The great leader is truly a servant of the people. Unfortunately, too many in leadership today—in government, in business, in the church—are not public servants. They may run to get elected or selected based on what they will do for their constituents, but soon after getting into power, their main purpose seems to be doing whatever they can to stay in power. But the good heart of a godly leader cares about the health and happiness as well as the success and significance of the people they serve in the present moment, in the journey forward, and in the season after the leader’s time is up.
Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 27:15-17
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
What makes a great leader? Charisma? Skill? The right look? The ability to move people to achieve the vision of the leader or the mission of the community they lead? An impressive record of throttling the competition? Improving the company’s financial bottom line? Likeability?
Most, if not all, of the aforementioned qualities and benchmarks are good, but I would submit to you that what sets a leader above all the rest is the addition of this one attribute: they shepherd the people with a passion for their wellbeing, present and future. In other words, they are not in it for themselves, and they are not in it for the moment. They truly care about the health and happiness as well as the success and significance of their people in the present moment, in the journey forward, and in the season after the leader’s time is up.
The great leader is truly a servant of the people. Unfortunately, too many in leadership today—in government, in business, in the church—are not public servants. They may run to get elected or selected based on what they will do for their constituents, but soon after getting into power, their main purpose seems to be doing whatever they can to stay in power. People are no longer theirs to be served, but to be used to further the aspirations of the leader, the board of directors, the stockholders and the powers that be.
Jesus had some different thoughts about leadership, didn’t he? He told his disciples, “Jesus called his disciples together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Simon Peter, one of the twelve disciples, a guy who didn’t mind pushing his agenda forward before his transforming encounter with Christ, said, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3). He went on to say, “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
Of course, Jesus and Peter were both referring to spiritual leadership, but nonetheless, their exhortations show us God’s ideal for all human leadership. Regardless of the venue, this is the leadership of which God approves: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4)
In the account of Numbers 27, Moses is overlooking the promised land, gazing upon what he would never attain in this life. God had called him up to the heights of this mountain range, and there the Almighty, the giver of the breath of life, informed this faithful leader that he would take Moses’ breath from him. Moses’ work was coming to an end. As indispensable as he had been in leading Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, establishing them as a nation under the law of God, he was dispensable. God was, after all, the true leader of Israel and Moses was only the human instrument in God’s hands. He would not lead them into the Promised Land; another leader would.
But rather than being fearful, upset, or even curious about his life’s end, Moses’ concern was for the people he had shepherded all these years. He wanted to make sure they had a worthy leader; one who would protect and guide the people, who would shepherd the flock so they wouldn’t be scattered, who would ensure they came into the promised fullness of God.
Over the forty years in the wilderness tending his father-in-law’s sheep, and over the past forty years tending to the people of Israel as they wandered in the Sinai wilderness, Moses had truly developed a pastor’s heart. Even in the face of his own death, he was still pastoring his people.
That is the good heart of a great leader, for in his heart, he always carries his people.