Big Idea: A good leader has faithful character, hates evil, and loves the faithful. Only Jesus perfectly meets this standard.
As you know, the world has been rocked this year by a series of calamities: a pandemic, economic crisis, and racial protests. The country to the south of us is also in the middle of an election right now with two very different visions for the future of that country. And our own country is experiencing a little leadership turmoil itself, with the minister of finance resigning and another party recently selecting a new leader.
What does the Bible say about this? The world is always in crisis, and we definitely need good leaders. But what does the Bible say about leadership?
Some think the Bible says nothing. They think hat the Bible only covers topics like church and our individual relationship with God.
But then you come to a Psalm like the one we just read and realize that the Bible has a lot to say about the way the world operates. The Bible has lots to say about God’s vision for leaders, as well as about issues of justice.
So here’s the question. What does a good leader look like?
This psalm answers with thee qualities. Here’s the first.
We read in the inscription that this psalm was written by David, King of Israel. It reads like a reflection of his standards for what a good king should do. It’s a reflection on what makes for a faithful leader.
According to David, the first quality that a good leader needs is faithful conduct. Read verses 1 to 4:
I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house.
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
David talks about the kind of leader he wants to be. The first thing he talks about is faithfulness in his conduct. He describes things like:
- a commitment to love and justice
- a desire to ponder how to live blamelessly
- personal integrity
- a refusal to entertain evil in his heart
David doesn’t begin by thinking about accomplishments or power. He begins with character. This was not like other kings in the Ancient Near East, who leveraged their position for personal benefit — even excess — with little accountability, who expected to be served rather than to serve.
David knows what a high standard this is, so much so that in verse 2 he asks, “Oh when will you come to me?” David knows that he needs God’s help to live out this calling.
What does a good leader look like? A good leader has faithful character. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of the classic book The Leadership Challenge, write:
It’s clear that if people anywhere are to willingly follow someone—whether it’s into battle or the boardroom, in the front office or on the production floor—they first want to be sure that the individual is worthy of their trust. They want to know that the person is truthful, ethical, and principled.
As someone else puts it, “The most desirable qualities in a leader are not qualifications, charisma, or connections, but personal godliness coupled with demonstrated faithfulness in one’s calling” (Richard D. Phillips).
The second thing David mentions is an intolerance for evil. Listen to what he writes in verses 5 and 7-8:
Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure…
No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.
Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all the evildoers
from the city of the LORD.
This sounds harsh to us. Why is David so intolerant? Because it’s the only right option. Let me explain.
A couple of weeks ago, author and artist Jackie Hill Perry was in Stone Mountain, Georgia to film a video. A white supremacist militia started to gather for a rally with rifles and confederate flags. Imagine being a black woman sitting on a porch watching a crowd of racists gather with guns right outside.
As she watched, a woman came by. “Do you know who these people are? They’re the kids and grandkids of people I protested. No. This is not going to happen in 2020.” This woman faithfully hated racism and white supremacy. There’s no other righteous option.
That’s the kind of faithful hatred that good leaders need: no tolerance for injustice and deceit, no room for wicked people in the leader’s inner circle. David envisions running the courts so well that justice is served and evildoers get their due. A good leader has faithful character, and a good leader has a faithful hatred of evil.
There’s one more quality that David mentions.
Read verse 6:
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
Some scholars think this is the centerpiece of the psalm. A good leader has a faithful character and a faithful hatred of evil, but that’s not all. A good leader loves those who are faithful and looks out for them.
That’s what a good leader looks like. A good leader has three qualities: faithful character, a faithful hatred of evil, and love for other faithful people.
If you are a leader of any kind — a boss, a warden, a teacher, a parent — this is what God desires from you. Ask God to make you this kind of leader. This is what we should desire from our leaders. But David didn’t live up to this, and neither have our political or business leaders. This is the model of leadership that we should shoot for, but we all fall short.
But there is one leader who met this standard, one faithful King who was completely faithful in his character, who hated and defeated evil, and who loves anyone who comes to him wanting a relationship with God. He is “‘great David’s greater Son,’ the King of kings and Lord of lords” (Spurgeon). He’s the King who died for unworthy subjects so that anyone who trusts in him can live. There has never been another king like him.
If you hear nothing else today, please hear this:
A good leader has faithful character, hates evil, and loves the faithful. Only Jesus perfectly meets this standard.
Ultimately he is the King we long for. He’s the only king who won’t disappoint. Look to him today.
Father, help us to long for this kind of leader. Help us to set this standard for our own leadership. But thank you for Jesus who is the perfect King, the only one who truly meets this standard. Help us to trust him today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.