Being the leader of a community isn’t easy. A cartoon shows a man near death lying on a hospital bed. Two visitors sit next to him, and one hands him a card. “The good news, Pastor,” she says, “is that the Women’s Club at the church decided to get this ‘Get Well’ card for you. The bad news is that the vote was 23 to 22!”
That could be the picture of any of a hundred different leaders in our world today. A prime minister skates at the bottom of the popularity polls. A president wins a Nobel Peace Prize from those outside of his country but receives buckets of complaints from those within it. Another world leader seems intent on courting the disfavor of the whole world.
If one of them were to be taken to hospital, Hallmark Card company stock would not go up a penny! The ancient Greek philosopher was right: “Authority is never without hate.”
Years ago, Jim Lundy wrote a book called Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way. According to Lundy, the most common message circulating in many organizations is this lament: We the uninformed, working for the inaccessible, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
To put it another way, he says, most people feel like the mushrooms being grown in one of those long, low barns: We believe we’re being kept in the dark. Every once in a while someone comes around and spreads manure on us. When our heads pop up, they’re chopped off. And then we’re canned!
Do you ever feel like that?
Psalm 72 is a song of royal leadership. It has no hint of the tired frustration we so often feel about heads of state and leaders of corporations. Enthusiasm builds, till it seems as if the sun rises and sets on the king. He is given high marks all around:
· Vision (vv. 2-4): A+
· Personal Integrity (vv. 5-7): A+
· Prophetic Voice (vv. 8-11): A+
· Compassionate Heart (vv. 12-14): A+
· Accountability (vv. 15-17): A+
The person who originally received this chorus of praise must have been quite a man. Was it David? Was it Solomon himself? Or did Solomon write it for a son he hoped would be even wiser than his father?
Probably we’ll never know. But the New Testament church had no problem identifying a Son of David and Solomon who lived up to the glories shouted in Psalm 72. Isaac Watts’s well-known hymn paraphrases the psalm this way:
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does its successive journeys run,
Dis kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
In His Steps
If Psalm 72 stirs in us noble thoughts about David or Solomon, it does well. And if it points us to King Jesus, so much the better. But if it fills us with a desire to actively participate in such a kingdom ourselves, then the Word of God is doing its best work. For every child of God is a king or queen who shares the possibilities of restoring righteousness and dignity to relationships on earth.
In the words of Ted Engstrom:
The world needs men [and women] . . .
who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond;
who put character above wealth; who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocation;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be as honest in small things as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who are true to their friends through good report and evil;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth. . . .
Who are the lay leaders that you know who are active in your church? Celebrate them! Encourage them.