Godly Habits for Leaders and Others

All the people benefit from leaders and rulers who fear God.  In Deuteronomy, when God reluctantly says Israel may set a king over them in the future[1], He also required the king to have specific habits to cultivate a fear of God in them:

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”  (Deuteronomy 17:18-20, emphasis mine)

These requirements have several parts.  First, the king was to “write for himself in a book a copy of this law.”  “This law” refers to what we now think of as the first five books of the Bible – all 187 chapters of it.  Imagine the time that would take, but this tedious exercise was designed to help the king internalize the message.  Quickly skimming over the Bible would not do.

Second, the king had to get this copy “approved by the Levitical priests,” to make sure nothing was added or left out, but also to remind the king that His authority is subject to God’s authority, as intermediated by the priests at that time.  Regardless of what laws the king might pass, God’s laws would always reign supreme and eternal.

Third, the king was to “read in it all the days of his life,” because it takes time and effort to dig the treasures of wisdom out of the Bible.  However, it is worth the effort because Psalm 19:10 tells us these truths are:

More to be desired are they than gold,
                        even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
                        and drippings of the honeycomb.

Also, the king would be surrounded by reminders of his worldly greatness every day, so constant meditation on the law would show him his reliance on God.  The king needs a constant reminder that he is under God, whose law applies to everyone.

These habits exist “that he may learn to fear the LORD,” which leads to “doing” the law.  Even the king is expected to do what God commands, not just tell others to.  With “doing” as the objective, the king will remain humble and learn the fear of God, because we may be able to know God’s word, but doing it is the real challenge and we can only succeed by His grace.

These habits also exist to make sure the king does not err “either to the right hand or to the left.”  This encouragement is later echoed in Moses’ words in Joshua 1:7-8, but what does it mean?  I think it means that without constant saturation in God’s word, we can fall into a trap of not following God’s positive will, but instead defining ourselves by what we’re against.  In trying to avoid one sin, we drift too far in the opposite direction and into another, equally destructive, sin.  Instead, positive obedience coming from the fear of God should be better than fine gold and “sweeter also than honey.”  Truth is often subtle and not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

Most of us aren’t kings, but we can apply the passage from Deuteronomy in our prayers.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  But what shall we pray for them?  As Deuteronomy suggests, we should pray that they know God, fear God, and obey God, that they may be humble, and we may prosper.

Also, are you a leader?  Do you serve in a position of authority at your church, workplace, or other organization?  These habits will benefit you and those you serve anywhere.  (In societies where we can easily get a Bible, we don’t need to create our own copies of it, but we should seek to internalize as much of the Bible as possible, through memorization and other means.)  As Solomon wrote in Psalm 127:1 –

Unless the LORD builds the house,
            those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
            the watchman stays awake in vain.

If you’re not a leader, these habits are beneficial for you as well, as Psalm 128:1 says:

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
                        who walks in his ways!


[1] Deuteronomy 17:14-15

God Rules in His Sleep

In Mark’s Gospel, he tells a story of Jesus taking a nap, causing His disciples to panic.  Does it ever seem like God is asleep, leaving you feeling adrift the world’s circumstances?  When Jesus walked the earth, there were times when God literally was asleep.

One story comes from Mark 4:35-41.

On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

At the beginning of the story, Jesus told His disciples they were going to cross the Sea of Galilee, then knowing what was coming, “He who keeps Israel[1] took a nap.  Had the disciples understood Jesus, His napping should have reassured them that they were safe, since He was not concerned about the storm.  Instead, they thought He didn’t care, which showed that fear of the storm had overcome whatever faith they had.  Jesus said they were going across, but they doubted.

Which brings up a very important question.

When did the wind and the sea obey Jesus?  At the beginning of the story, at the end, or both?  Or at all times?  Before Jesus calmed the storm, was the sea being disobedient to God’s laws and will?

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

I believe Jesus calmed this storm so that next time He wouldn’t have to.  He was teaching them that He always cares, regardless of what the circumstances seem to say.  He was teaching them that even when it seems like He’s asleep, He is still in control of our circumstances no matter how chaotic they look and feel to us.  During the next storm, He wanted them not to panic, but to trust Him because He showed them no circumstance escapes His notice.  The storm does not control us; He controls the storm.

When Jesus calmed the storm, He did not create a hedge (See Job 1:10) around His disciples, He just demonstrated that it existed all along.  God was not going to let His Son drown before His mission was complete and neither will He let His other children drown before their work is done!

Sometimes when God seems distant and we feel we are sinking, in reality we are being given a divinely designed opportunity to learn to trust that:

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
            he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
            your going out and your coming in
            from this time forth and forevermore[2]

He knows sometimes we have to learn the hard way, and He knows best.  Even when He is sleeping.“Let us go across to the other side.”

[1] Psalm 121:4
[2] Psalm 121:7-8

Sometimes, Victory Over Giants Takes Time

Do you have giant problems?  Problems that seem too big to overcome, and that just won’t go away?  There was a time when Israel had problems with literal giants and that story may encourage us with our own giant problems.

In Deuteronomy, Moses’ re-telling to Israel of their history as they prepared to finally enter the Promised Land, the second verse says, “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.”  This eleven-day journey took Israel 40 years after being delivered from slavery in Egypt because they had giant problems.

40 years earlier, Moses sent spies into the land promised by God, not to say whether or not they should conquer the land (God has already decided that they should), but only to document what they saw.  These spies reported back after 40 days in the land at Kadesh, the same place Moses was delivering his address in Deuteronomy.  Unfortunately, the spies did more than document what they saw, they also injected their own opinion: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”[1]

Although the spies agreed the land was very desirable – “And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” – they added three objections to the report: “However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.[2]  The people are strong, the cities are strong, and some of the people – the descendants of Anak – are actually literal giants.  The spies probably thought they were doing the right thing by presenting an “accurate” report of Israel’s military chances in Canaan, but in doing so they were opposing God and His promise.  Only two of the twelve spies – Joshua and Caleb – tried to encourage the people to take the land, but the report of the other ten made the people want to stone Joshua and Caleb to death[3] instead of entering Canaan.  So, God punished the people by making them wander in the wilderness until the entire rebellious generation died, for 40 years.

However, over that time God would also show His people in specific ways that they could overcome the spies’ objections so they could enter the land as He had promised.  It would take time, and more experience of God’s power.

Moses tells that during the wilderness wandering, Israel learned of others who had conquered giants.  In Deuteronomy 2:10-11 Moses recounted land taken by the Moabites: “The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim.  Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim.”  In 2:20, he recalled land taken by the Ammonites: “It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place”.  These “Emim” and “Zamzummim” were like the “descendants of Anak” the spies were afraid of, but those giants were conquered.

Also, in Deuteronomy 3, Moses reminds Israel of their own victories that happened before entering Canaan.  They had defeated Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, object lessons of what God could do, and specifically related to the objections of the spies, who had reported of Canaan that “the cities are fortified and very large.”  Deuteronomy 3:5 reports of the conquered cities of Bashan: “All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages.”

While the spies worried about the giant “descendants of Anak,” Moses reminds Israel that Og, Hesbon’s king, was like one of the giants reported by the spies.  Deuteronomy 3:11 describes him: “(For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.)”  Therefore, before crossing the Jordan into Canaan, Israel had overcome both fortified cities and giants.  Why should they worry about the discouraging report of the spies, instead of trusting Joshua and Caleb’s testimony about God?

Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

Therefore, if you have giant problems, seek the testimony of others who have conquered giants, and the testimony of your own experience with God, and be encouraged by the words Moses used to close this section of his message: “You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.”[4] But overcoming giant problems might take time because He wants to show us His power in ways we can’t imagine.  Israel took 40 years to make this 11-day journey because that is what God required to prepare them.  Israel was not ready for the Promised Land when they first left Egypt.  Allow God the time to prepare you, and He may also show you His power over your giants.

[1] Numbers 13:31
[2] Numbers 13:27-28
[3] Numbers 14:10
[4] Deuteronomy 3:22

Let God Speak to Your Inner Wilderness

John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus, baptized Him, and led the way for His ministry to begin.  This John was identified with “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’”[1] prophesied in Isaiah 40:3-5, which says:

A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
            make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
            and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
            and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
            and all flesh shall see it together,
            for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’”

Is Isaiah talking about a massive, miraculous geological event, creating an easier route for Jesus to take to His kingdom?  Perhaps in the future something like this will happen, but I think Isaiah is saying that God’s power over nature is a symbol of His power to reform and perfect us into the character of His Son Jesus.

Before Jesus comes into our lives, we are a spiritual wilderness full of uneven ground and rough places.  The path of our salvation begins in this wilderness, an unorganized chaos of thoughts and desires.  We are like “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  However, the power of the LORD enters our low valleys – our guilty secrets, shame and depression – which will be raised up.  It progresses through our mountains and hills – areas of pride, self-sufficiency, and our desire for power – which will be made low.  God, with the same power that created the universe, removes all obstacles to the coming of His kingdom to us, and to the world.  He has given us His word, His Spirit, and fellow believers to strengthen us, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  (Ephesians 4:13-14)

John the Baptist called his followers to confession and repentance.  In announcing the coming of the kingdom of God, John anticipated a time when our internal and external wildernesses will become a paradise.  Until then, we each have different hills and valleys, different uneven and rough areas.  Until then, the world remains full of false doctrine, cunning, craftiness and deceit.

Today, pray that the powerful voice of our LORD will reach into your wilderness and remove obstacles on the path to His kingdom.  Pray that His word and His Spirit will reveal His glory.  Pray that all believers will answer the call of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” to build up His church.


[1] Isaiah 40:3, quoted in Matthew 4:3.

Redeeming the “Great Resignation”

Dear fellow travelers,

The Covid-19 pandemic had many effects, one of which became known as the “Great Resignation,” a massive cultural shift in attitudes toward work and the workplace.  Many were finding less satisfaction and purpose in their vocation, and either quit or became less motivated, leading to another catchphrase: “Quiet Quitting.”  Of those who actually quit, some did because they were able to retire early, some quit to move to a workplace that provided a sense of purpose beyond their job description and the paycheck it provides, and some quit for various other reasons.  In response, some workplaces took stances on political or social issues not related to their business to attract those looking for purpose, which attracted some workers, but also alienated others, who might have become Quiet Quitters.

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

With so many changes happening, some Christians may feel increasingly like they are in exile at their workplace, but in truth, Christians everywhere were in exile in their workplace pre-pandemic and pre-Great Resignation.  This world is not our home, including where we work, so don’t expect it to be heaven.

When Judah found itself exiled in Babylon in the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah encouraged them in Jeremiah 29:7 – “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  So, whatever workplace we find ourselves in, God has called us to seek the welfare of those around us, and pray for them, for in doing so we will find our welfare.  Even if we eventually intend to leave, we must seek the welfare of our companies and coworkers while there.  (When we are retired or not working with an employer, then we should seek the welfare of our families and communities.)

Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 7:17 & 23-24, Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to serve God in the place they are:

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches…You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.  So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”

God has called us to our specific workplaces, not as servants of our employers, but as servants of Him.  Maybe there needs to be another cultural shift in the workplace – “The Great Consecration” – where we dedicate our work, whatever it is, to God.  Even if your employer doesn’t seem to care, or pay more for, harder work or higher quality work, the Lord notices and He is who we should care about pleasing.

As Paul wrote to the church in Colossae: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24

Soli Deo Gloria