FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
FAILING AND FALLING
February 3, 2016
Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 24:2-17
We continue to learn about servant leadership in the Old Testament story of David, that great servant leader (king), with regards to the census and the plague.
On numbering the people
King David ordered a census of the Israelites “that I may know their number.” (v.2). God was displeased. This is because God’s people belonged to Him and not to His instrument or top servant leader, and so only He needs to know their exact number.
Today, whether in parishes or communities, we do number our people. This is to know how we stand and what work we can do. Joab’s census gave “figures to the king: of men capable of wielding a sword” (v.9). How can we move confidently forward, especially in war (for us, spiritual), if we do not know our manpower or financial resources?
So what is right: do we number our people or not? It depends on one’s intent. If it is to serve God unselfishly as a true servant leader, then it is OK and even necessary. But if it is to be triumphalistic or proud of numbers or to feel superior to others, then it is very wrong.
For us, we number our brethren in CFC-FFL, for many good pastoral purposes, and for the sake of continuing mission. For LCSC, which is a movement, we look at results of programs, but do not maintain a list of LCS graduates or keep detailed info on those who become part of the movement. God knows, and we just need to know the broad strokes of where God is bringing the movement.
Sinning against the Lord
David had his selfish intent in numbering the Israelites. As king, he could then exercise centralized power, impose taxation, conscription and expropriation upon Israel (NAB footnote). David later “regretted having numbered the people. David said to the Lord: ‘I have sinned grievously in what I have done.” (v.10a). We all make mistakes, and we all many times miss what is God’s intent for us as His servant leaders. We must be humble enough to admit our errors.
At times like these, we can always look to God’s mercy. “Take away, Lord, your servant’s guilt, for I have acted very foolishly.” (v.10b). We repent sincerely, and we are forgiven.
Repentance restores us to God, by His mercy. But sin always has consequences. So David had three choices of terrible consequences (v.13). For us, Jesus already paid the price for our sins, but we pay the price for the consequences of our sins. This is a good thing. This is how we learn not to go against God’s ways. This is the experience of true mercy, where we are led to a turnaround and a transformation of life. We take the bitter pill and move on. “I am greatly distressed. But let us fall into the hand of God, whose mercy is great, rather than into human hands.” (v.14).
Now here is a sobering reality. As servant leaders, we not only suffer the consequences of our sins, but our sins adversely affect the lives of those we lead. David chose the plague, and “seventy thousand of the people died.” (v.15). If only we were the ones to suffer for what we do wrong. “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these sheep, what have they done? Strike me and my father’s family!” (v.17). But again, our sins affect others. If the shepherd does not watch and protect the sheep or abandons them, then they will be lost, will go hungry, or be devoured by predators. Be very mindful of your responsibility as a servant leader!
Looking to God’s mercy
Servant leaders have such an important task, as God entrusts His work to them. With such a great privilege comes great responsibility. As such, we will be punished for our neglect, disobedience, rebellion.
We serve a demanding and jealous God, who looks to our commitment, loyalty and faithfulness. God alone! But our just God is also our merciful God. We will indeed fall and fail, but we can look with confidence to God’s mercy. “But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord changed his mind about the calamity, and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people: Enough now! Stay your hand.” (v.16a).
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