Day 21: A good leader (21:1)
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will”
The first thing to say is today’s text is not about good leaders per se. It is about kings, which in OT times were rulers of empires, nations and sometimes cities. Moreover, any king, the bad as well as the good. Proverbs has a lot to say about kings. While not using terms like “leader” it does talk about leadership qualities, typically associated with the wise. In today’s chapter, the notion of the heart is further developed: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (21:2) and something to expect from kings: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (21:3). And to complement: “By me (wisdom) kings reign, and princes decree justice” (8:15).
Today’s meditation was written on the day USA inaugurated its 46th President. Few would dispute there are wide differences between POTUS 45 and 46 and many will have strong views on their relative merits. What is relevant as far as today’s text goes, made here more explicit, is: “Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever ends he chooses” (MSG). It seems an incredible and unlikely notion that God controls the hearts of kings, directing them in the way he will, especially when the history of the world is littered full of examples of bad kings who inflicted untold evil on their subjects. Our experience in the world of politics and business is the poor candidate may get promoted to positions of power and the good may get left behind. Ours is not to dispute God, but pray: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Righteous and godly are not the words that spring to mind when we think of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4), Cyrus (Isaiah 45), Jehu (2 Kings 9), but these were influential kings whose hearts were in the hands of the Lord, who accomplished many of His purposes, regardless.
While on the subject of good leaders, what about us? Maybe the circumstances of life put us firmly in “the led” camp. Yet we can lead by example, following the way of wisdom and be blessed: “The king’s favour is toward a wise servant” (14:25), “Righteous lips are the delight of kings” (16:13), “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend” (22:11), “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings” (22:29).
Prayer: We pray for kings and those in authority. We thank you the king’s heart is in your hand. Whatever our station in life, may we be good and wise.