The next trait from the prophetic tradition that we can be mindful of in our leadership is the power of telling the truth. One thing that we can learn from the Old Testament prophetic tradition is a willingness to say what God is calling us to say no matter how it drops in the heart of the person/people. Prophets had a radicalism and edge to their ministry. At times, they seemed fearless as the challenged the authorities of their time. Take a look at the following passage where the Samuel told Saul the truth.
“Stop!” exclaimed Samuel. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” “Tell me,” he replied. Samuel continued, “Although you once considered yourself unimportant, have you not become the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel and then sent you on a mission and said: ‘Go and completely destroy the sinful Amalekites. Fight against them until you have annihilated them.’ 19 So why didn’t you obey the Lord? Why did you rush on the plunder and do what was evil in the Lord’s sight?”….24 Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the Lord’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them. – 1 Samuel 15:16-19, 24
There are literally dozens of passages like this all throughout the OT. What can we deduce from this particular passage? Prophetic leadership entails a moral decisiveness which is both specific and courageous. It is a conviction that is derived from God alone. If we do not call the society to account in the name of God, who will? If we do not hold out a vision of a just and righteous society, who will? If we see disaster coming, we should have the courage to say so because we know that, as Peter said to the high priest, we must obey God rather than men.
Our culture has become increasingly therapeutic. Pluralism and relativism are becoming the dominant ideology in our post-modern society. The prophetic role portrays the importance of telling the truth, even when it’s inconvenient to do so.
Our leadership must not be based solely on charisma, energy, or intelligence. There must be a moral decisiveness that we have that compels us to speak and act on truth whether it feels good or not. The prophets mentioned in the passage above could have died from the message they gave to the kings. In fact, many prophets did die in Scripture because they had spoken a message from God that was not taken well by the king.
I think we can easily slip into accommodating culture by being overly concerned with likability. Is our foundation in Jesus or the shifting sands of success and glamor? Our celebrity-conscious culture can influence us to say things that people want to hear. You’ll hear politicians often talk about leading with the heart and not the polls. And it’s true. Many people that run for office take their stand on issues only after looking at certain poll numbers that reflect people’s opinions.
What’s the parallel? Do we lead constantly by looking at the poll numbers of likability and acceptance? Are we enslaved to the desire for celebrity? Or is the word of God burning in us as the prophet Jeremiah said like a fire shut up in our bones? To have that moral decisiveness we have to have continuous encounters with God where we see, as Isaiah did, God high and lifted up. Higher than our desire to be accepted. Lifted over our lust for celebrity and likability. God has got to touch and cleanse our mouths with his refining fire. We must breathe in the incense of heaven lest we be choked by the fog and smog of our relativistic society.
The moral clarity and decisiveness came because (and this is the next leadership insight from the prophetic tradition) the prophets considered themselves representatives of God…We’ll pick up this point up next week.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.