In filmmaking, there are many different ‘takes” that typically make up a scene. Actors do their best to avoid making mistakes until the scene is complete and to the satisfaction of the director. One of the things I really enjoy about some filmmakers is how they include some of the out-takes at the end of the movie. Often, these raw clips make me laugh more than the movie itself did. The out-takes are what make the actors seem real, they reveal their authentic character which shows us that we all make mistakes.
1 and 2 Kings remind me of this concept of “takes”. Throughout these two books we have 42 different takes on the role the kings plays in the life of Israel. Each of these Kings set out with a vision as they took on the responsibility of leading the people. The events in the two books of kings happen over approximately 384 years. During this time we read about two characteristics that in part help define the landscape of the vision held by these leaders. Scripture tells us these two things, “He did Evil in the eyes of the Lord” and “He did right in the eyes of the Lord.” Two very closely related statements with incredibly different outcomes which also highlight one of the character traits each of these leaders posses. Out of forty-two “takes” only six of the kings listed started and carried out their role as king with God in the picture. 1 and 2 kings only give us a glimpse into the lives of these men, one has to wonder about the differences in the culture and quality of life between the good kings and the evil kings.
One of the incredible characteristics of our God is that He is the same today as He was in the time of all these kings. Today, as leaders we serve the same God who looks at all we do, the vision we cast, the lives that we live and holds us to the same standard as these kings. Are we doing right in His eyes or are we doing evil in His eyes. What is at the heart of our vision? Are we keeping God at the centre of all we do? Are we giving God the glory for the work he is doing through the plans (vision) he has inspired in us. I hope and pray that what I am doing as a leader having been called by Him into His service is being seen as right in His eyes. I want this “take” on life and leadership to have an impact in His great Story.
If you had only one wish, what would you wish for? I remember pondering with great consideration this question as a kid, here are some of the answers I can recall from years ago (and maybe even extend to today). Do I wish for a thousand more wishes? A million dollars? An unlimited supply of Twizzlers red licorice? A brand-new Corvette? Truth be told, the list was seemingly endless. Since my adolescent childhood days my perspective on what is important in life has changed, but the problem in many respects stays the same, I’m not one hundred percent sure what I would wish for.
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (3:5) Here we have the creator of all life and the entire universe giving Solomon the one wish opportunity. The following text outlines Solomon’s request “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Now, if you have never read the outcome of Solomon’s request you might be wondering what is up with this guy? Why is he asking for discernment when he could be asking for anything else like power, wealth or fame? Solomon realized what was ahead of him and felt led to honour God’s plan for His chosen people. Because of God’s faithfulness to his father David, Solomon was committed to seeing God’s plan continue through him, he “caught” the vision to lead the people. Solomon was young and inexperienced and admitted that the role he was chosen to be in exceeded his abilities. His request for a discerning heart was granted and God made his name great among the people.
1 Kings goes on to describe the unmeasurable limit to Solomon’s wisdom, the building and dedication of the Temple and all that came through the blessing of God over his life. Solomon reigned over all Israel for forty years before he died, his life and legacy were never forgotten. Solomon’s vision was all about the people, when we take a closer look at his request for discerning heart it was all about justice and peace. Solomon wanted life to be good for the people, he wanted them to live in unity and to love one another. What is our vision today as leaders in the church? Do we have a vision of unity among one another as believers? Are we working diligently and fighting for justice in the communities that surround us? Do we believe that God can lead and direct our lives giving us the ability to discern between right and wrong? If you had that one wish opportunity, what would you wish for?
Have you ever put the “cart in front of the horse?” This phrase is commonly used when someone breaks the conventional rules of order and does something opposite to what we would consider a proper order. A classic example might look like this: We just past tax time and some of us are waiting for that big refund cheque to come in. Some will likely spend the money before it comes in only to find out that there was some “minor” adjustments made to the numbers and we fall a little short of affording our new found treasure. Well, we have put the “cart before the horse”.
Adonijah was is one of those people who put the cart before the horse in life. Here is what scriptures says: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be King”. So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men ahead of him.” (1 Kings 1:5) Adonijah had a personal vision, one that he convinced a few others to follow and sets himself up as King. Adonijah was confident in his plan, he even went as far as throwing himself a party to celebrate the occasion. As David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah may have had the right to become King one day, he may have even been looking to the best interests of his father and his people. As the narrative continues in 1 Kings we get a hint of the guilt and fear that surrounded Adonijah and his followers. Upon hearing the news of Solomon’s appointment as King “all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.” (1:50) It is my opinion that Adonijah knew what he did was wrong and was seeking sanctuary or safety from the hand of Solomon.
