There’s much to be said for a good leader

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 17, 2015

When Israel’s first king was weighed in the balance and found wanting, scripture tells us that God sent Samuel to the house of a man named Jesse in order to find the next king. If that sounds at all familiar to you, it means you probably know the rest of the story.

Each of the sons of Jesse passes by the man of God. Each of them impresses Samuel. Samuel was worried about setting out to anoint a new king for fear that the present king might take offense. That suggests that Samuel was ready to get this over with and pick any one of Jesse’s sons just to be done.

But as each son passed by, and as Samuel rushed to judgment, the voice of God whispered – “not this one.” God looks on the heart of a person, the text says, and not the surface image.

Finally, there was no one left to take part in the parade and Samuel asked, “Is that all there is?” Jesse said that there was one more the youngest – and everyone knew that the last was the least – who was left to watch the flocks.

At Samuel’s behest, the young son is sent for and when he arrives it is revealed to Samuel that David is the one whom God had chosen to lead the people in Saul’s stead. Samuel anoints David to be king and eventually David will be king.

David is remembered for many things – many good, some not so good – and among them was his strength as a commander because he waged a guerilla campaign to unite the tribes of the confederacy into a kingdom, fought off external enemies, and triumphed over a palace uprising led by his own son.

Jump forward in time in the biblical witness to the time of Ezekiel, long after the kingdom was divided in two – Israel in the north and Judah in the south. When God speaks through Ezekiel concerning the failure of leadership among God’s people, God indicts the “shepherds” of Israel because, “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”

Much can be said about what makes a good leader. Much has been said. But I think that says a lot.


– Bob Madsen is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA.