The marks of our leaders

When you get what you asked for – what are the motives of your heart when you ask for the things you ask for? When we go before God and say “give us a king… what are we really saying? When you interrogate the motive of your heart can it withstand scrutiny before God who cannot be lied to?

Kenyans have gone to the ballot and we have voted for the people we wanted or thought we wanted. I said in my previous writing that the biggest tragedies in life is getting what we asked for and not getting what we asked for. In this process that we have just concluded there is going to be two sets of people… those who get what they asked for, and I hope it’s not a tragedy to them, and those who do not get what they asked for, I hope they graciously accept that in life we win some and loose some and therefore not a tragedy in the end. Give a chance to those who get it and maybe there will be some positive outcome.

With that to say, let’s look at someone’s character in the bible, a king whom the Israelites wanted in spite of having ill motives for choosing whomever they chose, and how their choice reflected on them as a nation, and in turn how it reflects on us personally. Yes we have chosen whom we want our leaders to be, my question is what does that choice that you made say about you as a person? What does that say to us as the nation of Kenya?  Again I am going to base this writing on a sermon preached at Mamlaka Hill Chapel on the 3 February 2013.

Please read from the text on the book of 1 Samuel 15 and I will try to draw your attention to “The marks of Saul” The people of Israel got what they asked for, as we shall see subsequently. What is it that they really asked for you may ask? What kind of a king is Saul? God previously says to Samuel “These people have rejected me” (1 Samuel 8:7), so little wonder that the King they chose also rejected God (1Samuel 15:23). In other words… the leader you cast a vote for is a reflection of the state of your heart and mine, your character. We choose people who are just like us.

This begs the question “Who are we really, deep inside?” As we look at the character of Saul it might give us a glimpse of who we are, so I would ask that we look… do we have “The marks of Saul” in our spirituality? In our characters? And if we do then the people we chose have the same reflection and character of who we are. What is it about Saul that we can learn about ourselves?

In terms of background, there is nothing wrong with Saul on the outside. He is just an ordinary person, probably a bit more impressive because we are told that he was handsome, tall… head and shoulders above the rest. In 1 Samuel 9:3 – 5, He was sent to go look for the father’s donkeys as they wandered off and got lost, and he was sent with a servant. Not a very kingly task but he executes it with diligence, he obeys the father, they go looking for the donkeys and three days down the road they don’t find them. He tells the servant that they should head back because the father will begin worrying about them rather than the donkeys. So we see that Saul is a man of conscience.

When it comes to the day of identification as a king, he hides and the people start wondering and even ask God if the person to be crowned is among them and the Lord tells them yes. When they ask where he is, they say that he is hiding among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:20 – 22,). Saul is shy to come out to be declared King. On the outside Saul really is a good guy, a nice person. There is nothing wrong with him at first.

A wise man once said – A man can withstand almost any kind of adversity. But if you really want to know a man’s Character then give him power and you will know who the person really is. In Chapter 15, Saul has already been crowned King, he has the power. However what comes out of his character as King is what we are interested in.

 Saul is a man from humble beginnings suddenly finding himself in a position of power and authority. With clear instructions from the Lord, he is instructed to carry out one of the first major engagements on behalf of God(1 Samuel 15:1 – 3). Amalek had come out to oppose Israel in the days of the Exodus. God says – You oppose Israel my first born? And you want to exterminate them? I will exterminate the memory of Amalek from the earth (Exodus 17:8 – 15). This is God’s declaration, God’s judgment on the people of Amalek.

So the first king ever of Israel is given this mission and given very clear instructions – Saul was to blot out and get rid of the memory of Amalek. Saul engages in this task and at first things look like they are going well, he tells the Kenites to get out for that was not their battle. They were good to the Israelites during the time they were coming from Egypt (1 Samuel 15:6). It seems that there is a determination to carry out what God had said. Immediately the battle is engaged, something goes wrong, something is missing. Saul spares Agag, the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs – everything that was good.

 Saul engages in Selective obedience to God’s commands. When he spared the King, he might as well as have spared everyone else. The King is the symbol of the power and the evil of Amalek. So this already is disobedience to God. He goes ahead and selects the fat cattle, the healthy sheep and lambs… he was unwilling to destroy them. Someone may be asking – why is this so wrong? This is wrong because God didn’t command this. When God says, do not spare anything, he means exactly that.