There is no doubt in my mind that Adonijah put the cart before the horse in this account.He did what any visionary leader would do, he gathered people around him that would support his vision, only his vision was self-serving and had a very narrow focus. Leading and casting vision in the church today cannot be self-serving or narrowly focused. Our vision has to be Gospel-Centered, focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Our job as visionary leaders is to live out the command of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s not put our own plans before that of God’s plan, there is great wisdom in seeking God’s leading and guiding as we plan and cast a vision that ultimately leads people to Him.
Have you ever pursued something with such an intense drive and unwavering persistence that people around you said you were “all in”? Have you ever been in a sticky situation where you can say you and a group of others were “all in the same boat”? Consider for a moment the beauty and power of Niagara Falls or the vast expanse of the Grand Canyon, you cannot help but stand back and “take it all in”. We are often “all in” when the stakes are high, when we have nothing else to lose or in some circumstances everything to lose.
1 and 2 Samuel describe a man who was “all in” when it came to living life. Known as a shepherd boy, courageous warrior, devoted friend, king and most notably a “man after God’s own heart”, David was a visionary leader who lived his life under the direction of the Lord. When I read through the life of David in scripture one of the things that grips my attention is how many times I read the words “David inquired of the Lord.” David, blessed by God, went to Him for direction and decisions in life trusting that He would provide for his needs and the needs of his people. With the confidence in knowing that God had a plan, David was able to lead his people through some incredible obstacles and unbeatable odds with God’s help. I want to say that David never lost sight of his vision, but he did, he was human just like you and I. David, despite his shortcomings stood in the light of a great and powerful God who was the foundation that his vision was built on. David had success in his leadership because he was focused on God, he knew where he was going and what he was doing because he was following God.
When the Lord sent Samuel to call on David we learn something about David even before he enters the scene. David was different, it was not physical appearance or stature that set him apart, it was what was in his heart that pleased the Lord. As leaders today we can’t take this point lightly, we need to examine what is in our heart. What is at the heart of our leadership? What as leaders in the church today is the foundation of our mission and vision? Without God, without a passion to lead with God’s direction, our vision is empty and fruitless. Being a Godly leader means being “all in”, the stakes are high, we are fighting a battle for lost souls. We have everything to lose but so much more to gain when our hearts and lives follow that of God’s will.
Do you wear glasses? Did you have to take your glasses off to read this text? It’s possible your spectacles are sitting precariously on the tip of your nose. Maybe your one of the lucky people who don’t need glasses, if that’s the case there is a good chance you under the age of forty. (Just wait, you could be joining the “four-eyed” club sooner than you think.) I am a year or two over the age of forty and never dreamed that the day would come when I would need glasses, yet as I write these words I am wearing my optical aids. Our vision changes, it’s a fact of life.
Good leaders have vision, I’m not talking about the 20/20 vision that your ophthalmologist tests for, but a vision that defines a direction that leads and guides a group or an organization into the future. I have never really considered the person of Saul in 1 Samuel to be a visionary leader. When we are introduced to him in chapter 9 he is described more for his “looks” than his leadership ability, “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” (9:2) It doesn’t stop there. In fact, when Samuel called out to have Saul come before the people to be named king, he runs and hides. “And the Lord said, yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” (10:22) So, we have what we can assume through the word is a good-looking guy who likes to hide behind stuff, this is not something we usually equate to a visionary leader or king.
1 Samuel introduces us to an ordinary guy that was chosen by God for a special reason and specific time. “God changed Saul’s heart”, I believe at this point God gave Saul the gift of leadership and discernment to live out the vision that Samuel lays out for Saul and the people of Israel. He tells the people to fear God, obey his commands and you will be “good”, if you do not obey, if you rebel “his hands will be against you… if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” Saul, after 42 years of leadership begins to mislay the vision of following the Lord with his whole heart. The lines between true obedience of God’s commands and doing what he thinks is right become blurred, leading to what scripture describes as “the Spirit of the Lord” departing from Saul. Our lesson from this portion of scripture is clear: trust, listen and obey what God asks of us. Our vision, our direction as leaders in the church can only move forward when God is in the lead. God inspires vision, he calls ordinary people, gives them incredible gifts and changes lives so that we can be a part in advancing His kingdom here on earth.