As I am writing this piece, they are counting the last few ballots in the state of Ohio, U.S.A. By the time you read this, the world would have known who will be President of the United States for the next four years.
You would either be relieved and rejoicing, or, angry and frustrated, depending on whom you were hoping to win. But unless you were blindly partisan, you would not be thinking that your preferred candidate had no faults. Or that his opponent had nothing good in him.
It is the nature of the democratic process to be adversarial. Election campaigns than, consist of highlighting your strengths, and pointing out the weaknesses of your opponent. Therefore one can easily lapse into a position where your guy can do no wrong. And the other guy can do no right. In truth, even the best of us have clay feet.
King David is the exemplary king in the bible. He was the man after God’s own heart. And Jesus came from his lineage.
“(God) raised up David as their king, of whom He testified: ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will carry out all My will.’ >From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Saviour, Jesus, to Israel.” Acts 13:22b-23 (HCSB)
David was the best humankind could offer. And he was hopelessly flawed.
Adultery, murder, abuse of power, lying, these were but his more obvious sins. He could have been executed for any number of them.
Instead, after he repented, he was allowed to continue to rule Israel. Israel and the Church continue to use his Psalms as our principal guide to their worship. And he will always be known as the man after God’s own heart.
If the popular view of David weren’t so romanticized, the incongruence between his status as ‘a man after God’s own heart’, and his sins, would constantly be in our face.
But I believe God deliberately chose David to be His special King. In doing so, He is in fact telling us that even the best that humankind can offer is still a member of the tribe of Adam. That even the best of us are flawed.
Even the best of our leaders are flawed. This truth is a corrective to the messianic expectations that we often place on our earthly leaders, especially during elections. If we forget that there is only one Messiah, we will be setting ourselves up for either denial. Or disillusionment.
I am not at all implying that there are no good people out there serving in leadership in our governments, our companies, and our churches. Indeed the bible exhorts us to respect our leaders.
“Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labour among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem very highly in love because of their work.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13a (HCSB)
Paul is talking about the church but I think the principles here are also applicable to the marketplace. We thank God for every competent and humble leader. Some, of course, are more competent and more humble than others.
Sooner or later however, we will discover that even the best of our leaders have flaws, sometimes very serious ones. Often we feel very betrayed because we put so much trust and hope in them.
In times like these, it is useful to be reminded of King David, that in essence, God has already warned us that even the best we can offer will never be really good enough.
Think of the book of Kings. There we go through a long list of Kings of both Israel and Judah. And apart from a few hopeful flickers, all, to a man, were disappointments. None could “pull the sword from the stone”. Until the coming of Jesus.
The imperfections of all earthly leaders are meant to remind us that there is only one perfect leader, God Himself. The imperfections of the Israelite Kings only serve to remind the Israelites of the mistake they had made when they opted for earthly kings over the direct kingship of God (1Samuel 8:1-9).
The imperfections of our leaders serve to teach us the same lesson. That really, humankind will never be ok again until they return to the Kingship of God.
We await the coming King. The travails of our present time make us even more impatient for His return. In the meantime we make do with what we have.
Leadership is lonely and difficult even in the best of times. Our leaders deserve all the legitimate support we can give them. They also do not need to function under unrealistic expectations of perfection.
God’s grace has kept the world going since the Garden of Eden. But thank God there will be a new heaven and a new earth. And a King yet to come. He is our model. And our true hope.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan