Timothy 2 brings me back to my school days. How do you do well in school? Although it is certainly the case that some people have natural propensities towards reading or math, it is also true that there comes a point where everyone needs to put in work in order to do well.
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Similarly, Timothy needed to make sure that he was studying the word of God. He was in a leadership position, and it was his responsibility to help the people rightly divide or understand the word of God. How would he be able to do that well unless the devoted time and effort to learning all that he could?
This clearly has practical application for all of us. If we want to talk about the Bible and if we want to help other people with their own understanding, then seems to be the case that we need to know the material. We need to know what God has said if we want to be in a position to actually help people understand it.
I know that that seems intuitive. How can we talk about something that we do not understand ourselves? It would be almost like trying to be a referee in basketball and explain the rules to people when you have never read the rulebook.
We certainly do not all have to be perfect Biblical scholars who know every possible interpretation of every possible passage, but we do need to be engaged in study so that when questions come up, we are able to have some type of answer. After all, if we are claiming to be Christians, then we probably should know what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
In 1 Timothy 3, we receive the qualifications for church leadership. Presumably, Timothy was a fairly responsible young man, but Paul explains why he is outlining these qualities for Timothy to follow as a young pastor.
1Ti 3:14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:
1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
In our everyday lives, we don’t need to ideologically agree with our coworkers. If we do business with other companies, we don’t need to see eye to eye on every issue. It is fine in that context. It would be ridiculous to only interact with people we agree absolutely with.
However, the church is a different type of institution. There are certain characteristics that are necessary in the church. For the people who are going to be leading the church, there needs to be agreement and solidarity there. Not that any two people are going to agree on everything, but there needs to be a level of shared commitment that we certainly do not need in every area of our lives.
Some of you might remember the issue that arose when InterVarsity wanted to maintain standards for their leadership that at a bare minimum they would be Christian leaders. They were not allowed on certain campuses as a result of that statement, but they were remaining faithful to passages like this in Timothy.
Remember that the church is the institution that stands for truth. As the universal body of Christ, we are here to promote a Christian worldview and bring people to the point where they understand the pleasure of glorifying God. Therefore, as we need leaders in such an institution, we need to make sure that it is a very important responsibility for these leaders to maintain the shared commitment.
Ezekiel 34 seems like an appropriate chapter for today given that yesterday was Election Day. Ezekiel was to deliver the following message to the leadership of God’s people.
Eze 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Eze 34:3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.
Eze 34:4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.
Eze 34:5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
Eze 34:6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
The leaders were not taking care of the people. Certainly, in America today, many people disagree over the extent and type of support and assistance people need (I am not going there in this forum), but at the heart of the issue is that the people who are leading in Ezekiel’s time had no regard the people whatsoever. They were looking out for themselves, and they ruled with force and cruelty. They were making sure all of their needs were met before the needs of the people.
Notice something interesting. God addresses this to the shepherds of Israel in verse two, but in verse five it says that there was no shepherd. The political leaders were not doing their job, so even though they were supposed to be shepherds, they were not doing anything to keep the people together and taken care of. They had basically vacated their jobs.
This is a baseline requirement of government. It needs to care about the people. Of course, some people think that caring means one thing while other people think it means another. I understand that there is a dichotomy there, but in either situation, we can learn from this passage about the people of Israel that fundamentally, you need to have leaders who care about the well-being of the people.
I think it is rather obvious that we all have different callings. God gives people different propensities and talents, so we are supposed to use them for His benefit. Some people are called to be pastors and to lead the people of God here on earth, but as we see in Jeremiah 12, they have substantial responsibility.
Jer 12:10 Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Jer 12:11 They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
While metaphorical, the intent of this passage really goes without saying. The people of Israel were a vineyard. They were a particularly cultivated plot of land. Vineyards do not just spring up naturally. They are cared for, and in this case Israel was cared for by God.
He had invested time and effort into this project, but the leaders themselves had come through and done damage. The priests and pastors had taken Israel down the wrong road. Jeremiah says that they had taken a pleasant piece of land and made it a wasteland.
