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Biblical Leadership Hints for US Presidential Election


David and Goliath, by Caravaggio

Is it possible that the Biblical story of Israel’s evolution– from nomads to slaves to free people who chose their own government—can shed needed light on today’s Presidential election?

All the way back to Abraham, God told this earliest of patriarchs that kings would be included in Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you” (Gen. 17:6, NRSV).

The centripetal forces or ‘glue’ that held the twelve tribes together, weren’t just political or military leaders, such as Saul and later David–both anointed as kings. Rather it was the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law given in their wilderness crossing and turned to again and again for direction and guidance as they forged a nation out of tribes.

One can only wonder today how much ‘glue’, in the pluralistic societies that constitute historically Judeo-Christian countries like the United States, still exists of a shared moral law with the power to bind people to both it and each other.

Like today, ancient Israel also experienced centrifugal forces pulling them apart. There was the physical challenge of the land’s geography, not conducive to a strong political unit as ridges and gorges made it difficult for separated tribes to come together.

More dangerous were the reasserting forces of Baal and polytheism that presented a constant competition between the powers of Yahweh and Baal. Recall Elijah’s battle with Jezebel’s Baal prophets as he defended Yahweh (see I Kings 18). (Just use the surrogates of today’s many ‘idols’ – whether the pursuit of a perfect body image, wealth or non-stop entertainment — as a substitute for Baal and we see how apropos Israel’s challenges are to our own.)

Yet there was a countering centripetal force that held the tribes together: the invading Philistines. Enter the young shepherd, David, into Israel’s history.   The impact he would make for generations, defeating the enemy starting with Goliath, would be unmatched until Jesus of Nazareth’s arrival a millennium later.

Unfortunately, King Saul’s jealousy would rob the monarch of the gratitude he should have had for David, who would go on to unite the twelve tribes, bring needed peace to the new nation, and write some of the world’s most powerful songs or Psalms. Saul’s jealousy prompted the pursuit of David some sixteen times to kill him, as two vivid examples relate in I Sam 24 and 26 (the former when David doesn’t kill Saul in a cave and the latter sparing of Saul’s life at an encampment near Ziph.)

In addition to the magnanimity David shows someone trying to destroy him, today’s political candidates can discover specific leadership lessons from Deut. 17:14-20. These convey God’s intended qualifications for a future leader. For the purpose of space, I’ll site two and invite you to discover the others. See if you think many, or all, of the characteristics still apply.

  • “Be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses” (Deut. 17: 15). Embedded in this aspect is a democratic election process by the people, i.e. ‘select’, and the ability to discern an individual who is selected for the office and times by God.
  • “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll…(and) always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees” (Deut. 17:18-19).

Can someone please hand our candidates a pen so they can get writing?!

5 Responses to Biblical Leadership Hints for US Presidential Election

  1. Joy S. August 2, 2016 at 6:43 am #

    Thanks so much for pulling these ideas together and sharing them during this challenging election season. Very helpful! I look forward to studying the Deut. verses.

  2. Tawny Cleveland August 2, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    Thank you Maddie!
    Loved your ideas and learning a new word, centripetal.
    It keeps coming to me to “Rise in the strength of Spirit” each time I am tempted to be disheartened about the behavior of the candidates during our election process.
    It lead to an interesting conversation with our 16 year old, including about David, that David was an obscure figure to a well known figure like King Saul. And yet he brought peace, healing, and demonstrated the positive outcome of relying on God. We ended up talking about the other choices in the this election and discussed the parties and candidates that aren’t as well known as the Democrats and Republicans. We all committed to praying for God’s guidance and grace each moment as we consider our upcoming election.

    • Shirley McDougall August 3, 2016 at 7:18 am #

      Thank you Madelon, always, for your insightful sharing of the Bible messages that are so meaningful today.

  3. Shirley McDougall August 3, 2016 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you Madelon for your helpful insights. You always have such good examples from the Bible to share regarding current situations which is what is needed.

    • Madelon August 3, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      You are so welcome, Shirley, and thank you for writing. Always a treat to hear they are helpful!

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