morality and reparations!) we are rejecting the King of Kings. We are rejecting the true ruler of all things. We are clamoring for a god made in our own image and it is an evil selfish image. Salvation will not be found in books on leadership or the people who wrote them. Salvation will not be found in wall street or the mega church. Salvation will not be found in Republicans or Democrats. Salvation and true leadership will only be found in God through Jesus the King of Kings.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

Kindergarten Leadership

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Leadership and leadership training is a high value topic in the world we live in. Managers in the business universe spend a significant amount of HR training on how to lead effective highly motivated workforces. The military places high value on leadership. And schools place a high value on training the leaders of the next generation. My first foray as a volunteer Sunday school teacher of sixth grade boys started on the topic of leadership. I was paired with a more seasoned teacher and he spent a significant amount of time lifting up the value of leadership. He would tell this group of immature boys that they needed to be leaders. They needed to live moral lives because others would look to them. As Christians they needed to lead the next generation. I pondered this line of teaching because it was a surprise to me. I expected to teach theology and apologetics. I wanted to answer questions about God and why He created. I remembered that transition at 11 years old myself from thinking as a child to questioning everything. Is God even real? How would he have created? Jesus born of a virgin? What is the point and how can I believe that? I wanted to dive into those topics with these kids but the class direction was leadership and I pondered on this.

Around that same time my oldest daughter was wrapping up kindergarten. She was younger and smaller than all the other kids because she had a late summer early fall birthday. I had pushed for her to get started early because my wife and I felt she was ready. At the end of the school year the teacher wanted to meet with us and discuss next steps. At the meeting the teacher recommended holding our daughter back one more year before moving on to the next grade. At the parent meeting I asked pointedly if my daughter was lacking in reading, math, or verbal skills. The teacher confirmed all academic scores were sufficient for moving forward. So I asked for the reasons to hold back. The teacher’s response was that my daughter was younger than the others. She struggled to fix her belt (part of school uniform) after restroom breaks, and wait for it, she needed to mature more as a leader before moving on to the next grade. I was not pleased with the recommendation based on those reasons.

Leadership is an interesting and important idea. We can and will all lead in something in some way. However not everyone will be or will want to be class president. Not everyone wants to be a Manager. Very few will be CEO, Principle, or Senator. Not everyone is capable of leading men into battle. So are you a failure if aspirations or ability are not in the formal realm of leadership? I had to ask these questions of myself when I was taking seminary classes. The school wanted to train these future pastors to be leaders. Was I not cut out for future ministry if I did not want to be a leader?

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5 ESV

God is a creative and wonderful God. While all humans are equal in that we are all created in His image. We are not all equal in opportunity and ability. God has done this according to his own purpose. He has made us to serve him and each of us has our own path.

I do not teach leadership in my classes today. I desire to teach real life truth and practical answers to the things that make life hard. I pray that my students are equipped with the knowledge of who God is and how to distinguish Him from the lies of the world. Each student needs to find their gifts and those that want to lead will have an opportunity and I encourage it.

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:31a ESV

My kindergarten daughter and those 6th grade boys need not worry about leadership. They needed truth poured into them. They need a foundation of core principles and knowledge that they can use in the future. Leadership is not something to be desired for the sake of power. Leadership is needed for those that have vision and truth at their feet. Leadership is to be used in submition and service to Christ who is the head of all authority. I teach truth, give opportunities to dwell on that truth as it relates to the world we live in, and I pray that we would then leverage that knowledge in whatever role God has called.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:15 ESV

Today is the day to embrace who God made you to be. If you are a hand then grab hold of God’s world. If you are a foot then rush toward the fight according to God’s plan. If you are eyes then see what God wants to show this sinful world. But whatever you do don’t try to be the head of something because the world tells you that is where virtue lives. There is only one head and one leader.

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV