What is a leader, but one who sets an example? This lesson gives us multiple examples of bad leaders and the results of their leadership, as well as good leaders and the blessings that flow from good leadership. Each person who studies this lesson should examine their life to see what kind of leadership they are demonstrating. We can all be better leaders by the choices we make each day.
When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam came to his throne he had two sets of councilors. The councilors who served his father told him that to find and keep the support of his people he should lighten the burden of his people and find ways to serve them. The councilors who were the same age as Rehoboam counselled him to assert his power over his people and rule them with tyranny, increasing their physical and financial burdens, grinding them down into submission. Rehoboam was foolish and followed the counsel of his younger counselors. When the representatives of the tribes of Israel heard his decision as to what kind of king he would be, they withdrew their support. Each tribe for a short while became its own independent entity. The only tribes the Lord left Rehoboam to govern were Judah in the city of Jerusalem, and the tribe of Benjamin.
Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s superintendents of taxes and labor. While Solomon was still alive the prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam that the Lord would take 10 of the tribes of Israel and give them to him to rule over because Solomon had broken his promises to the Lord. To be safe from Solomon’s anger, Jeroboam had to flee to the land of Egypt until Solomon was dead. Once he heard that Solomon was dead and that Rehoboam had been abandoned by 10 of the tribes, he returned to Israel and the 10 tribes crowned him king.
The Lord promised Jeroboam that he would establish His house if he would but serve God faithfully. Instead of serving the Lord, Jeroboam, because he feared losing his crown, decided that sending the people back to Jerusalem to worship God would only turn their hearts to Rehoboam. To make sure they did not go back to the temple in Jerusalem, Jeroboam made two golden calves and told the people to worship the calves instead of God. And the people did.
The sin of Jeroboam is that he deliberately turned the hearts of all 10 tribes of Israel away from Jehovah, and turned them to all forms of idolatry instead. The next 19 kings followed his example, causing the Lord to send in the Assyrians to take them captive. This is how we lost the remnants of the 10 tribes. The scriptures refer to each and every subsequent king as being guilty of the sin of Jeroboam. Such is their reputation that they are only known as being failures as kings because they followed in the sin of Jeroboam, which was to teach the people to worship idols and forsake the God of Israel.
In Israel, the northern kingdom, there were no righteous kings. In Judah, the southern kingdom, there were only four righteous kings. Let’s focus on Jehoshaphat because he beautifully demonstrates the qualities found in a good leader. One of the first things Jehoshaphat did as a new king was to remove the high places and groves from among the people. These were the places where the false gods were worshiped. What difference do you think removing the symbols and worship centers of the false gods made in Israel? Here is an even more important question for each of us: “What might we remove from our homes and from our personal lives so we can worship God with greater devotion?”
That second question is critical for us to be able to answer. As a leader Jehoshaphat knew he had to remove that which was holding back the spiritual progress of his people. Get rid of the impediments and the people can move forward. What is holding each of us back from moving forward in our spiritual progress? Which gods (habits, toys, behaviors, attitudes, etc.) are holding us back from progressing spiritually? What kind of personal cleaning do we need to do in our own lives in order to allow the Spirit to move more freely through our lives.
The second thing Jehoshaphat did was to send Levites out to teach the people from “the book of the law of the Lord.” The people had been a long time without the scriptures in their lives. He recognized the importance of each person understanding the scriptures so everyone knew what the Lord expected of them. What difference does scripture study make for you in your life, and what difference does encouraging others to read the scriptures make?
Three kings declared war on Judah at the same time. These were powerful armies, armies Judah could not defeat alone. Faced with certain doom, Jehoshaphat exercised his personal faith in the Lord and called all the people of the kingdom to fast for help and to gather at Jerusalem to plead, as a people, with the Lord for protection. 2 Chronicles 20:12 – 13 says,
12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
The people admitted to the Lord that they were not able to withstand such a mighty force. They placed themselves in the hands of the Lord, trusting in His mercy to save them. In 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17 it reads,
15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.
How many times does the Lord make us struggle for what we get? Generally we are made to struggle when the achievement is within our abilities to acquire for ourselves. But when something happens that is above and beyond what we can do for ourselves, the Lord steps in and does it for us. This is just one of a number of instances where the Lord said, in effect, stand back and watch me work out your salvation.
So what did our good king Jehoshaphat do? He appointed people to sing praises to God during the battle, instead of preparing the people to fight. The Lord had just told them they would not have to lift a finger in the fight. He just wanted them to show up for the fight and be still so they could watch Him work miracles for them. When we are placed in a position where we need to exercise faith in God, do we appoint singers to praise the Lord or do we secretly arm ourselves, just in case the Lord falls through? This is a real demonstration of faith, isn’t it?
When the people began to sing the Lord turned their enemies upon themselves. Note that this took a lot of faith for the people of Judah. They had to prepare to go to battle, but not take any arms with them. They had to do something that was totally counter-intuitive, sing at their enemies. And once they saw the Lord’s handiwork all they had to do was collect the treasure from all the dead bodies. For some odd reason the enemy came loaded with gold and jewels. There was so much to collect that it took three days to get it all and even then they did not have a way to haul it all away. The Lord had not only fought their battle for them, but He had enriched them beyond measure in the process. How often does the Lord not only fight our battles for us, but enrich us beyond measure in the process? Can you think of a time?
Jeroboam and Rehoboam both set personal examples that encouraged others to live lives of wickedness. Both caused many people to turn from the Lord and forsake His ways. Eventually, this led to the destruction of their lands and the enslavement of their people.
On the other hand, you have a righteous king like Jehoshaphat who set a good example of exercising faith in God, who taught others the scriptures and the importance of believing the promises the Lord had made to them. Because of the missionary work Jehoshaphat did among his own people, when they needed the Lord more than at any other time, they were able to fast and pray in faith and receive the promised blessings. The Lord fought their battles, saved their lives, and enriched them beyond measure.
Here are some personal questions for you. What kind of example do I live for those around me? Do I encourage others to keep the commandments? Do I defend the teachings of the prophets and personally study the Lord’s word in the scriptures? Have I cast out of my life those things that are holding me back spiritually? I am not alone in this life. My example affects the choices others make. Am I making choices each day that encourage others to make good choices that will bring them happiness?
We are all leaders. In the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as just a follower. Any of us who have made covenants with God have also promised to demonstrate Christ-like behavior at all times and in all places. We may not be a completely good example for others to follow, but we can choose to be better each day than we were the day before.