September 27, 2015

Leaders and Followers

Zechariah 10:1–11:17, Acts 25:1–27, Job 30:16–31

During the past few years, prominent Christian leaders have fallen into sin and embarrassed the church. We expect godliness, not shameful behavior. However, we should not be surprised when leaders slip. Even in 520 BC , God was angry with the lack of leadership in His people: “For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd” (Zechariah 10:2) and pronounced judgment on them: “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:17)

When those troubles came, it seems logical that the one being struck in punishment would cry out to God who was striking Him. Job realized that, even though he knew he was not being punished. But He did not know why God didn’t answer his cry for help. He would answer those who cried out to him, so why would God not answer his cries?

“Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help? Did not I weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me.” (Job 30:24–27)

Job was not being punished for being a worthless shepherd, but his faith was being tested. He’d been a good leader. For him, this did not make sense.

The idea of being a strong and good leader carries into the NT and into modern times. We are in the midst of election preparations in Canada, listening to leaders making promises and trying to win votes.

In the NT, the model of leadership was sometimes supplied by the Roman government. They showed more respect for Christians, at least at first, than did the Jews. The major Christian leader was Paul, a righteous man being persecuted by Jewish leaders who wanted to kill him. He was put in jail and tried by Festus, the Roman procurator. Paul’s accusers brought serious charges against him but could not prove anything. Paul defended himself: “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”

Festus, a Roman, wanted to do the Jews a favor but gave Paul options. Unlike the Jews, he wanted the apostle to have a fair trial. Paul responded with: “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Festus conferred with his council and said, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.” (Acts 25:6–12) He sent Paul to King Agrippa, who also wanted to give Paul a hearing. When that happened, Festus described the situation again:

“King Agrippa and all who are present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish people petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death. And as he himself appealed to the emperor, I decided to go ahead and send him. But I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him. Therefore I have brought him before you all, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write. For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner, not to indicate the charges against him.” (Acts 25:18–27)

Paul’s own people wanted to kill him for saying Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, and that He had died for their sin and rose again. The Romans were more interested in a fair trial. Later, when the Gospel was directed toward them, they also would kill Christians, but at this time, their leadership was much more in line with justice than was the leadership of God’s people, the Jews.

In my world, more people complain about the government than look for the good being done. We live in a freedom unknown in many parts of the world. We are blessed beyond measure, yet the human heart is never satisfied and always wanting more. This makes me sad. God tells me to be thankful, even content with my lot in life, and to support the leaders of my country and my church with prayer.

At one point, Jesus suggested in a parable that the people “did not want this man to rule over them.” Perhaps that is the biggest problem of all. Leaders may not submit to God’s principles of just and godly leadership, but if I am never satisfied with any kind of leadership, and if I want to run my own life and refuse to follow them, then how can they lead without a follower?

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