In the above actions, Saul is setting himself up as a rival authority to God. Saul has his eyes on what is good and what is probably motivating him is just greed. These things that he decides to spare have a certain worth. The treasures and the wealth of a nation are vested in the king. Saul was probably thinking that if he spared the king, he would get a handsome ransom for Agag’s life. So the mark we are seeing here is

(1) Saul intentionally disobeys God for personal gain.

The story goes on to say that immediately Saul does what he did, the word of the Lord comes to Samuel – and God says “I regret that I have made Saul King because he has turned away from me and not carried out my instructions” (1 Samuel 15:10 – 12). This grieved Samuel and he cried out to God all night because Samuel understands the words of God when He says that he regrets’ having made Saul the King. When God says He Regrets’… this is something very powerful that should cause us to shudder and to fear because it has dire consequences. Samuel cries out on behalf of Saul and on behalf of the nation.

Samuel sets out to meet Saul but finds out that Saul left to go to Carmel to put up a monument in his own honor and then proceeded to Gilgal (1 Samuel 15:12). Here we see the second mark of saul

(2) Honor of self as opposed to the honor of God.

God sent Saul for the battle, but Saul takes glory for the results, set up a monument in self honor as if to say “I did this. My hand and my power, my military genius has achieved this.” Other kings who are monarchs exercising authority on behalf of God would have set up an alter to God and sacrificed offering to say – “Thank you God for what you have done.” We see in 1 Samuel 7, there was a battle led by Samuel and after achieving victory, he sets up a stone and calls it Ebenezer – the stone of God’s help, in recognition of the victory that has been won by God, for Israel. God alone deserves the glory, the honor and the praise. Contrary to what Saul does.

When Samuel gets to Saul – Saul says “The Lord bless you. I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Saul seems to be a smooth talker… every word is in the right place. Here he uses spiritual jargon, or Christianese to cover rebellion and sin – “The Lord bless you…” The third mark as we can see here is…

(3) Double speak – Using spiritually correct language to cover up rebellion, sin and disobedience. 

Samuel answers… “What then is this bleating of sheep that covers my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” In other words, Samuel is telling Saul – “I have evidence that what you are saying is not true. You have not really carried out God’s instructions. The instructions were for Saul to exterminate everything. But apparently there are survivors” (1 Samuel 15:13 – 15)

According to Saul, the soldiers brought the animals from the Amalekites for sacrifice to God. “But we totally destroyed the rest,” says Saul! Another mark of Saul…

(4) Unwillingness to take responsibility for actions that he had done, passing of the back if you may.

Saul blames the soldiers and even tries to sugar coat it by saying the animals were for sacrifice to the Lord. Again he uses spiritually correct language to cover up for his wrong doing. He even uses the name of God as he says this – insisting that it was done for a good purpose.

 Samuel decides to let Saul know what God told him the night before… “Although you were once small in your eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord sent you on a mission to Go and COMPLETELY DESTROY THOSE WICKED PEOPLE, THE AMALEKITES, wipe them out completely (1 samuel 15:17 – 18).” Samuel here tries to appeal to Saul – remember where you came from? You were a nobody, you wouldn’t have been king without God, isn’t there something in you that would make you accept that what you have done is wrong? Samuel is trying to bring back Saul to his senses to a place where he can acknowledge God so that the disaster that Samuel knows is coming does not befall him.

Saul insists even when there is evidence before him that proves otherwise that he obeyed the Lord. He contradicts himself in his own words saying he COMPLETELY destroyed the Amalekites BUT brought back AGAG their king – as if Agag is not an Amalekite. The soldiers brought back the sheep for sacrifice – it’s a win win situation… why shouldn’t God be happy with this? Another mark here…

(5) When confronted with evidence of sin and wrong doing, He will continue to protest and claim innocence. Not accepting responsibility, wrong doing and will look for excuses, cover up the sin in spiritual language if only to vindicate himself.

“Does the Lord delight in sacrifices as much as in obeying His voice? To obey is better that sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of Divination and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.”

The heart of this disaster is just plain and simple – at the heart level, this is just the Rejection of God. Everything else is a symptom of this. In plain terms Saul has set up a rival religion against YHWH in this thing that is called disobedience. Rebellion is like witchcraft, so Saul is worshiping something else other than YHWH which is what Rebellion is. God deals harshly with rebellion because it is intentional, premeditated and calculated. The cows, sheep and Goats didn’t magically appear… this did not shock Saul as to where they came from. They were pre-selected by Saul, “Look around, if you find Agag – bring him to me. Get all the healthy animals and kill the weak ones” (1 Samuel 15:7 – 9).

