What Does God’s Word Have to Say About Leaders?

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“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

While I agree with John Maxell’s description of a leader, I think one word should be added to that quote: “good.” As in, “A good leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

History is replete with terrible leaders who not only didn’t know the way, go the way, or show the way, but who misused and abused their power to lead people in the wrong direction. Think Nero, Stalin, Hitler, etc.

Even in ancient times, bad leaders were abundant. In the Bible, God provides us with several profiles of precisely the kind people we should avoid when choosing our leadership.

At the top of the list is King Ahab. His father, King Omri “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” With that as his example, it is no surprise that when Ahab succeeded Omri as king, he also did evil. Yet somehow, Ahab surpassed not only his father, but all those who had come before him in terms of wrong doing.

In the book of Kings, the writer explains, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

The Herods are another set of terrible leaders found in Scripture. It was Herod the Great who ordered the extermination of all the male children two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. His son, Herod Archelaus was greatly feared and at one point slaughtered 3,000 of the people under his rule. Herod Antipas was famous for beheading John the Baptist in order to satisfy the bloodlust of his sister-in-law/wife, Herodious. He also wanted to kill Jesus and, when Jesus was brought before him, ridiculed and mocked him before sending him to Pilate for a Roman execution.

In stark contrast to these examples, we find several leaders who knew God’s way, went that way, and showed others the way.

For instance, there was Josiah, who began his rule over Israel at the age of eight. During his reign, the Book of the Law was found and a revival broke out. The Bible says that Josiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.

David is one of the most well-known leaders found in Scripture. Despite his many faults and failings, he was a good leader and a fearless warrior. God described David as “a man after my heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

By far the greatest leader profiled in God’s Word is Jesus Christ. Though He had a clear advantage over everyone else – namely, that He was fully God and full man – He founded a movement that has lasted to this day: Christianity. Even more importantly, He led the way for all of us to be forgiven and experience eternal life in fellowship with God by laying down His own life on our behalf.

What we have to keep in mind is that whether a leader is good or bad, God continues to accomplish His will. He is sovereign. He is responsible for setting leaders in place (often for reasons and purposes we do not understand). “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities,” Paul directed in his letter to the church in Rome, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

As we celebrate and remember George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and all of the great presidential leaders in American history, it’s important to recognize that above and behind leadership is God Himself. Presidents’ Day provides us with an opportunity to pause, give thanks to God for His leadership in our lives, and pray for those whom He has allowed to be in positions of authority over us.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” – 1 Timothy 2:1,2

Biblica Staff

Biblica, the International Bible Society, is a worldwide ministry that has been helping people read and understand God’s Word for over 200 years. We are committed to providing the Bible in accurate, contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world will have the opportunity to be transformed by Jesus Christ. We do this through translation and publishing, by making the Bible accessible, and with innovative Bible engagement programs like Community Bible Experience. To learn more about our ministry and how you can partner with us to share God’s Word with people around the world, go to our ministry page.