When you think about it, that is quite a bit of power. I am not a pastor, and if I go wrong, my sphere of spiritual influence is not that huge. I don’t mean that it is somehow acceptable for me to do wrong things just because I am not in a position of authority, but I am just saying that in terms of scale, when pastors teach wrongly, it steers a lot more people in the wrong direction because of their position and the authority that comes with it.
This is why leadership is such a big responsibility. Like I said, we all have some level of responsibility, but the people who are in charge of running churches and teaching the Word have even more on their shoulders.
In the case of Israel, the religious leaders did not do their job whatsoever, and the people became a wasteland. Fortunately, in America today, there are thousands of strong pastors who are doing the work that God has called them to do. However, we can never lose sight of this fact. When people have platforms, there is a responsibility that comes with that position.
Leaders are important for setting the tone of an organization. Because of their position, they have authority and influence over the people that follow them.
However, there are times when even good leaders end up with bad followers. People have free will and do not have to conform to leadership. This is what happened in 2 Chronicles 27.
2Ch 27:1 Jotham was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Jerushah, the daughter of Zadok.
2Ch 27:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the LORD. And the people did yet corruptly.
Jotham did what he needed to do. He followed God, and he did not randomly enter the Temple to burn incense like his father did. If you read the rest of this chapter, he did many great things for God and became great.
However, some of the people who followed him did bad things.
This is why I am often times confused when people attack Jesus Christ himself by saying that some of His followers do bad things.
I am not delusional. I recognize that every single person who has ever followed Jesus Christ is indeed a sinner. We are reconciled to God through the death of Jesus and not because we live perfect lives.
As human beings who are pretty comfortable in our sinful lives, it should not be surprising that even after we come to recognize that sinfulness and our need for Jesus we might still sin from time to time. It is not right, but it does happen.
Unfortunately, some people have been really bad things while still professing to be Christians. I’m not here to judge anyone’s salvation, but I will say that their bad behavior does not disqualify the teachings of Jesus Christ.
It seems to me that this is basically a strawman. We set up some human beings who are evil and attack them as a way to attack the leadership of Jesus Christ. That is illogical. The followers who those things are not Jesus himself, so it is really a misguided attack.
Jotham was a good leader, but some people decided to do bad things. Similarly, Jesus is the ultimate leader, and even though we wish it would not happen, sometimes Christians do things that they really should not do. In both situations, the leadership did what they needed to do by following God, but humans have free will and have a choice to sin.
At one time or another, I know that everyone of us has unfortunately exercised that right. Isn’t it great that that we have a God that forgives?
Authority is a good thing, and if you happen to be in a position of authority, you need to make sure that you work for the benefit of those people following you.
How do you do that?
You need to make people feel that they are invested in success. That was the problem with Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles 10. He was the king of all of Israel, but, by listening to the advice of his young friends, he ended up creating a separation between Israel and Judah.
2Ch 10:16 And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.
He drove half of the nation away. They simply felt like he was not going to be a king for them, so they left him. It is a classic civil war type of situation. Many nations that had civil wars, and they are generally for this reason.
Most of us are not going to run countries, but I will say that if you have any type of leadership position, you need to make sure that you have respect for those that follow you and they have some respect for you as well.
You don’t have to agree on anything, but what you do not want is to have a good thing break apart. Jesus is a good example of what we need to do. There is no doubt that He was the leader, but there was also no doubt that He cared about His followers.
If you have a good thing going and don’t want to see it crumble, it would probably be better to lead like Jesus.
We hear a lot of talk today about leadership. Everyone always says that leadership is so important and that it is important for young people today to learn how to be the best leaders of tomorrow. However, how do you go about doing that?
I would say that David was a pretty good leader most of the time, and we get to see one of his secrets in 1 Chronicles 12.
1Ch 12:16 And there came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David.
1Ch 12:17 And David went out to meet them, and answered and said unto them, If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it.
1Ch 12:18 Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.
People wanted to be with David because he had God with him. He was consistently working to be with God and understand what God wanted him to do. As a result, God helped David, and that is what the people wanted.
They wanted to be with the leader who is aligned with God. In fact, we find out that more and more people kept coming.
1Ch 12:22 For at that time day by day there came to David to help him, until it was a great host, like the host of God.