The arrogance of this God says is like the evil of idolatry. To be so arrogant as to think that God gives instructions not knowing what He is doing or talking about. To go against instruction is same as putting yourself up as a rival authority against God which He equates to idolatry, the worship of anything other than God including the self. So God’s Judgment comes, which is very harsh – “because you have rejected the word of the Lord, so has He rejected you as king.”

After all this, Saul now confesses to the real deed… when it’s too late. “I have sinned, I have violated the Lords command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people so I gave in to them.” But this is not true repentance; it only comes because there is a heavy personal cost to it. At this point Saul realizes that he has lost the kingship and God has rejected him. If he wasn’t going to be king, he might as well repent because there is nothing more to lose. This again is another mark of Saul

(6) Never conceding to wrong doing until and unless there is a heavy personal loss.

The focus of Saul all along has been to play up to the gallery,  to please the people and not to please God. He says – “I was afraid of the people so I gave in to them.” In other words, given the people and given God, He would go with the people, give them what they want because that is how you become popular, that is how you become king, that’s how you win the votes. This once again is another mark of Saul…

(7) Desire to please people more than God.

Saul tries to tell Samuel to go back with him to worship God, in an effort to try and recede God’s Judgment but it is final. The judgment cannot be receded. Whatever reasons he had – the confession, and wanting to worship God is inconsequential at this point because God has already made the Judgment. It’s even so graphic that as Samuel turns to leave, Saul grabs his garment and it tears off. Samuel tells Saul that just as the cloth has torn off, so has God torn the kingdom from Saul, and it all ended there.

Saul again pleads with Samuel and true motives are revealed – “I have sinned but please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel.” Even in the light of his greatest devastation and the loss of God’s blessings, Saul’s preoccupation is not with God’s honor, but his own honor. One would think that he would be devastated, dejected in ashes saying that “I am ruined for God has rejected me” But not so with him… he has an agenda still. The picture of the prophet of God coming back with the victorious king is a good picture before the people, and that is why Saul asks Samuel to go back with him to the people, so as to receive honor from the people.

This  story doesn’t end well. Saul went on to reject God completely. The bible says an evil spirit tormented him. Saul became so obnoxious and so Godless that he put to death all the priests of God except a few who were hidden by somebody. This was the extent of saul’s rejection of God, and towards the end, he and all his sons died a dismal death at Mount Gilboa in a battle as part of God’s Judgment. Before this battle Saul was so far gone from God that when he inquired of Him, God did not answer him. He sought out a witch from Endor to raise for him Samuel so that he could consult him to know if God had favored him in that battle.

We may want to project these marks on other people especially our leaders but if we have seen these marks on our leaders, maybe we should ask – “Is that a reflection of who we are?” I hope when we went to the ballots we chose leaders who reflect our values and aspirations.

Are you quick to obey God’s commands? What does it take for you to actually obey? Do you pick and choose those aspects of the commands that are convenient to you? Selective obedience is equal to rebellion.  How do you deal with God’s commands?

What about issues of honor? When caught up in a situation which places you to either honor Gods name or your name, which do you choose? When you honor yourself, you dishonor God. God is able to give you a name that will last, but if you choose to honor yourself, then not even the next generation will remember you. Only God does this, if you honor his name… by obeying him?

How do you deal with situations when you are caught with guilt on the wrong side? How quick are you to repent?  The mark of Saul is that he will fight, He will justify, he will argue, he is smooth with words, he will use every arsenal for his own defense, everything other than admit that he is wrong.

When God gives you power authority and privilege, how do you use them? Are they a blessing or  are they a curse to the people that you lead? DO you use power and authority to create fairness, blessings and equity for people? Or is it a tool of self aggrandizement, a tool for oppression, a tool for inequality where people groan under your leadership?

How does power reveal your true character? What is the most outstanding quality of your leadership? Do you follow whatever is popular and wherever the wind is blowing is where your leadership follows? Are you playing up to the gallery? Is that the most outstanding thing about your leadership? You tell people what they would like to hear so as to make you popular?

Would God be proud of your leadership? Would he say “Well done good and faithful servant? You have done well with little so I give you more to handle,” or would he say “I regret that I ever gave you that position of leadership?”  

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