A different kind of devotional arose from surveying the Bible and thinking of emerging leaders like those that I train at Moody.
Jacob (Genesis 25-36)
Jacob has gifts in managing flocks and domestic affairs. His ambition, though, causes him to swindle his brother, practice magic and divination, and make deals with God. Jacob’s rivalry with his brother is fueled by being mentored by his mother. Both she and Jacob team up to manipulate their environment for personal gain, but instead they create potential disaster.
Jacob flees his home situation and makes a deal with God. Because of God’s persistent blessing in spite of his schemes, Jacob eventually submits to God’s oversight and puts away his idols. Jacob’s vision changes from a view of success because of self to a view of success because of God. He changes from viewing God as the God of his father to personally submitting to God.
Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
As an emerging leader, Joseph was singled out for leadership by his father. His cloak, according to Walton, was a symbol of management. Joseph’s ability to manage and his gifts with dreams were not coupled well with his interpersonal skills with his brothers. Jacob managed Joseph badly as a father-mentor and created an environment where Joseph was seen as an enemy, or as a snitch, which fractured the fraternal community.
God redeemed Joseph by taking him through times of trial and hardship in Egypt. He was separated from family and used his skills as a servant to both Potiphar and the jailer before rising once more to leadership. He became a faithful and competent follower before he was once more entrusted with oversight.
When Joseph rose once more to an exalted position of leadership he was completely focused on the provision of God and the welfare of others.
Moses (Exodus – Deuteronomy)
Moses is raised as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He would probably know government and would probably hold power. Moses identifies with ‘his people’ the Israelites. He has a hot temper and his anger leads to murder. He is afraid of the consequences of his actions, so he flees.
In exile and in the wilderness God shapes Moses and develops in him humility. Although his fears and his anger does not disappear it is tempered by experience. Moses is called back by God after 40 years of formation. Moses becomes a humble conduit, putting personal power aside he uses skills in government and wilderness survival to lead Israel to the Promised Land.
Judges: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson
The Judges show a decline in the quality of leadership following Joshua, Caleb and Othniel. By the end of the book no effective leaders are emerging and everyone is doing what they see as fit in their own eyes.
Barak is a great military leader but he lacks faith and courage. He is called to lead, but is shamed because the glory goes to a woman. He is still instrumental in God’s plan but does not fulfil his potential as a leader.
Gideon, like Saul, is a leader who has poor self-image. He is timid and cowardly. The Angel of the Lord knows that he is a great and mighty warrior, but he does not identify that way. God encourages Gideon by giving him a series of signs. In this way, finally, Gideon finds courage to pursue his calling.
To avoid self-reliance by Gideon, God reduces the number of his armies to 300. However, we know that something is amiss when Gideon’s men shout, “For the Lord, and for Gideon!” Gideon increasingly creates his own agenda and ultimately replaces worship of Baal with worship of a golden ephod.
Samson is the last in the line of named Judges in the narrative and struggles with the lust of his eyes. He has great strength from God, but he has critically poor control of his appetites for sex and food. His parents seem to indulge him and spoil him. They give in to his unrighteous demands.
Samson suffers at the hands of the Philistines and ultimately seeks revenge for the eyes that he has lost. Although God uses Samson in spite of himself, he is a sad figure of an emerging leader who fails.
Saul (1 Samuel)
Saul, like Gideon, lacks confidence but a quick rise to power corrupts him. He develops into an egotist who is afraid of looking bad in the sight of the people. Some have said that he might have been bipolar, but he definitely had a weakness with fluctuations of overconfidence and fear. He embodies the qualities that people look for in a leader: height and strategic prowess. However, his fear of people and his lack of devotion to God lead to his downfall.
God judges him and takes the kingdom from him and as king of Israel he fails. There is no real path of redemption.
David (1 & 2 Samuel)
David, unlike Saul, is a man after God’s own heart. However, he is artistic and creative. He has great military skills and leadership skills. He motivates people around him well. However, his passions, which we see in the Psalms are not harnessed well sexually.
He makes advances on Bathsheba, kills Uriah her husband, and marries her. Nathan confronts David and David repents and suffers. His suffering, though, is temporary. His internal wounds never heal. We see him as flawed in his relationship with his children. He mismanages a case of rape in his family, and his inaction allows Absalom to lead a rebellion. It could be argued that although God was redeeming him as a leader, guilt or shame fatally flawed him as leading with moral authority.
As a general observation of the kings of Israel, we see that they do not do well in the eyes of God. This raises questions of how leaders emerged from the palace of Israel. The quest for personal power would have been modeled by their fathers and by a number of their mothers. For example, we see the daughter of Jezebel, Athaliah, behaving very much like her mother, even though she becomes Queen of Judah.
The kings of Judah fare slightly better, but they preserve a more orthodox faith than the idolatry implemented at Dan and Bethel. Joash stands out as an orphan king who was mentored by priests. Although he did not tear down the idols erected to false gods on the high places, he did restore the temple. He has a zeal for the temple, where his guardian lives, but he does not see well beyond that.
In conclusion, many of the kings of Israel and Judah had obvious disparities in their skill sets. Although the heritage seems to be important, there is a lack of clear evidence of how kings were developed within the text.
Peter is bold and brave in many circumstances. However, he lacks judgment and denied Jesus when Jesus was most in need. In John 21 we have a picture of Jesus restoring Peter by forcing him to look at the inconsistency in his own heart. Ultimately Peter is developed by a pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Paul is well trained in both Jewish and Greek culture. Paul has a desire or zeal for God that is misguided. He stands by as Stephen is stoned to death and he actively seeks out Christians in order to persecute them.
Jesus appears to him in a vision in order to direct him and the event leaves Paul blind. He must humble himself and submit to his new Lord and await deliverance. Jesus then teaches him for three years in the wilderness of Arabia (Galatians 1) before he becomes an apostle to the Gentiles.
Paul and Barnabas divide because Paul is unwilling to forgive John Mark for turning back on a mission trip. However, Barnabas’ encouragement of John Mark leads to reconciliation with Paul and the production of the Gospel of Mark.
Meta-analysis of Emerging Leaders Who Had Great Gifts and Obvious Weaknesses in Their Profile
Looking through the accounts of leaders who emerged with great gifts but had flaws there are those who received grace and those who suffered under the law.
Those who suffered under the law were righteously judged for their early mistakes. Even if they maintained or attained leadership, the Bible does not speak positively about them. Their fatal flaw seems to be a quest for power and self-reliance. They do not repent or look to God when confronted with their failings. In the case of Saul, and those like him, we sometimes see grief at the failings, but we see a sense of personal loss not one that is concerned for the reputation of God. They ultimately fail because they see God as a means to personal power, rather than seeing that their power is sanctioned by God for his glory.
Those who receive grace are also judged for their mistakes and often receive punishment or discipline. However, like David, they accept their punishment. They may grieve their own loss, but they are also concerned for the things of God. David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament are both externally focused on God and his purposes.
In emerging leaders in the Bible, their failings are often exposed and allowed to run their course. The results of their personal deficiencies are adultery, murder, and denial. These people then often leave the obvious path for self-advancement and are taken into the ‘wilderness’ both literally and figuratively. In the wilderness they often become reluctant to lead, but God encourages the emerging leader to keep emerging by coming personally or sending a messenger.
- As you are emerging as a leader which narrative connects most with you?
- How might you be disciplined in order to refocus your leadership gifts?
- How do these narratives help you to develop leaders around you?