By David Faust
The Bible is the best leadership manual ever written. As the books of 1 and 2 Kings unfold biblical history, they also highlight positive examples to follow and tragic mistakes to avoid. Here are 10 lessons from Israel’s kings that every leader should take to heart:
1. Ask God for wisdom. Solomon prayed, “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9). No one is smart enough to lead without God’s help.
2. Don’t be afraid to tackle the hard stuff. Leaders can’t dodge tough issues. Early in his reign, Solomon had to settle a complicated dispute involving two women who each claimed a baby as her own. Solomon’s famous “split the baby” solution earned widespread respect for his leadership (vv. 16-28).
3. Surround yourself with other capable leaders. Ego-centric leaders act independently and unilaterally. Solomon recognized the value of working with a team, so he wisely appointed other officials to share the load (4:1-19).
4. Find resources to fund the mission. Solomon gathered financial provisions and created strategic alliances with others who provided wood, stone, and labor for his building projects (4:20-28, 5:1-18). Under bad kings like Menahem, however, Israel’s tax money didn’t stay in the country; it flowed out as tribute money to the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:17-20).
5. Pursue excellence. Solomon made sure the temple and his palace were built to high standards (1 Kings 6:1–7:51). By contrast, instead of correcting sloppy spiritual and management practices, kings like Jehoash allowed them to go unchecked and continued the sins of previous administrations (2 Kings 13:11).
6. Pray for your followers. Solomon embraced his role as a spiritual leader. He blessed the people and led in prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:1-66). By contrast, instead of praying to the Lord, King Ahaziah consulted the false god Baal-Zebub (2 Kings 1:1-6).
7. Beware the temptations of power, greed, and immorality. Even the great king Solomon foolishly married 700 wives and kept 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-6), and the wicked ruler Manasseh led others astray by worshiping idols (2 Kings 21:1-9). Moral compromise destroys a leader’s influence.
8. Serve humbly and people follow; rule harshly and they rebel. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeded him as king, Rehoboam rejected the tempered counsel of the elders and followed the hard-nosed advice of his younger friends. The results were divisive and disastrous (1 Kings 12).
9. Stay faithful to God. When leaders succumbed to idolatry and made up their own rules about how to worship God, things went awry.
10. Recognize the ripple effect of your decisions. In Israel, the breakdown of godly leadership led to social chaos and to God’s judgment. Evil kings left behind a legacy of disaster. Good kings left things in better shape than they found them.
When 1 Kings begins, Israel is united and prosperous. When 2 Kings ends, the nation is divided and the people are in exile (2 Kings 25). In between, it’s all about leadership. Kings come and go, their reigns marked by summary statements noting how long they served and whether or not they remained faithful to God.
The Old Testament kings serve as a sobering reminder that leaders ultimately are not evaluated by length of service, opinion polls, and approval ratings—in the final analysis, leaders are accountable to God.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 21, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Kings 4, 5
2 Kings 6, 7
2 Kings 8, 9
2 Kings 10, 11
2 Kings 12, 13
2 Kings 14, 15