I know that our society today is not as close to God as it should be, but there is a very simple truth here. If we work to be with God, we will be able to lead more effectively. Even if we do not live in a society that values God, we will develop certain characteristics like patience, honesty and love that are necessary for any leader anywhere.
If you want to become a good leader, follow the example of David and stay close to God.
Gideon is easily one of my favorite characters in the Bible, and we are introduced to him at the beginning of Judges chapter 6. He came into leadership because (surprise) the people of Israel had been rebellious once again. The Midianites came in and essentially wrecked everything in Israel.
As a result, one day Gideon was trying to get his wheat put away quickly before the Midianites came to burn it down just like they had done all over Israel. Then, all of a sudden, an angel appeared to him and said that he was going to save Israel. Needless to say, Gideon didn’t buy it right away.
Jdg 6:15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
Because of earthly constraints, Gideon was worried that he would not be able to do what God had called on him specifically to do. However, the angel didn’t seem to have much doubt.
Jdg 6:16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
After the angel essentially torched his offering and disappeared, Gideon recognized that it truly was God that he was dealing with and knew he had to be obedient.
His obedience was immediately put to the test when God told him to go and tear down the altar to Baal. Not only was he supposed to tear it down, but he was also supposed to replace it with an altar to God.
He actually went through with it with the help of some servants, and when everyone in the city woke up that morning and saw what Gideon had done, they wanted to put him to death immediately.
Gideon’s father told the angry people that if indeed Baal was really upset with his altar being torn down, he would be able to plead for himself. The people could not really argue with that one, so Gideon had a little time to gather his army.
However, even after he did this, he wanted a little bit more proof that God would protect them.
Jdg 6:36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
Jdg 6:37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
Jdg 6:38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
Jdg 6:39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
Jdg 6:40 And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.
For today, that is where we leave this story of Gideon. However, I think that what we need to take away from this today is the fact that God does not mind if we do not understand His will. He knows that we are indeed humans, and we cannot always comprehend what He wants for us. However, when we ask these questions, we need to be prepared to follow. Gideon could have had all that proof and decided to go home. That would not have been the right response. However, he did not decide to go home, and he did what he actually was chosen to do.
Judges chapter 4 brings yet another judge to Israel. This time, we have Deborah who I believe was the first female military leader of the people of Israel.
Clearly, she commanded respect of all those around her as evidenced by what Barak asked of her when he was supposed to go into battle against the Canaanites.
Jdg 4:8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.
Jdg 4:9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
We all need to keep in mind that this was a monumental step forward at this point in time. In many cultures from that era, the military was mainly for men. However, here was a woman who commanded so much respect that even the men of that time were willing to admit that they wanted her at the battle with them.
As Christians, we certainly need to have the same type of respect for all people. At the time, Barak apparently didn’t really care that he was challenging stereotypes. He did the right thing by having the most competent leader coming with them. On a somewhat unrelated but still important note, she also did the right thing by redirecting all of the glory to God.
In the New Testament, we are told that we are all different parts of the same body. We all have different talents and abilities, and as we recognize that about each other we will be able to work more effectively for God. That is really what we are here for anyway.
I like the way that Joshua addresses the people at the beginning of Joshua 18.
Jos 18:3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?
Essentially, he is asking them how long they are going to sit around and wait for the land. He knows that God has already given them the land, so all of this waiting is really not adding any value to the process. It is not like they need any more preparation. With God on their side, they were ready to move into the land.
Rom 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
After making that statement, he sent men into the remaining land and had them divide it up into reasonable portions. Those sections were then assigned by lot to the various remaining tribes.
Joshua wasn’t going to waste time. Even if the tribes of Israel were going in and taking the land, Joshua made one decision for them. He told them what piece of land they were going to have so that that stage of decision-making, which could certainly be controversial, was finished.
If you think about most of history, the land has been the source of a majority of conflicts. When society was more based on agriculture, the land was power. You needed the land to build a healthy economy.
The people of Israel didn’t have the chance to complain about that at this point in history. All of the remaining land was divided by chance to the remaining seven tribes. It was fair for everyone.
These two characteristics made the division of land in Israel much more successful than it might have been otherwise. God wanting them to have the land and strong central leadership made the difference in this situation.