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A theology of leadership


“I have sinned against the Lord” — II Samuel 12:13

Newly Elected Government Officials

Our newly elected government officials as a result of the Midterm Elections shall start officially their service to our country on July 2.  They should have taken already their Oath of Office on or before June 30.  It would be but proper and fitting then to have some reflections on leadership. There is a beautiful parable in the Old Testament that could help us in our reflections.  This is the Parable of the Lamb recorded in II Samuel 12:1-15.

It was during King David’s reign that Prophet Nathan told this particular Parable. King David was considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, king of Israel.  It was during his time when the twelve tribes of Israel were united as one nation. Being a great warrior, he was able to conquer all of Israel’s enemies at that time and assimilated them into his kingdom.  His territories, therefore, expanded enormously. He made as capital of Israel the city of Jerusalem that he captured from the Jebusites.  King David’s reign had been regarded as the golden era of Israel’s history. Even during Jesus’ time, people would like to go back to the ancient Davidic kingdom.

Abuse of Power and Authority

However, King David’s greatness began to fall when he started abusing the power and authority divinely bestowed upon him when Prophet Samuel anointed him.   He saw Bathsheba, the beautiful wife of his Hittite soldier named Uriah, and he wanted her to be his wife.  And so, while the husband was out there on the battlefield, King David took Bathsheba to his palace and he succeeded in his evil intentions. Obviously, whatever the powerful king wanted, he would surely get it. Indeed, King David disobeyed one of God’s important commandments, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17).

Bathsheba got pregnant, and King David began to worry on how to cover up his evil deeds.  Being a military strategist, he had three alternative operational plans: Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  In his Plan A, King David would order Uriah to come home and sleep with his wife.  Uriah, indeed, had to come home by the King’s order, but he did not sleep with his wife. Soldiers were not supposed to sleep with their wives while battles were going on.  And being a professional soldier, Uriah strictly observed this guideline, even if his own commander-in-chief was the one ordering him to violate the rule (v.11).

King David became even more worried, thus he resorted to Plan B.  He ordered Uriah to come over to the palace and have a drinking session together, expecting that Uriah might go home and sleep with his wife if he would be drunk.  But still, Uriah did not sleep with his wife, even when he was already drunk.  Now, the only option left for King David was Plan C: to order the assassination of Uriah.  He wrote a letter addressed to Joab, the commander of the Israelite army, instructing him to put Uriah in the frontline of battle so that he will be killed. What was even worse was that King David sent his letter to Joab through Uriah himself.  Poor Uriah never thought that the letter was his own death sentence!

Surely, Uriah was killed in battle, and King David took Bathsheba to be one among his wives. King David thought that the implementation of his operational plan was “clean” and that no one knew about his evil machinations.  He never realized that God is a compassionate, all-knowing God, that God is deeply concern with human affairs, and that God champions the rights of the victim of powers-that-be, whether one is an Israelite or a Hittite.

Parable of the Lamb

God speaks through His chosen servants. And in this case, God spoke to Prophet Nathan.  The Prophet communicated God’s message for King David by using a parable now known as the Parable of the Lamb. The story is about a rich man who had so many lambs, while his poor neighbor had only one.  But when this rich man had a guest, he took the only one lamb of his poor neighbor and prepared a meal for his guest.

After listening to the story, King David got angry and swore to God that the rich man ought to be meted out with capital punishment for being cruel and that he ought to return fourfold what he took from his poor neighbor.  Sometimes it is easier for us to see the wrongdoings of others than to realize our own.  Is it not Jesus Christ our Lord who asked, “Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to your log in your own eye? …you hypocrite! (Mt.7:3)

It was at this point that Prophet Nathan confronted King David and directly said to him, “You are that man!”  The Prophet made the King realized that God actually knew all along how he disobeyed His commandments and that the King would have to suffer the consequences of his evil deeds.  What is done in secret will surely be exposed in the time of God’s judgment.  The Book of Ecclesiastes says, “God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret”(12:14).

This is also what is unique with a parable as a preaching-teaching tool.  It would make us pronounce judgment to ourselves without knowing it.  It would enable us to accept the truth though how painful it is. Telling the truth in the parable is telling the truth with love.

King David could no longer hide.  He had to accept the truth that he sinned against God, and that he had to ask God’s forgiveness for what he did.  Indeed, our sin against our fellow human being is also a sin against God.  “What you have done to the least of my brethren”, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “You have done it unto me” (Mt. 25:40).

Principle of Retribution

According to Prophet Nathan, God had forgiven King David.  However, he had to suffer the consequences of his sinful acts.  The Israelites believed in historical retribution.  They believed in the basic principle in life that what we reap is what we sow. If we sow compassion, then we reap compassion.  If we sow deception, then we also reap deception.  It is very much like the principle of karma in the Filipino culture.

And so, King David had suffered a series of tragedies in life after that. The Scripture says that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23).  Although King David himself did not die as a consequence of his sin, his firstborn son with Bathsheba died. Then, his son Amnon raped her own half-sister Tamar. Absalom, also King David’s son and the brother of Tamar, killed Amnon in revenge for what he did to his sister.  Then, Absalom staged a coup against his own father, and he was killed in the process. Prophet Nathan saw all these things like consequences of King David’s sin.

Indeed, there is a social dimension to sin.  When we do something evil, we are not the only ones affected; the members of our family, those whom we loved and are close to us are also affected. As a matter of fact, even the whole community or the whole country would be affected, especially if we are leaders of a nation.

Principle of Restoration

But nevertheless, the prophets of old firmly believed that there is an antidote to the principle of retribution and that is the principle of restoration. The principle of restoration involves justice and transformation.  It is not enough to ask forgiveness from God; it is also necessary to ask forgiveness from the person whom we have wronged and do something to restore the broken relationship. This is where justice would come in.  Forgiveness without justice is empty.

But far deeper than that is the element of renewal and transformation.  Something must be done to prevent future kings from abusing the power and authority entrusted to them. The whole concept of kingship must be changed.  That’s the reason why the Deuteronomic writers had to revise the Mosaic Law and included a provision on kingship.  And part of the pertinent provision of that law says, “The king is not to have many wives because this would make him turn away from the LORD; and he is not to make himself rich with silver and gold”(Deut. 17:17).

And so, if there is any lesson that we should learn from King David’s reign, it is no other than the fact that leadership is a sacred calling from God. And therefore we have to exercise leadership as a good and responsible steward of the things that God entrusted to us, for the glory of God and for the benefit of the people.  It is when we abuse the power and authority God entrusted to us through the people that we are bound to fail.  Indeed, “Public office is a public trust”.  Amen. # nordis.net

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