What does the Bible say about leadership? The Bible can be used as a textbook for leadership because it can be seen as a history of God raising those who led his people according to his will. 1
This is the first of three blog posts where I will share the biblical history of three leaders and their unique characteristics that reflect a biblical philosophy of leadership.
Joshua’s Example of Growth in God’s Word
The example of Joshua displays the growth of a leader in God’s Word. That growth started in the book of Deuteronomy. Addressing the nation of Israel Moses declared,
Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, New Living Translation).
A. The Importance of the “Shema”
The book of Deuteronomy is characterized by this statement by Moses known as the “Shema” which is named after the Hebrew word שָׁמַע for “hear” in verse 4. In addition to the Shema there are eight other passages in Deuteronomy affirming a similar message of whole hearted devotion to grow in God’s Word. 2
The Shema is seen as the fundamental dogma of the Old Testament and was identified by Christ in Mark 12:29-30 as the most important of all of the commandments. 3 The importance of the Shema for the Israelites was that they were to love their God with their whole being (intellect, emotions, will, etc.).
Joshua, as Moses’ assistant (Joshua 1:1) and servant of the Lord (24:29) was given the task of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land and was entrusted to lead Israel in obedience and growth in God’s Word. 4 Joshua, as Israel’s new leader, highlighted God’s call for Israel to be God’s holy Word. 5 Joshua emphasized and encouraged the people of Israel to keep growing in the Word of God in several ways.
Among his first words to Israel as its new leader Joshua said, “Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left” (Joshua 1:7). He continued, “Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8).
These introductory remarks from Joshua are the first of what he would restate three more times throughout his time as Israel’s leader (12:32; 22:5; 23:6). In this way, Joshua was commanding the people of Israel to grow in the Word of God and to become more and more holy to God.
B. Passion for God’s Word as a Requirement for Leadership
With Joshua’s example of a Godly leader growing in God’s word and encouraging others to grow it is clear that a requirement for a leader is a passion for God and his Word. In his book, Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders states, “Spiritual leaders of every generation will have a consuming passion to know the Word of God through diligent study and the illumination of the Holy Spirit” (p. 102).
Sanders continues, “The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually will be reading constantly” (p. 102). Just as Joshua encouraged the people he led to “be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction” (Joshua 23:6) so also must God’s leaders of today. Living out Joshua’s statement means that reading is required of the leaders God choses.
Reading the Scriptures in order to grow is what Paul encouraged Timothy to do when he wrote, “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them” (1 Timothy 4:13). This reading of the Scriptures refers to the public reading of the Old Testament. 6 The same Book of Instruction introduced by Moses and implemented by Joshua was still being read and followed more than 1,400 years later.
C. Methods of Growth in God’s Word Differ
The concept of daily devotion to the Word of God as a way to mold and grow a leader is essential. With technology the method of growth can look very different for each leader based on his preference, but the thing that must not be different in a leader’s devotion to God’s Word.
- Andrew Seidel, Charting a Bold Course: Training Leaders for the 21st Century (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2003), 25. ↩
- See Deuteronomy 4:29; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10. Herbert Wolf, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991), 256. ↩
- Wolf, Introduction to the Old Testament: Pentateuch, 256. ↩
- David Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1993), 67. ↩
- Joseph Coleson, “Joshua,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 3, ed. Philip Comfort (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012), 18. ↩
- J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 101. ↩